Alright, so you’ve gotten to the point where your technique is looking good and your lifts are improving, but some of the other people lifting weights in the gym are using chalk, lifting straps and gloves – and some of these people are bigger than you! So they must know something, right?
You’re already ahead of the game by lifting or exercising in the first place, so in terms of rights and wrongs, don’t even mention it. But when it comes to lifting aids, is there one that’s best or one that would better suit you?
As with the other options, the point of straps is to get a better hold on heavier weight so they don’t slip out of your hands. They’re most necessary for the likes of stiff-legged deadlifts, shrugs, pull-ups and bent-over rows. Straps are looped around your wrists and the bar, attaching you to the weight.
Straps mean that you don’t need to be bothered about your grip loosening or your hands sweating – both of which are common issues faced by everyone.
The question with straps, though, is whether you’re using them because your grip wanes before your muscles or because you want it them to improve your strength. There is a difference. If your sweaty hands are cutting your sets short then straps are an answer, but if your delts, back, biceps or especially your joints are the reason you can’t complete your sets then attaching yourself to the bar is definitely not the way to go. It’s called common sense.
Chalk is a favorite among climbers as well as weightlifters. It doesn’t add a layer that makes your grip stronger, it simply removes the slippiness, meaning you can get a better grip. Okay, so the mess can be an issue, and if you’re wearing black clothes people will see where you’ve been scratching, but it washes off easily enough and the benefits to your grip arguably outweigh the alternatives.
Chalk allows a natural grip and so will actually help to improve the strength of your hold where straps do not.
These come bottom in many lifters’ opinions. You can’t use them in competition for one and they give a false sense of grip strength. Gloves are ideal when you’re starting out or for when you’re putting lifting to practical use outside of the gym. They eliminate stress on your hands and help to avoid callouses while providing thicker fabric between your palm and the bar, thus making it easier to hold.
For straps, chalk and gloves, the main argument in the negative is that they will not address the issue of a weak grip, they will cover it up. A little bit like how a booster seat doesn’t make you taller, but is a means to an end.
There’s a good argument against that too. If you, like the many, compartmentalise your week into different workout days (one for back, one for chest, then legs etc) if it’s that you’re solely concerned, for example, about building your shoulders, what do you care if aids don’t benefit your grip? Of course, if it’s building your grip that’s a concern, who’s to say you can’t designate some time to that (and your forearms) in the same way you do with your chest.