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Use Straps for Weightlifting By Coach Dan Bell

Use Straps for Weightlifting

Weightlifting straps


Use Straps

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:


  1. 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. 

  2. 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. 

  3. 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.

  4. 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. 

  5. 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?..


strap weight lifting


Why You Need to Use Straps

You use straps because they allow you to train more consistently, heavier, at greater volume, and with better training quality. Here is where they will help.


Volume

Once you reach the intermediate level of lifting you realize just how high your volume of training has to go to continue progress. It will mean hundreds of lifts a month. Triples from the hang. Complexes. Multiple singles from the floor. Work off the blocks. Deadlifts. Your hands will take a beating. Straps can spare you a lot of that beating. You don’t have to use them for everything, but complexes and repetitive hang work, especially, can tear up your hands.


Training Through Injury

Blew a callus and can’t grip the bar to train? You can with straps. Sprained thumb? Straps. Wrist trouble keeping you from going overhead? Fine, often you can do pulls with straps. Straps let you train when you otherwise would have to skip training. All of those training sessions you don’t miss from injury add up to additional progress.


Focus on Technique

Straps allow you to shift the focus from holding onto the bar to improving a technique problem. They allow a huge volume of training at weights that are useful for technique correction. They let you do a four or five move complex without concentrating on hanging onto the bar the last couple of reps.


Overload

As I said earlier, straps let you overload lifts. After two days of working off the blocks and from the hang, then a day of five doubles in the snatch and five 2+1 clean & jerks, hanging onto clean deadlifts may require the use of straps just to finish the workout. But with straps you will finish.


The One Exception

Early on I said there was one excuse you could use to avoid straps. Here it is: cleans. Many lifters do not have the shoulder and elbow mobility to rack a clean with straps. If you can rack a clean with straps without trouble, then use straps as you would with the snatch. If you can’t, you can still use them for clean pulls while you work diligently to attain the required mobility in the shoulders and elbows.


Conclusion

Over time, weightlifting straps will allow greater training volume than you could achieve without them. Volume of training is a determining factor in your progress, and eventual success, in the sport of weightlifting. It is not a coincidence that nearly every top lifter in the USA and the world use straps regularly in training. Too many new lifters pore over lifting websites for training wisdom and watch thousands of videos for technique detail and still miss the obvious: great lifters use straps. So should you. 


Check out our high quality Made in USA Weightlifting Straps and Belts here.



Dan Bell instructs the Vulcan Weightlifting Seminar.    

Contact Us for info on the next seminar or if you would like to host a seminar at your location.


  • Dan Bell is a USA Weightlifting National Level Coach and Head Coach of Rubber City Weightlifting in Akron, Ohio. He coached Holley Mangold to a USAW Junior World Team, a Pan Am Team, and the 2009 +75kg American Open Championship. He has helped Julie Foucher (2013 CrossFit Games, 2nd place) and Scott Panchik (2012/2013 CrossFit Games 4th place) refine their Olympic lifting technique.

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