The other day, I had a discussion with a client about the fact that they were taking sets a bit too far. This is a mistake that many people make when they're first starting out and logically it makes sense, but it's a bit short sighted. Essentially, I'm talking about attempting to improve by lifting to the maximum every time (I.e I want to get a bigger bench press, so I lift to failure in the hopes of improving).
To better explain this idea, let's take running for example, and you have the goal of running 1 mile under a certain amount of time. When you start, what do you do? Many people simply put their shoes on and run a mile. A difficult mile, but they run it. The next time they go to run the same mile and it's a little bit easier, but overall, just about the same performance.
While just running a mile outright, consistently will certainly lead to better performance in the 1 mile eventually, it's not the best route, especially for a beginner. I mean, constantly running to your maximum and never seeing meaningful progress is degrading.
The issue with this idea is that you're pushing too hard and accumulating fatigue too quickly, which reduces the amount of work you can do and overall inhibits your growth and performance.
For example, let's say you have a goal of running 1 mile. When you train, you can take each run to the maximum and run 1 mile. But let's say you broke up that 1 mile over the course of 3 workouts. Now you're running .33 miles each time. In this case, it's likely that .33 miles is quite easy. While that seems like a bad thing, it opens up the door for you to actually improve.
With that short of a distance, you can first acclimate yourself to running without blowing your wod. Second, you have the opportunity to improve on speed. Third, once you've improved on speed, you can increase the distance. Now consider that you're doing this 2-3 times per week.
By using this method, your cumulative effort is far far greater than just running 1 mile. Even if you just complete half miles, three times per week, you're still exposing your body to a longer distance compared to just the 1 mile run (1.5 miles). Plus, since you're not putting forth 100% each time, you'll have the energy to actually try and improve. Before you know it, you could be running multiple miles, each session.
To really understand this concept, increase your distance. If you had the goal of running a marathon, would you run 26.2 miles every time? Chances are, no. You try to progressively improve all variables associated with running well, while slowly increasing the distance you run. Just running a marathon outright would be crazy, so why do you think changing the distance matters? Your performance is relative to your own personal ability.
This example is really similar to the idea that you won't improve your bench press by lifting to failure each time. It's much more advantageous to do less work per workout, but more work overall. Being able to complete 15 sets over the course of 3 workouts will be more advantageous than failing at 10 sets in a single workout.
While training to the maximum feels like it should make sense, it's a better idea to split your work up over multiple workouts, allowing you to improve, which cumulatively speaking, could be extremely meaningful over the long run.
Recently, I came across an article discussing how to hit a 300 bench. Undoubtedly, 300 and 315 are essentially “rights of passage” in the lifting world. Until you hit 315, you aint shit.
But that in my mind is quite alright. Hitting a personal record in just about any lift is commendable, but hitting milestones that community has set forth, now that’s something to shoot for.
About 6 years ago was the first time I had ever hit 315 and at the time I was elated. Even though I had spent actual years hovering around 300-315, it was at last that I finally hit that milestone.
But that feeling was short lived. For the next 4 years, I spent hovering around that weight, going up and down, never to really progress. At one point I did get up to 350 for a double, but again, that was just in my mind, good luck and good timing.
It wasn’t until earlier this year that I had really begun to make progress, hitting the elusive milestone of 365 pounds for the bench. On top of that, I hit a second personal goal of repping 315 for 5 and 275 for 10.
This isn’t an opportunity to brag, but rather impart the knowledge I’ve learned about benching in a way that might help you reach your bench press goal.
In this article, I’m going to discuss the variables I manipulated over the course of 3-4 months, to increase my bench press by about 50 pounds. It’s my hope that after checking out this guide, you’ll have some ideas to try out for your own.
As a disclaimer: This article is not intended to teach you how to bench. This is more of a guide for someone that is already comfortable with benching, but looking to gain a competitive edge. Keep in mind, this is all based on experience, while using some scientifically-backed techniques. Certain aspects may or may not work for you. I suggest manipulating these variables to be appropriate for you own training.
Building Your Own Bench Technique
First and foremost, it’s important to point out that we are all individuals. There are thousands of “get a big bench” today guides out there, all telling you the best ways to lift.
That’s not what this is. I’m simply providing a guide of how I increased my bench significantly. There are literally thousands of different variables and different ways to bench-press, so you need to figure out what is the best starting point for you.
Countless different articles touch on the importance of a wide grip, a narrow grip, scapulae retracted, elbows in, arched back, etc. There are so many different variables that I’m not going to act like I can tell you what to do.
I personally use a very narrow grip, no further than shoulder width. In fact, most people would consider my grip to be “close grip.” Through a series of pec injuries and years or improving my own technique, I’ve found this to be the best method for me, as I’m a fairly triceps dominant presser.
Again, many people prefer wider grips and even ultra-wide grips. You need to adjust how you bench until you find what works best for you. I'll touch on this point a bit later. While you can follow advice, remember at the end of the day there is a best way to bench for you as an individual. You need to find that or create it.
