Using lifting straps is often seen as cheating when it comes to weight training. However, in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting, it is far from it.
Lifting straps in Olympic Weightlifting are mainly used to save the hands from the aggressive knurling on the barbell from daily or twice-daily training. Especially when hook gripping which can place a lot of stress on the thumb.
Before taking you through a detailed step-by-step guide on how to use lifting straps for Olympic Weightlifting, it's important to differentiate between the different types of straps. Each type of strap is used differently and many aren't suitable for the sport of Weightlifting.
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Different Types Of Lifting Straps
There are three main types of lifting straps.
- Single loop
- Figure 8
For Olympic Weightlifting, you can forget about lasso and figure 8 straps. You will only be using the single loop straps.
Why? Because lasso and figure 8 straps don’t allow you to quickly release the bar. Figure 8 straps completely lock you in so if you do miss a lift, your hands will stay attached to wherever the bar falls.
Lasso straps, while you’re not completely locked in, have disadvantages where the thin tail connected to the wrist loop takes too long to unravel when the bar is dropped. So, while you may think you’ve released the bar, the straps can still be attached pulling you with it.
Single loop straps solve these problems by wrapping around your wrist with a short tail at the very center. Single loop straps can be detached or connected as shown below.
Single loop straps come in two designs. One is a single piece of material with no loop. You will be creating the loop yourself. The second design is a strap that already has a loop with a tail.
You can use either of these straps for Olympic Weightlifting. The single loop straps that can be difficult and uncomfortable to use are the straps with very short tails such as these straps.
The issue with these is the tail doesn’t wrap all the way around the barbell and it never feels secure when you’re lifting. The single loop straps with longer tails have the same advantage with a quick-release while having you feel secure on the barbell.
How To Use Single Loop Lifting Straps
It can be tricky learning how to use single-loop lifting straps for the first time. Controlling both ends of the strap with just your thumb and finger is a skill you'll develop very quickly.
Take both ends of the strap and put one end over the other. You can put any end one over the other. However, I like to place the left side on top for my left-hand strap and the right side on top for my right hand.
That’s just a personal preference and it can be done any way you want.
Once you've made your loop, place your hand through the loop and hold the ends together with the thumb and fingers of the same hand. It's important before you place your hand through the loop, the flat side is facing forward.
Once you have both straps on your wrists, it's time to strap into the barbell. This is where things can get tricky as your first strap you can use two hands. Your other strap only has one hand to help.
For your first strap, feed the tail of the strap underneath the barbell and place the bottom of your palm on the barbell. Grab the tail with your other hand and pull the strap around. It should come around next to the hand on the side towards the center of the barbell.
Make sure your thumb is over the bar for this process and not behind it as your thumb will then wrap around the barbell and the tail of the strap to keep it in place.
To attach the second strap, you need to feed the strap tail under the bar with your last three fingers and feed it up to your index finger and thumb where you can reposition your hand.
Place your hand over the bar and pull the strap tight so the bottom of your palm is close to the bar. Pull the strap around next to your hand on the side close to the center of the barbell and lock it in place with your thumb.
Make small adjustments with your hands to tighten the straps by using movements similar to revving a motorcycle.
When Should You Use Lifting Straps?
Straps can be used when performing pulls and snatches. They should never be used when performing cleans or jerks. The risk of injury is high when using straps for these movements as if you miss, the barbell will take your wrists and elbows with it.
When using straps, you will not be using the hook grip. This means if your thumbs are suffering from a lot of hook gripping, you can use straps to save your thumbs during snatches and pulling movements.
When training for a competition, Weightlifters will taper off their use of straps. For example, Mona, co-founder of RAWR Strength, will stop using straps for heavy snatches and only use them for light snatches and heavy pulls when three weeks away from the competition.
At one week away from competition, she will only use straps for pulls. You can find the best Weightlifting straps here.
Why Should You Use Lifting Straps For Olympic Weightlifting?
Lifting straps allow you to save your hands and thumbs from the barbell knurling when you’re lifting often and heavy. Bruising and skin tears are not uncommon in Weightlifters who train daily.
Using straps during pulls allows you to lift heavy loads for many sets and reps without having to worry about these issues.
Lifting straps also help lifters with small hands that struggle to hook grip during snatches. These lifters are better off using straps for all their snatches to save the pain from forcing their thumbs into a hook grip.