Straps for Deadlifts or not?

There has been a lot of debate as long as I’ve been involved in strength and conditioning with regard to straps vs no straps during the deadlift.

I am happy to say that I have changed my mind about a lot of things over the years. It’s evidence that I’m evolving in some way…

Initially, I thought that straps were basically for sissies who had weak hands, and this ideology was compounded and confirmed by people who I was working alongside.Adam Deadlift no straps After giving it some more careful consideration, I have become a believer in a limited use of straps for deadlifting.

To arrive at this conclusion I considered the following:
Why? (What is my goal?)

WHY: The deadlift has a laundry list of benefits, and some people call it the king of all exercises. I am deadlifting to strengthen the backside of my body and lift plenty of weight. It’s to build athleticism and strength overall.

COSTS: Grip Strength. My primary reasons for deadlifting do not include grip strength. Grip strength is, in fact, a secondary or tertiary benefit of the deadlift–but a benefit nonetheless.

So if grip strength isn’t the primary goal, but it is a benefit, is it THAT important that I abstain from using straps?

ALTERNATIVES: Mixed Grip – with its own list of pros/cons:
You can hold onto more weight than a conventional grip
You are more likely to twist during the movement (though not too much)
You are more likely to tear a bicep with this variation than with the conventional grip.

BENEFITS: Ultimately I had to rethink it simply because of risk and muscle balance. If there is even a chance (though slim) that I could have a serious injury, I’d like to do everything I can to avoid it.

I have found through my own practice that using straps just feels nicer and lets me focus more on moving the weight quickly.

The deadlift already has a fairly high energy cost. Using straps allows me to save up some energy for things like one arm hanging work, levers, rows, farmers walks, etc which are done later in the session after deadlifting…

Before you crucify me for blasphemy, let me also say that I have pulled 585 from a 6 inch deficit with no straps, so I’m not saying this without having spent the time trying out the other way.

That all being said, you don’t want to just strap up for everything.

Here’s how you actually implement this into your training:
1) Use a conventional grip (no straps) as long as possible
2) Use straps for heavier sets where grip would otherwise be an issue, and for high rep sets to maintain a stronger posture throughout

The deadlift is an amazing exercise. Let’s make sure we are stacking the deck in our favor to gain the most benefit out of it.

Better every day,

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2 thoughts on “Straps for Deadlifts or not?

  • John

    Hi Max,

    What do you mean by “as long as possible” in the sentence “Use a conventional grip (no straps) as long as possible”?