By Coach Dan Bell
“I don’t like straps. I’m not used to them.”
“My CrossFit coach says I’ll get dependent on them.”
“I don’t want my grip to get weak.”
“Straps are cheating, because you can lift more with straps than without.”
“Only wussies use straps.”
I’ve heard every reason not to use straps when training the Olympic lifts. None are valid. (Well, one is, but we’ll get to that) There will be times and circumstances in every lifter’s career where the use of straps are necessary, and for most they will become a regular part of training. The use of straps in the snatch, clean, and pull assistance exercises is SOP among elite level lifters for a reason: they help make you a better lifter.
Beginners doing the Olympic lifts with light weights, three workouts each week, won’t need straps. The hook grip will work just fine for them while they learn how to move with a barbell in their hands. However, once past the beginner stage, when the weights get heavier, the training more frequent, and the necessity of high volume work to refine technique begins, you need straps to keep improving.
Before we get to why you need them, let’s dispense with some of those lame excuses above:
- You don’t like them because you aren’t used to them. You weren’t used to driving before you drove a lot. You need to drive, so you sucked it up and dealt with the hassle of drivers ed and teenage driver restrictions and fender benders until one day driving was as easy as brushing your teeth. Put up with straps for a couple dozen workouts and you won’t think any more of using them than you do of driving to the drug store.
- You’ll get dependent on them. No, you won’t; that is you won’t if you don’t use them every single lift of every workout. You use straps for very specific reasons. If those reasons don’t apply, you don’t use them. For instance, you won’t need them when doing singles and your hands are healthy.
- Your grip will not get weaker. You’ll still be doing plenty of lifts without straps. As I said earlier, you usually don’t need them with singles, or deadlifts, or many other situations in your training. And if you have small hands or a weak grip already, the answer is not to avoid straps, but to do grip work to improve that weak link.
- Since most people lift more with straps, it’s cheating. If you try to use them in competition, then yes, you cheated. Otherwise, unless banned by the IWF and USAW, it is not cheating. You can snatch more with straps? Great! Since when is overloading a lift in training a problem? You overload your clean with pulls and deadlifts, why can’t you overload your snatch to train it heavier? Remember the overload principle? It applies here.
- Only a wuss lifts with straps. Really? So if a lifter trains 11 times a week such that they require ice baths, massage, and a roll-and-a-half of tape just to hit their next volume day, but they use straps, they are pathetic and weak?..