Honestly, wrist straps have been a lifesaver for me!
This is because I suffer from tennis elbow (otherwise known as lateral epicondylitis). Basically, when the tendons in my elbow are overloaded, I experience excruciating pain.
As you can imagine, the exercises that overload the tendons of the elbow the most are those that involve pulling movements.
Therefore, I have to limit how much weight I can pull before my elbows flair up, and that limit is much less than the amount of weight I need to target the muscles of my back effectively.
Unfortunately, most weight lifters face a similar dilemma. While I’m limited by my condition, others are limited by a lack of forearm strength.
The problem is that some lifters can pull more weight than their grip can handle. This is especially true during exercises such as the deadlift.
Have you ever deadlifted and noticed that your grip is starting to give out? I know I definitely have.
Even if your wrists are strong enough to hold the weight, pulling a lot of weight strains your tendons which can lead to tennis elbow, and you can trust me when I say this is something you don’t want to risk.
How do Wrist Straps Work?
Wrist straps move tension away from forearm muscles and elbow tendons and onto your wrists. In other words, they remove tension away from muscles we are not targeting. The benefit of this is that we can fatigue the target muscle (back, traps, lats, etc.) without worrying about losing our grip or, in my case, without worrying about experiencing a lot of pain. This will become clearer when I show you how to use them.
More specifically, weightlifting straps work by forming a loop around the wrist which is used to hold the weight.
The end of the loop is then wrapped around a bar, barbell, or dumbbell.
This creates a sort of hook, which alleviates stress on the forearms and helps you pull more weight. My guess is that this transfers about 30% of the load away from your wrists.
When to Use Wrist Straps
Here is a nice rule that will help you out tremendously in weight lifting;
An exercise should fatigue the target muscle before it fatigues anything else. If it doesn’t, either you are doing something wrong, or the exercise is wrong.
For instance, if doing a bench press (an exercise that predominately targets the chest muscles) fatigues your shoulders, something’s not right. You’re probably not retracting your shoulder blades enough or you’re flaring your arms out too wide.
Similarly, if doing shrugs fatigues your forearms before it fatigues your trapezius muscle, something is also not right. The odds are your forearms aren’t strong enough to hold the weight. This would be a scenario in which you should use wrist straps.
In general, wrist straps are used when performing a “pulling” movement (bent-over barbell rows, lat pulldowns, etc.), or deadlifting.
Who Should Use Wrist Straps?
You should use wrist straps if you fall into any these categories:
- You experience pain when pulling heavy weight.
- Your wrist strength is underdeveloped.
- You are a powerlifter.
If you fall in the second category, using wrist straps may seem counterproductive.
By removing tension away from your forearm muscles, you don’t give them a chance to develop, and the problem will get worse. This is absolutely true.
That’s why it’s important to incorporate some forearm strength training into your workouts if you use wrist straps. I like to begin my back workouts with forearms stretches and 4 sets of palms-up barbell wrist curls, and end with 3 sets of wrist rotations followed by 3 sets of farmer’s walks.
I find that starting off with a forearm exercise helps prevent elbow pain during back and bicep workouts. This was part of a system I created that cured my tennis elbow permanently.
You can strengthen your forearms as much as you want, but eventually, you will hit a wall. Most people cannot grip 400+ lbs. no matter how strong their forearms are, so almost all powerlifters use straps during exercises such as the deadlift.
How to Use Wrist Straps
Now, let’s learn how to use these things. I’ll be using the Rip Toned Weightlifting Straps and a simple dumbbell to demonstrate.
1) Begin by orienting the straps so that the loops are on opposite ends.
2) Take the strap with the loop on the RIGHT side (this is usually the one with the logo facing right-side up) and place it over your LEFT hand.
3) Run the end of the strap through the loop.
4) Tighten the strap by pulling the end through. The end of the strap should rest between your thumb and your index finger.
5) Take the strap with the loop on the LEFT side (this is usually the one with the logo facing up-side down) and place it over your RIGHT hand.
6) Just as we did with the left hand, run the end of the strap through the loop, and tighten it by pulling.
7) The following steps are the same for both hands. Run the bottom side of the strap under the bar and wrap it around the bar.
8) Wrap it around a second time.
9) Lay the end of the strap under your palms. Tighten your grip by rotating your hands forwards and back. This will become intuitive when you try it yourself.
This may seem complicated, but eventually, you will get the hang of it and setting up will become second nature.
Best Wrist Straps for Weightlifting
The Cobra Grips PRO Weight Lifting Gloves are hands-down the best wrist straps for weightlifting.
Allow me to explain.
Traditional, lasso-style wrist straps (like the ones I used above) are a hassle to use. Sure, you might eventually get used to the motion, but it’s still quite annoying, and they only serve one purpose — to help you pull more weight.
What if you also need to use a grip pad or wrist wraps?
Cobra Grip solves all of these problems.
Instead of a strap, Cobra Grip incorporates a heavy-duty lifting hook. A lifting hook is quite simply a plastic or metal extension that you hook to the bar.
The benefit of a hook is that it saves you a lot of time. By actually timing myself, I found I needed about 12–15 seconds to use lasso-style lifting straps. Compare that to one second with power hooks.
Additionally, the Cobra Grip comes with a built-in wrist wrap and grip pad so you can protect your wrist and your palms without having to switch equipment.
- (REGISTERED PATENT No. # 2750562, USD752695S1 ) THE ONLY GEAR YOU NEED IN YOUR GYM BAG Replaces a grip pad, your lifting grips & power hooks
- One SIZE Fits All With Adjustable Wrist Straps. Say Good BYE To WRIST WRAPS Our lifting grips have a built-in wrist support wrap for enhanced comfort
- NO MORE SLIPS, NO MORE CHAFFING Provides ample padding to protect the palms & gives a tight grip
- Our Cobra Grips PRO model fits wrist size from 5.5” up to 8.75” Most Men will find the PRO version to have a comfortable fit. Our Cobra Grips FIT Model fits wrist size from 4.25” up to 7.0” Many Women find the FIT version most comfortable. A TRULY COMFORTABLE FIT Fully adjustable 6mm neoprene gym glove alternative won't hold you back
- PATENTED Ergonomically engineered with safety in mind; Maximum protection for the wrist TRADEMARK Reg. No. 5,025,077
Lifting Straps vs Wrist Wraps
Lifting straps and wrist wraps tend to be confused.
Lifting straps are used to supplement grip. Where your grip might fail, lifting straps are what you need.
Wrist wraps, on the other hand, are used to prevent the possibility of injury when your wrists snap back too much from the force of the weight. When are your wrists especially prone to this? During the positive and negative phases of “push” exercises such as the bench press.
- Used when: Your grip might give out. This can happen during pulling movements.
- Help pull more weight and prevent elbow pain.
- Used when: Your wrists might give out. This happens during pushing movements.
- Help avoid excess wrist flexion.
If you need both, you can purchase the Manimal Wrist Wraps (my favorite) and Ripped Toned Lifting Straps and switch between the two. This option is best when you have days dedicated to “push” and “pull” movements.
If you happen to do both “push” and “pull” on the same day (perhaps you like full-body workouts), it might be better to get a pair of Cobra Grips as you won’t have to switch between equipment.
Wrist Wraps for Olympic Weightlifting
Because Olympic weightlifting involves very dynamic movements, I recommend a high-quality wrist wrap for all exercises (except deadlift). I’ve tried out many brands and found that the Sling Shot Wrist Wrap provides (by far) the best support for the wrists. They are a bit pricey, but the quality is unparalleled by other brands.
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