If we had to give one of the most common reasons that lifts do not make progress, it is because their limit is by their grip strength.
This is most commonly seen in the deadlift, whereby a lifter will only go as far as their lower body, and upper back muscles will take them.
It doesn’t matter if you have powerful glutes or a sizable upper back; if your grip strength is not up to performance then you’ll never get far in this particular movement.
And this isn’t just for deadlifts, this could be for power cleans, rowing movements, heavy farmer’s walks, as well as certain martial arts movements.
Use Lifting Straps
Lifting straps are one of the most effective accessory pieces of equipment you can have in your gym bag.
They won’t cost much and will typically have a long life span.
The most common type of lifting strap is the looped strap whereby why you feed the material through the place where you hold the strap, you loop the material around the object you wish to hold, i.e. a barbell or dumbbell, which will create a connection between your hands and the object you wish to lift.
As long as the loop is positioned around your wrist, and the material is located across your palm in the direction of your thumb, you can loop it around the objects by going underneath rather than over the top.
This not only allows you to improve your grip strength, but it will also increase the safety of the exercise you wish to complete as you will have less chance of the heavy objects slipping out of your hands, or causing you to enter a position that is incorrect from a technique perspective.
Should You Even Use Lifting Straps?
You might be wondering if lifting straps are even for you, as we know a lot of gym purists will argue against using straps as they believe that it is cheating.
They’ll usually cite that it is an unnatural way to improve your performance and that any performance should be done by simply getting stronger in the forearms by doing the movement over and over.
The problem with this philosophy is that you’re only as strong as your weakest link, meaning that you can continue to work a particular size over and over, but if your wrists are up to the task, then you’ll never improve at the exercise, and you’ll simply stay stuck.
However, one reason is that we should avoid using lifting straps as if you are solely focused on the number on the barbell or the dumbbell you are lifting.
We know that ego can get in the way of a safe training plan, and all you care about is how much you can deadlift.
This is likely a recipe for disaster, and we can guarantee you are not thinking about form and technique.
To caveat this point, if you’re using lifting straps because you are completing a deadlift variation, for example, Romanian deadlifts, then using lifting straps is more than justified as the movement is severely limited by grip strength.
Also, note that some competitions such as powerlifting meets may not allow lifting straps, so if you are only using lifting straps in your training plan and it comes to the day of the lift, you’re going to be severely limited because you’re so used to using lifting straps.
Which Exercises Work Well With Lifting Straps?
Certain exercises work really well with lifting straps, and typically any pulling movements or posterior chain exercises that work towards your maximum capacity allow you to lift more weight.
Here are some of the most common exercises you will use with lifting straps.
We’ve already discussed deadlifts in quite a lot of detail so we won’t go into it too much here.
However, some of the most common variations of deadlifts you will see used with lifting straps are Romanian deadlifts, rack pulls, and conventional deadlifts that aim to work beyond your current strength capacity.
Hang Power Cleans
Moving towards weightlifting exercises you have the hang power cleans, in which lifting straps remove grip strength as a limitation during the exercise.
As it’s such a complicated movement, using lifting straps means that you do not need to think about your grip throughout the movement.
One piece of advice is if you choose to use lifting straps with hang power cleans make sure to leave a bit of slack from the strap to the bar so that when you maneuver for the catch you have enough room to do it.
By pulling movements, we are referring to any exercise that works your back, either vertical or horizontal pull.
The most common types of exercises you’ll see lifting straps for these movement patterns are barbell rows, dumbbells, and sometimes lat pulldowns.
You’ll see these exercises in most common training programs, and lifting straps will help you too to engage the correct muscles throughout the movement.
They also prevent you from using too much momentum, which can mean that the muscle you intend to work doesn’t get worked, and typically what happens is your biceps will take over when using heavier weights.
This will likely lead to overdeveloped biceps and lagging back.
One of our favorite exercises is simply a heavy farmer’s walk.
However, like many exercises listed, forearm and grip strength are going to severely limit your capabilities to progress in this movement.
Simply loop your lifting strap around a heavy dumbbell and you’re good to go.
Using lifting straps is worth considering if you are serious about improving your lips as an athlete.
As long as you use them for the right reasons, they are definitely not considered cheating and will only help you in the long-term picture of your training journey.
When used correctly, they are a worthwhile addition to any gym bag, and the safety aspects alone are going to be worth the cheap price.