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Deadlift: When to use Straps [Article]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Jun 29, 2018, 2:08:01 PM

Deadlift When to use straps

Deadlift: When to use straps

This article discusses the pros and cons of using lifting straps. You will learn who should use them and when you should stay away from them. You will also be provided with additional material on the deadlift. Beginners should stay away from them. Advanced lifters should be strategic about how they use them. Bodybuilders will get more use out of straps than strength athletes. Have fun with the read and let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.

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Why would you care about straps?

 

Not using straps can limit your potential to grow. That is what strength training is all about. Develop your strength as quickly and as safe as possible. Categorically accepting or denying any piece of information will inhibit your progress. Know what straps are good for and use them correctly for your own benefit.

The discussion around straps can get quite heated. The strength community is often opposed to any kind of help for the lifter. Alpha male grunting is all about your personal achievements. Using straps to achieve your goals is considered cheating by many. The harshest expression of this for me was a comment below Chris Duffins 1002 x 2 Deadlift on YouTube. Which read:

Used straps. Doesn't count.

For me this shows already how uninformed or immature some people approach the topic of lifting. This man just lifted half a ton of weight off the ground only using his body of roughly 100kg. This is one of the most extreme examples of negativity around straps.

Somewhere in the middle is the comment which you also find in the video 5 steps to deadlift 900 pounds. This is:

If you can not deadlift it, you should not shrug it.

This is a bit less extreme and still very general. This statement aims at the fact that with straps you can load shrugs up pretty high. The same goes for deadlifts from pins. The argument is that you expose yourself to a higher injury risk by using straps. I can attest that deadlifts from pins can lead to a lower back injury.

I foolishly thought it was a good idea to test a one rep max once a week on deadlifts from a pin. That was a stupid idea. Made me feel good until I got hurt.

No straps, no traps

This is a quote from Jason Ferrugia. At the heart of it is the main argument for straps. The stronger you become the more likely it is that your hands become the limiting factor to build the bigger muscle groups of your back. Straps can fix this by limiting the effect of the hands. If you want to get stronger faster, you should not leave this potential on the table. Especially not based on broscience.

 

Which exercises can be done with straps?

 

Exercises for which it makes the most sense to use straps are pulling exercises. The more gravity pulls the barbell or dumbbell out of your hands the more it can make sense to strap. Here is a list of exercises to give you an idea:

 

Dumbbell or barbell rows are good to build your lats and back. Especially isometric holds at the top can help. Squeeze your back as tight as possible and hold for a count of three. As you want to achieve maximum activation in your muscles it can be beneficial to extend time under tension by using a strap. 

Shrugs can be loaded a lot heavier when you use straps. This can be used to stimulate growth in the traps. As your traps are often not as activated in other exercises like the back squat and deadlift it can be a good addition to your routine. I like heavy barbell or trap bar shrugs as accessory work on my second deadlift day in the week.

Deadlifts can also be done with straps. Powerlifters should use this option very sparingly. Most Powerlifting associations do not allow the use of straps in competition. Bodybuilders can use straps to maximize hypertrophy. You can go harder in a set of 8 - 12 when you use straps. I personally find that my grip starts to fail on any sets above 70% after repetition 6. Straps do address that. I solve this with trap bar deadlifts. Still, straps can lead to a similar result on the barbell deadlift.

Strongmen can also think about using straps for all exercises as it more likely that they will be allowed in competition. Crossfitters and weightlifters also use straps strategically as they can not use them in competition.

Romanian deadlifts behave the same for straps as the deadlift as the movement patterns and bar path are very similar. I see no significant difference in the use of straps between the two.

For rack pulls the same logic as for deadlift applies. The only thing to add is that the effects of the partial pull and straps can inflate your perception of how strong you are. My one repetition maximum on the deadlift by the time of writing is 190kg. If I do a rack pull with minimal range of motion including straps I can move that number to 250kg. If you are strong but get intimidated by weights you never pulled before, this can help. If you use the combination of straps and pins to satisfy your ego you are asking for trouble. 

 

When can you use straps?

