During my weight training days at McGill, I remember a lot of lifters were using wrist straps and weight belts, including myself.
The weight belt was good for the vanity – it tightened your waist and tucked in your beer belly, plus it inflated your chest, hence the inverted triangle appearance. The 46” chest with 30” waist. Of course, the same guys had skinny legs, so they would wear “Jam” pants to hide them.
Today, if you walk into a Gold’s Gym or World Gym, you don’t see that trend anymore. Well, at least not the weight belt and wrist straps. I won’t talk about fashion trends here.
About 10 years ago, I ditched the wrist straps and weight belt, in favour of chalk when performing my cleans and dead lifts. I would bring my own little rock climbing bag with a block of chalk. The staff at Gold’s Gym hated me when I showed up because I reportedly left a “mess”. I was thinking of bringing my portable hand vacuum cleaner just to shut them up.
Today, luckily they make Liquid Chalk which you can buy at Amazon if your Gym has a no-chalk policy. Thumbs down if they do.
Don’t get me wrong, the straps certainly helped my cleans.
Why the shift in mentality?
There are two types of wrist straps, one with the loop at the end, and the other is just a long piece of material.
On a 1 RM (one rep max) or double (2 reps), there may not be any benefit, but on higher reps where fatigue sets in, I can see straps having an advantage.
There’s an old saying, “If you can’t lift it, then don’t do it”. You are adding more stress to your shoulder and elbow joints with assisted lifting. You are better off to work on your own grip strength first.
I am also told your grip gets weaker as you become more dependent on them. I disagree with the weaker part, as your eight numbers will rise. But I certainly agree with the dependency.
In the end, psychologically you simply lift more because of the assisted lifting.
There are two types, one regular about 4 inches (10 cm) high and the “high back” version about 6-8 inches high.
Traditionally it was used to keep the back and spine straight and stable, along with a "false sense of security" giving an illusion of safety.
But some fitness trainer claimed it was better to work our natural Abs and core and obliques.. The fitness ad sports industry went through a whole Abs and core crazy not too long ago, with everything from swiss balls, balance boards and bosu balls.. I think the craze is still going on!
As I got older, I was worried the weight belt could give me a hernia if it was too tight.
Again, the old saying of “If you can’t lift it, then don’t do it” applies here.
Like Michael Jackson, and Michael Johnson for that matter, everyone and everything has their time and place. Your mileage may vary.