Last Updated on March 28, 2010 by Jimson Lee
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.
You’d be right at home here at Gold’s Gym in Venice, CA. There is chalk galore in the designated lifting areas that require it. Strange, nobody seems to clean it up and nobody seems to care, either. It is somehow a perfect touch to the decor and atmosphere. Or maybe we just like to train in a pigpen. lol.
The straps and belts are still used by a good number of heavy lifters. Straps can also help when going beyond the usual reps for pull-ups or when the wrists are still fatigued from the constant day to day stress. I haven’t used a belt in a while as I find the amount of weight I use for deadlifts and squats decreasing as I get older. I have currently been adhering to strict form but I do miss the belt as for me it generated a heightened sense of seriousness and mental alertness to the exercise I was doing.
What is your current routine for lifting and how do you balance it with your track work?
Thanks for the article.
Jimson Lee says
@Fred – depending on the athlete, I like to see weights 2 days a week, and Plyos one day a week. Thus, all 3 power exercises are done on the same day (BP, PC, SQ).
If I skip plyos, the I do a split routine 3X per week, where:
Mon – BP & PC
Wed – PC & SQ
Fri – BP & SQ
Pat Pawlowski says
Actually there is another standard type of wrist strap that I would recommend. Keep in mind I am a competetive powerlifter & former weightlifter as well as a coach. The straps I occasionally use are a piece of canvas looped back over and sewn together to amke a single loop with no tag end. They are easier to use and safer if there is a lift failure as the bar can be let go in a straight line.
The principle reason to use straps in my mind is only for deadlifts and is for heavy lifting so both hands can be kept forward to avoid helicoptering and unbalanced training. The use of reverse grip, except for a competitive powerlift, creates unbalanced work- very bad for everyone but particularly for sprinters.
Using straps for cleans of any kind seems unnecessarily dangerous to me. Franklly non-competitive lifters do not need cleans as few do them very well. Better to work harder on deads, box squats and push presses.
I greatly appreciate all your commentary. Perhaps one day we can review use of bands, boxes and combined strength and speed protocols that can be used in a wave fashion all year long rather than from going from endurance to strength to power. They are certainly not mutually exclusive they just require attention to accommodation of energy systems and recovery.
Tear em iup!
Jimson Lee says
@Pat – good comments. I prefer just a single piece of cordura canvas, with no loops. I’ll get out the digital camera and show an example. Plus, I need chalk for the wrist as I find the canvas eats into the skin.
Thank you for the valuable input. Perhaps Jimson could have you write a guest post in the near future concerning the specific lifts you mentioned. It would be nice to have some related videos to show the proper techniques for “deads, box squats and push presses.”
Jimson Lee says
@Fred – that’s probably my next step with this Blog – to start adding more of my personal videos and instructions, rather than copy other people’s YouTube videos.
Thanks. Would love to see your work and instructions.