(A little Throwback Thursday… one of our first UGA games together)
Happy Valentines Day Folks! I hope everyone got to spend some time with a loved one (or your friends for you single folks). Men I hope you did your part and honored your girlfriend/wife etc on a day set aside for that.
Anyone who pays attention at all to the sport of weightlifting will catch wind of the debate over lifting straps. I wanted to take a second and add my 2 cents (for what it’s worth) to the debate.
The first question to be addressed is the function of straps. They function to attach your hand to the bar and eliminate stress on your grip, eliminate failure because of grip in sets with high reps, and protect your hands form inevitable barbell carnage. Basically they allow you to hold on to the bar better and protect your hands from over-usage and wear and tear.
The question to be answered surrounding straps is whether or not they have a place in your training or are they just a crutch you lean upon. Straps are a double-edged sword. Ultimately they are extremely effective at taking the stress away from the hands and keep the stress on the part of the body you are trying to work. If you have a set of 6 heavy snatch pulls and you lift with straps then you have the ability to focus on back angle and core stability rather than the excruciating pain screaming through your thumbs or hands. Further, they protect your hands from ripping calluses or further irritating already ripped hands.
However, there are downsides. Primarily, if I use straps every time I pick something off the floor then I will not work on my grip strength as much. Additionally, in competition I can’t use straps so if I use them all the time and I go to compete the bar will feel very different off the floor and my hands will grip the bar a little different. Furthermore, straps take time to put on. So if you are doing a movement that makes sense to unstrap between reps (like snatches) you will take longer rest than necessary to strap back in. If your program calls for you to do 3 snatches from the floor and you decide to use straps and drop the bar between every rep then you will take longer than 5 seconds to re-strap your hands and many would consider those reps as 3 singles rather than a set of 3 reps.
However there is also a greater warning to be taken into account when considering straps. Straps are useful for pulls and any movement that does not require a transition into the rack position. They are pretty good for snatch though I would practice dropping a bar behind your head with straps before making constant use of them overhead. Dropping the bar behind your head while strapped in can be challenging and awkward if you have not done it before. However, DO NOT USE STRAPS ON CLEANS. Mainly the straps prevent proper turnover of your elbows and if you land wrong, or your elbows hit your knees because they aren’t able to turnover or the bar pushes you backwards it can end with broken wrists. (Proof of that reality here)
Ultimately, straps are a necessary piece of equipment for the serious weightlifter. However, they are to be used in specific situations and not every time you lift. They are great for high reps sets and also for movements done from the hang position or any position beginning from higher than the floor. My suggestion on the frequency of use is going to be based on your training volume. If you are snatching and cleaning daily or more than once a day then they are certainly beneficial for the protection of your hands. However, if you only snatch 2-3 times a week or less than that and clean 2-3 times a week then straps are better just limited to pulls. You cannot use them in competition and there is some merit to the argument that a new PR while using straps doesn’t count. Be careful is my final suggestion. Use them as hand protectors and for high rep pulls. Do not let them become a crutch.