Should you use wrist straps when lifting weights?

Wrist straps are thick pieces of material that wrap around a lifters wrist and strap a tail section to the bar of the weight being lifting. This done right snugs the bar into the hand and greatly reduces the effort that the lifters grip plays in the lift.

The use of wrist straps has been a largely debated subject over the years. The argument for them is that they allow the lifter to push more reps and more weight to a muscle group then what the lifters grip would normally allow. The counter argument is that you should build your grip strength to a point that you do not need to use straps at all and using them only serves to limit ones grip strength potential.

My personal experience with wrist straps has to do with my back. My back has always been my strongest muscle group and this has sometimes made training those muscles in the group difficult. At one time nothing short of 200lb dumbbells would suffice in doing heavy dumbbell rows. But nothing I could do would ever make my grip handle reps with 200lbs for that exercise. So I used wrist straps to compensate and get a proper back set done. However as time went on I found myself using straps more and more, including in lifts where they were not necessary, I started using them for comfort and here is where you should be cautious.

As I began to get into strongman and later powerlifting, I found my grip was lacking. I decided I needed to start focusing on developing my grip with strength exercises specific for gaining grip strength and I eventually became less reliant on straps as time went on. However in certain lifts, such as those 200lb dumbbell rows, I still needed them to fully push myself in that exercise and for certain strongman events such as the car deadlift. I am a believer in that if you want to develop a lift better, than do that lift. So in that regard if you are training to be able to lift a car with straps, train with straps, if you are training to deadlift in a powerlifting event that obviously does not allow them, then train without.


In my experience straps can play a part in any training routine but you have to be very careful not to start to use them as a crutch. There are situation such where you simply cannot maintain your grip to properly push another muscle group to its max. An example to this would be say barbell shrugs for targeting your trapezius muscles. This can (depending on your conditioning) involve a large amount of weight, maybe even more than you can deadlift and to really target that muscle, removing the grip element may be a good idea. Likewise if you are training for an event that allows straps then utilizing them in your training is also not a terrible idea. However, one must not fall into the trap of using straps when not necessary out of comfort. This is especially the case if one is involved in a sport such as powerlifting or strongman where grip becomes a significant factor in performance. If you must use straps more than you should, make sure to put in some grip training now and then. And really ask yourself on each lift you use them on if you truly feel they are needed.

Know When to Not Lift

I started lifting weights in the gym when I was 12 years old. I bought a Arnold Schwarzenegger encyclopedia of modern bodybuilding did my best to build a routine. Recently a friend of mine asked when I began to seriously lift, (which would be my mid teens) being 33 years old now, he pointed out that I have been lifting regularly for more of my life than not. Which got me thinking, what does it take to stick to lifting for 20 years.

It was a wide held belief that if you can stick to anything for more that 8 months, you can keep doing it. For most people wanting to start an exercise program long term, I encourage them to focus on the first 8 months. If you just get past that, you can keep going forever.

But training extremely intensely hard is… well hard. Your body has limits, and I have seen more than my fair share of hardcore lifters stop after time burnt out. It is easy to get caught up in the hardcore “push past your limits” for a few years, but there comes a time when your body might start saying, enough is enough. One of the ways I have come up with to combat this is to go through cycles of lifting. Some years and I am training hard, ready to take on competitions, other years I am just in the gym enjoying some light morning lifts.

I am a firm believer in listening to your body. It can tell you when you need rest, when to eat more, when to push harder. You have to look past the body’s primal need to be lazy and conserve energy. Learn the difference between your body  needing recovery, and your body just not wanting to break away from the TV for a while.

When I look at my workout for the morning I tend to ask, will this make my day better? will it make me feel more energetic, healthy, stronger. Will I get that endorphin rush from the exercise and feel less stressed. Even if I really don’t want to lift that day, my answer is almost always yes. However on the off chance that it is a no, than that is a very good sign for me to take a few days, maybe even a week and just do some light cardio. I let my body recover and always when I have done this, I come back to the gym stronger.

The people that tell me that if I am not on the verge of always throwing up from the intensity of my workouts then it’s not worth it, well none of them are still lifting. It has been over 20 years of weights for me. Sometimes I am hardcore in the gym, sometimes I am that guy on the machine checking his phone, but I am always happy to be there  and will be doing my best to be lifting thought my lifespan.

Put some variety into your next arm workout

I don’t train my arms nearly as much as I used to. Back in my early training I had arm day in my routine. It was a day of set after set of curls, dips, skull crushers, hammer curls, you name it. Today I look at my arm workouts as secondary work to my main bench, squat or deadlift days. Once every week or two  3 sets for my biceps, and 3 for my triceps is all I do and I find it more than enough. That said training arms is fun, and just because I no longer agree with doing endless sets for working the  arms doesn’t mean I don’t believe in putting some serious intensity into the training. One of the biggest problems I have found is finding ways to change things up. Here are a couple of ways I found to make arm days extra challenging and fun. While keeping the workout short

Super set biceps and triceps.

Most people who train regularly know about super-setting. This just involves combining two exercises into one long set. This can be done with the same muscle group, like super setting back rows with chin ups for your back. Or separate muscles like for you biceps and triceps.

The thing I find about doing this for the arms is that you get an unbelievable “pump” that happens. The idea is to keep the blood pumping into the same area, in this case your arms. Something not achieved with say doing supersets with your quads and delts and blood going to both your legs and shoulders. Give it a try, and be creative on the exercises. Try combining skull crushers with hammer curls. Or preacher curls with pressdowns. One of my favorite is to load a EZ bar up, do a set of basic bicep curls, then immediately clean the weight over my head and do some behind the neck triceps extensions.  Vary this by one day starting with biceps and the next triceps.

