Lifting straps are an essential gym bag item if you do any serious amount of deadlifting or pulling exercises. (And no, straps aren’t cheating if you know when to use them.) But there are several different types, and it’s important to match your straps to the type of lifting you do.
All three types do the same job: They wrap around your wrists and around the barbell so that you can lift things without fatiguing your grip. (Importantly: they are called straps and not wrist wraps. Wrist wraps are a totally different thing. Try to avoid calling them “wrist straps” even though technically they do go around your wrists; you’ll just be adding to the confusion.)
Lasso straps are the basic straps that work for most people
Lasso style straps are the cheapest, simplest, and the one you’re most likely to find if you walk into a sporting goods store and ask for straps. Here’s a typical model, and you can see why they’re called lasso style. They have a loop, and you pass the other end of the strap through the loop.
You put your wrist through the lasso part, and then wrap the remainder around the bar. Importantly, you want the loose part of the strap to go under the bar and wrap toward your fingers. This way, they aren’t just duplicating what your fingers are already doing.
These straps will help you hold onto the bar for almost any normal gym stuff: deadlifts, rows, even curls if your grip fatigues after a million reps. Their only con is that they may not be good enough for extremely heavy lifts, at which point, you should grab a pair of figure 8’s.
Figure 8’s are for when shit gets real heavy
If you compete in strongman, you’ll want a set of figure 8’s. These straps are exactly what the name implies: a figure-8-shaped piece of material. You put your wrist through one half, pass the strap under the bar, and then put your wrist (same wrist) through the other half. Once your thumb is in position, your fingers can basically go on vacation. (Cerberus, which makes mine, has a video on their product page where powerlifter and strongman Benedikt Magnússon shows you exactly how to use them.)
You’ll know you need figure 8’s if you are lifting with lasso straps and they start to unroll on you. This happened to me way back when my best deadlift was somewhere around 250 pounds and I was doing high rack pulls with 315. My lasso straps just couldn’t keep up. I bought figure 8’s, and eventually pulled a whopping 395 pounds with them in competition. (It was an 18″ strongman deadlift; powerlifting doesn’t allow straps in meets but strongman sometimes does.)
The minimalist option for weightlifting straps
There’s one more common type: Olympic weightlifting straps. These are shorter than lasso straps, and they are simply a piece of webbing stitched together at one end. You put your wrist in the loop, and wrap the remainder around the bar like a lasso strap.
The advantage here is that you can release them quickly. Olympic weightlifters, who love to drop barbells and often need to suddenly drop barbells, will use them for deadlifts and pulls, and occasionally for snatches. (It’s not considered safe to use them for cleans, because you may get into a position where you can’t release them.)
If you do Olympic weightlifting, these are the kind you should get. If you do strongman, or if you just want the most secure grip possible, you should get figure 8’s. And if all this is confusing you, just grab a pair of lasso style straps and you’ll be fine.