At first you'll love this tip, then you might hate this tip. Let me explain.
Most of us want more grip strength. It becomes frustrating when a dumbbell starts to slip during rows, or we fail to hit a deadlift PR (personal record) because our grip gave out. And we're not supposed to use straps, right?
That seems to be the general consensus on most lifting forums. But guess what? This is wrong. Yes, you heard me correctly.
Using straps is one of the best ways to improve your grip strength. Here's why.
Most people don't know this but back strength plays a major role in how long you can hold on to something. Simply stated, when your back can't handle a given weight any longer, your brain signals your grip to let go.
What does this mean? The stronger your back is, the better your grip strength will be.
The stronger your back is, the better your grip strength will be.
Using straps allows you to perform better during rows, pull ups and deadlifts. You can hold the bar for nearly as long as you'd like. For some back exercises, such as rows, straps may allow you to use quite a bit more weight. The more weight you use, the faster you gain back strength.
The more reps you can do, the faster you gain back strength. Straps are not a crutch. They are a tool to help you build back strength as rapidly as possible. This will result in greater grip strength. Why did I say you might hate this tip?
- It's not solution that can improve your grip strength overnight.
- You'll run into many people who don't understand the synergy between back strength and grip strength, and they will try to convince you that straps will only weaken your grip.
My Back Strength, My Grip Strength
Until 2007 I avoided straps. Just like you, I thought they would make my grip weak.
So for 21 years I struggled with dumbbell and barbell rows. The most I was ever able to one-arm dumbbell row without straps was 120 pounds by 10 reps. Barbell rows...well, I was just pathetic. I have small German hands, and struggle with lifts that require me to use a double overhand grip.
To give you an example of this, I started deadlifting in 2007 and couldn't pull 315 with a double overhand grip because it would slip. Avoiding lifting straps only made my grip issues worse. My back stayed weak, so my grip stayed weak. Then something interesting happened.
In 2008 I picked up a pair of Versa Gripps. Versa Gripps are a fancy set of lifting straps. They lock down faster and tighter than cloth straps. Instantly I was able to use more than 120 pounds for dumbbell rows. By 2010 I was able to perform a one arm dumbbell row of 265 pounds for 10 reps. Also during this time I was moving up to 405 on barbell rows with reasonably strict form.
When I began using Versa Gripps I also started deadlifting exclusively using a double overhand grip. Two months ago I was able to achieve a 700 pounds deadlift for 2 reps off of a 3 inch block. The point in all this is simple. In 2007 I thought my back was strong, but it wasn't. These days I know my back is strong.
People give me a hard time for using straps, but you know what? When it comes time for me to deadlift without them, my grip is firm and never gives out. Not as of yet, anyway. I was able to attempt a 700 pound deadlift on the powerlifting platform without any grip issues whatsoever.
So to summarize...in 2007 I had grip issues. I allowed my grip strength to limit my back strength. When I started using straps, my back strength went up, and as a result, my grip strength improved.
Even if straps did nothing to help my grip strength, which some may argue, they still helped me to deadlift 700 pounds. Without them my back strength would have remained sub-par, and I may never have pulled over 500 pounds.
Final Words On Grip Strength
I think it's safe to say that most of you are not powerlifters. You will never need to showcase your grip strength on the platform. There's a good chance you simply want to get as big and strong as possible. Therefore, you have no reason to avoid wearing lifting straps.
You have nothing to lose and only good things to gain. Not only will they give you a bigger and stronger back, but they will also help to increase your grip strength.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below. Do you use lifting straps or Versa Gripps? Has anyone told you they are useless?