21 curls

21 curls were always one of my favorite.  If you have not heard of these here is how they work. Take a weight that is a about 70-80% of what you would normally use for a 10-12 rep set. Bring the weight up to your shoulders as the starting positions as if you have just finished a curl movement. Now lower the weight in the eccentric (downward motion) but stop as your arms reach 90 degrees. Bring the weight back up to the starting position and repeat for 7 reps. This is just like doing curls but you are only doing the top half movement.  When you reach 7 reps lower the weight all the way down and repeat 7 reps but this time doing the same thing with the bottom half of the movement.  This means you are extending your arms fully and curling the weight up only to a 90 degree bend the in elbow.

At this point you may have found the first 7 reps easy but by the end of these 7 you will feel a little bit like you just lit a fire on your biceps. Now after you finish those 7 comes the fun part, finish with 7 full motion reps nice and controlled just as you would normally do a bicep curl. You should only need 3 sets of this to have your biceps pumped and screaming.  Again try some variations, my favorite is this with a EZ bar, but try hammer curls with a rope and cable, or for a real challenge and stretch,  dumbbells on a slight incline. I also sometimes like preacher curls with this method.

Eat more salt?

Writing about nutrition is a somewhat intimidating endeavor.  What is considered healthy seems to change so much it can be hard to keep up with what is current. I have always been a proponent of working with your trainer and your doctor together in coming up with any kind of modified meal plan.

Having been over a decade since I was in a nutrition class the study after study that has come fourth since constantly alters what we think about nutrition. I remember as a teenager giving my father a hard time about putting salt on his breakfast. His response was that in a few years they will say that salt is good for you. Well not too long ago I remember reading a new study suggesting that while adding salt to you diet is still not recommended. For an the average healthy adult our recommended intake may need to be rethought, and consuming more salt then the current recommended limits may be just fine for the average healthy individual not suffering from anything like hypertension.

Lewis Blacks great stand up illustrated this point quite well when he stated to his audience about the lack of knowledge of the so called experts… “is milk good or bad” to which the audience did not respond “I rest my case” he replied. Are Eggs good or bad? there is a question I have been wondering myself. Certainly they are nutritional powerhouses, full of vitamins as well as a very complete protein source in the yoke. But people still wonder about the potential cholesterol, and so do you limit eggs to the less complete but still protein rich egg white? If not how often can you eat eggs?


I have watched over the years as studies have recommended eggs can be eaten no more that once a week, then once a day, then multiple times per day, back to once or twice a week. And now I am reading articles questioning what we know of cholesterol intake and its effects. It can all be fairly overwhelming.

I don’t really have an answer for these questions, can you safely eats eggs every day if you are healthy? Probably, should you cover those eggs in salt before consuming them?  No.  I just try to take any studies with a grain of… um well you know. They are helpful in furthering our understanding of health and nutrition, just don’t be surprised if in a few years a new study says something a little different.

Why food companies really get on my nerves.

Nutrition can be a pain to understand, on the one hand, the simple idea of eating a well balanced meal consisting of a wide variety of healthy nutritious options seems basic enough.  But developing a menu plan that is both cost effective and healthy can all of a sudden seems daunting.  certainly the food industry does not always do us any favors in regards to its marketing of what is healthy. Let me give you a few examples.

Back when I was in my 2nd year of studying Kinisology, which must have been around 10 years ago by now. What I remember distinctly about that time was the low carb craze going on. I can remember reading through one of my books while the TV was on in the background. A KFC ad ran which caught my eye; it showed a woman trying to encourage her reluctant boyfriend or husband to eat healthy. The surprise healthy food she has brought home for the couple? Yup, an entire bucket of deep fried chicken, you know, it was low carb.

Before that there was of course the anti fat craze, fat was what made you fat right? so cutting it out of your diet must be good, or so many people seemed to think. Of course nutrition experts as most people today understand fat is more complicated than that. Fats can be good, depending on the type of fat, and even fats such as saturated fat in moderation is important. Tans fat is another story, one where manufactures would hide that fat inside the total fat of a product. The only way to understand the trans fat content some years back was to subtract the total fat from the labeled fat. If a product had 2g of polyunsaturated fat, 2 g of monounsaturated fat and 1 g of saturated fat, but had 10g of total fat, the product would have contained 5g of trans fat. Companies at the time did not have to label trans fat, and so could get away with this. Trans fat by the way has all the negative aspects of saturated fat without any benefits what so ever. Soon companies where marketing there new “reduced trans fat” products, the very fat  they put into the product int he first place. Another example of the low fat craze being manipulated was in watching products become “low fat” while adding massive amounts of sugar in the process. This was to make the product still taste good, however in a product like peanut butter, which contains healthy fat and is a good product in moderation, it became a much less healthy alternative than it was, having lost its healthy fats to be replaced with sugar.

Needless to say there are more than a few misconceptions about nutrition out there. Fad diets, weigh loss pills, strength boosting supplements. I have to admit, as someone who has both a passion for weight training I was very much into the whole massive protein and vitamin craze years ago.  Now I find myself much more balanced in my approach. Marketing health and nutrition is a tricky thing, especially when the science of healthy eating is constantly changing.  I think there is a limit to what people should tolerate as a grey area in health when they are being sold 12 pieces of deep fried chicken as healthy. But that’s just me.