Of the many topics bantered around in the strength world, one of the most common is strap usage. The reason I think it keeps coming up is that some people are so dogmatically opposed to strap usage, other people end up with the idea that they’re less of a man (or woman) if they ever use straps for anything. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on when it’s a good idea to use straps and when it’s not:
Chalk and horsepower for: low rep sets, moderate volume in each session, and pulling twice a week or less.
Strap it up: supermaximal weights (i.e. rack or block pulls you cannot hold onto), rep maxes, high volume, high frequency
If you can grip it without just hating your life, do so. Most people probably don’t need straps most of the time. However, if you’re doing a program like 5/3/1 with an AMAP set at the end, there’s no reason NOT to strap, especially if your grip will fatigue before your hips and back. You’re missing out on reps you could have gotten otherwise (refer to my video from yesterday. On those bars, I doubt I could grip more than 3 or 4), and the training effect that goes along with them. If you’re Sheiko-ing or something similar with insane volume, strap up. Your rep quality will suffer as your hands fatigue, and programs like that are 100% about performing every rep perfectly. In the training videos I’ve seen Belyaev put out, he straps, so you have no reason not to. Frequency is important as well. If you really fatigue your grip, it can take 2-3 days before it’s ready to go again. If you’re pulling more than twice a week, then try to avoid straps as much as possible, but don’t be ashamed to use them if your hands start getting beat up and constantly sore.
Admission: I’m not an olympic lifter. This is just coming from things I’ve read and coaches I’ve talked to.
Never use straps for cleans. If the bar slides off your anteroir deltoid, you may not be able to let go and you’ll snap your hand off. No fun. Use them for snatches if you want. Odds are, if your hook grip can hold through a clean, it will hold through a snatch. Don’t use them for your warmups and your first couple of heavy sets so you don’t lose the feel of NOT strapping, but other than that, strap away on snatches (olympic straps, obviously).
I don’t think straps are necessary except for maybe a high rep set of rows or RDLs. I’ve seen very few people row enough (with good form) that straps become a necessity, but I can see how grip would become an issue if you were doing a set of 10+. Same goes for RDLs. High rep DB rows (kroc rows) are also strap-worthy. I see shrugs as grip work personally, which obviates the usefulness of straps (rack pulls and snatch grip high pulls are my trap builders of choice). If you’re trying to do 20 or more pullups, I could see how straps would be useful as well.
I’ve seen someone strap themselves onto a treadmill. No lie. If you’ve ever done this (and were not doing it as a joke), you are subhuman. Although I see farmers walks as primarily grip work, strapping up and going really heavy for a very long distance is a fantastic finisher.
In general, don’t be afraid of straps. Don’t use them as a substitute for hard work (i.e. just because you don’t want to hold onto something), but if you need to strap, strap away. Honestly, I think you’re cheating yourself in your deadlift training if you’re not pulling with straps from time to time. Rack pulls and rep sets are both great ways to build a huge deadlift (ask almost any strongman competitor, who all seem to pull 800+ like it’s no big deal), and you can’t do either with total effort without the use of straps. If your pulling strength outruns your grip, then do more grip work to close the gap. Worst case scenario: you get stronger but still have a weak grip. Still better than staying weak and still having a weak grip. In my experience though, gripping something over/under with chalk (for a single) isn’t much harder than gripping something double overhand with straps. Furthermore, with straps you can keep your humerus internally rotated so you have less of a chance of tearing a bicep or lat.
If you’re opposed to using straps for whatever reason, that’s fine. I would never say you have to. But on the other side of the coin, I think it’s amiss to tell someone else that they should never strap. They are simply a tool that allows you to train harder, push farther, and put in more work, more often. What’s not to like about that?