 

Straps are usually allowed for

 

  • Bodybuilders
  • Strongmen
  • Martial artists
  • Footballers

as they can use straps in competition or grip strength is not as important to success compared to back strength. Straps are not allowed for

 

  • Powerlifters
  • Crossfitters
  • Weightlifters

in competition. This does not mean that they can not use straps in training. They still should think about how to use straps. A good rule to go by is to use straps whenever your main goal is hypertrophy. Also when you run the risk to miss your workload for the day because your grip is starting to fail. How to improve your grip strength. Some repetitions with straps are better than no repetitions at all because you can not hold on to the bar anymore.

 

What kind of straps can you use?

 

Wrist straps are sewn pieces of cloth or leather that loop around your wrist and the bar. You can use three main variations of your training [Insert pictures from rogue]

 

 

Loop straps are the easiest variation to find. The construction allows for a secure fit around your wrists. This is the version of straps that most average joes will be exposed to first. While they help with support there also drawbacks. It can be tough to wrap these straps around the barbell. Especially when you only have one hand free. Look up some tutorials on how to make your life easier. Another disadvantage is that the extra material makes it to bail on a failed lift. This is why Olympic weightlifters are not big fans of loop straps

Olympic straps work with a closed loop. This makes it easier to attach it to the bar and bail a lift. This makes them an option for Olympic lifters. Especially if you are weak of the ground but quick to get under the bar this can be helpful in your training. This way of training is more suited to experienced weightlifters. At the start, you should focus on learning the movement pattern. A strap will only increase the injury risk in this phase.

Hook straps are the least common option. Their main advantage is that you do not need to wrap them around the bar. Standard bars do sit comfortably in the hooks. With these, you will not be able to squeeze the bar tight. This can negatively impact your technique. They also do not fit around specialty bars. 

 

What are the advantages of using straps?

 

The advantages can be different for different types of groups. 

Bodybuilders will appreciate that they can focus on building tension in other parts of their bodies than the hands. This targeted training helps muscle development. As you do not have many muscles which are relevant to bodybuilding in your hands, it makes sense to use straps to shift the focus. This goes especially well for rowing and pulling movements.

Crossfitters and Strongmen will appreciate that they can continue to train with busted hands. After pulling or climbing ropes you will appreciate the straps for a heavy or long farmers walk. 

Weightlifters and Powerlifters will appreciate straps after a competition. Offseason can be enriched by trying new things or shorten recovery times through the strategic use of straps. The same also works in the other direction. If the lifter has some psychological barriers to lifting certain weight straps can help. For me, it is the elusive 200kg deadlift. 200kg means 5 plates on each site if you use 20kg and 10kg plates. Pulling this with straps from time to time prepares me mentally for the real thing. Ask yourself these two questions for your exercises

 

  • What's the target muscle of the exercise?
  • Which muscle fatigues first?

 

If these answers are different think about straps or other accessories which can help that the answer is the same. 

 

What are the disadvantages of using straps?

 

Olympic lifters want to have a feel for the weight of the lift. Straps detract from this. Excessive use of straps in training can inhibit performance in competition. 

Using straps also promotes yanking the bar off the floor. This can lead to dislocated shoulders or herniated discs. Especially on heavy deadlifts, any kind of yanking movement should be avoided. 

Over-relying on straps can also inhibit your grip strength. If you can not use straps in competition limit the use in training. Same goes for athletes who have to rely on a strong grip in their sport.

 

Conclusion 

 

If you are new to strength game, ditch the straps. In fact, ditch most of the accessories. The only thing you really need is a pair of proper shoes to lift. Straps should be used to make you stronger. They are not a makeup to cover up your weakness.

Going without straps will strengthen your joints and avoid shoulder, elbow and spinal pain. Advanced lifters should be using straps sparingly. Get them out when you are likely to fail your top set. Drop sets can also be a place to use them for hypertrophy for weightlifters and powerlifters after the main work has been done.

If you find yourself using straps in your warm up and ramp upsets, take them off or adjust the weight. Still, do not ditch straps just because someone says they are not manly enough. Leaving gains on the table because something is commonly accepted is not smart. Try, learn, adapt and repeat. 

 

Further reading 

Resources

 

Topics: Deadlift, Strength