Techniques I used To Build A Bigger Bench
Below are explanations of a few of the techniques that I used to build a big bench, even though I use them for other body parts and muscle groups as well.
Daily Undulating Periodization
Daily Undulating Periodization is a method of structuring your training program on a week-to-week basis, as well as long-term.
If you’re at all familiar with periodization, it’s simply a method of structuring your workouts and manipulating weight and reps to constantly provide increasingly stressful stimulus.
For example, most beginner athletes follow what is known as “linear” periodization. It’s called such because it adjusts weight and reps in a linear fashion. In essence, over the course of months, athletes using a linear model of periodization start with light-weight and high repetitions and steadily move towards lower rep, higher weight work.
However, I follow what is known as Daily Undulating Periodization. Typically, this is a style of periodization used by more experienced trainee’s. Rather than progressing in a linear fashion (straight from high rep to low rep and heavy weight), you’ll undulate the reps and weight scheme from one workout to the next.
For example, If I bench for 10 reps today, the next training session might be 4 reps (and heavier weight) and the next workout after, might be 12 reps.
Essentially, this method first allows you to use certain movements, like the bench very frequently. Second, it allows you to work those muscles in a wide range of rep and weight ranges, to essentially cover all of your bases while continuously improving your technique.
Research seems to corroborate that this is a fairly good technique and honestly, it makes sense to me. Linear periodization has an issue that once you work in a certain rep range for a month or so, you move on to not look back. Unfortunately, it’s likely that many of the adaptations you received during that training block, might go away since you aren’t using them. That seems kind of strange, but it’s similar to what happens if you run for a while and then stop. You essentially lose to ability to continue running long distances.
The same thing happens here. If you aren’t continuously training in a certain rep range, you can expect that your previous performance when you were, to diminish. So, by using DUP, you’re hitting many different rep ranges to ensure that you’re adapting within each range for the ultimate package.
This technique is near and dear to me, and is the primary technique I used to build my big bench. In essence, it’s the same technique as how baseball players swing a weighted bat before they step up to the plate. Only the plate in this instance is your working sets.
The technique works like this. First, pick the movement and rep range. Based on the rep range, you should know what typical weight you’d use. For example, if you’re benching 8 reps today, you’d take a mental note of your 8 rep max.
Based on your Rep Max weight, you’ll actually work up to a weight that is about 110-120% of that weight. But the catch is, you only do 1-2 reps, never to failure. Afterwards, you drop down to your normal working weight and then lift more than you ever have in your life.
Essentially, you’re stimulating the nervous system to put forth more effort than you actually need. Since you prime yourself with heavy weight and then drop weight drastically, the body is still primed for the heavier weight, giving you the perception that you’re much, much stronger.
For a full, in-depth article discussing the science of this technique and how to actually use it, please check out this article on Post Activation Potentiation.
Rest Pause is another technique that has taken just about every aspect of my training to the next level.
Rest pause provides you with two distinct benefits. First, rest pause uses high repetition work, with fairly small rest, meaning you’ll get a huge pump and thus have a high level of metabolic stress, which might be relevant for muscle growth.
Second, you’re literally increasing, often doubling the volume you can do for a given weight, which if you don’t know, could literally change the game for you in terms of growth.
Take for example the dumbbell bench press. Lets say you can normal max out with 80 lb. dumbbells for 8 reps. With normal training, you’d probably slowly work up to 80 pounds, complete 1-2 sets of 8 and then move on.
With rest pause, the work doesn’t start until you hit 8 reps.
From here, you take 3 short sets and combine them, using the heavy weight. Essentially, you’ll take your initial weight, lift until 1 rep short of failure, rest for 30 seconds, go to failure, rest 30 seconds and then go to failure again. That’s one set.
It sounds a bit crazy (and it is) but the principles are sound.
Consider what you just did in that above scenario. While you might typically finish or fail with the 80 pounds at 8 reps, with rest pause, you’re doing upwards of 12-15 reps, with weight you normally max out with for 8 reps.
By simply taking a couple deep breaths between “mini-sets” you’ll recover a bit to increase the total number of reps you can do with heavier weight.
If there is a technique to expedite the growth process, Rest-Pause is it. For more information and full guide on this technique, please check out our Rest-Pause guide.
The Slingshot, which can be found here, is a very simple, yet extremely effective piece of equipment that can expedite your bench growth. Here’s a video of me using it.
Essentially, this piece of equipment gives you a boost off the chest, allowing you to use heavier weight for overloading the top portion of the lift. Most people like myself, struggle with locking out the bench press, so this piece of equipment helps you work directly on that issue, while continuing to allow you to use a full range of motion, even with weight heavier than normal.
While you don't need the slinghost per se, I've found it to be quite valuable for improving the bench press.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or just not up to snuff on exercise science research), you’ll know that increasing the frequency or how often you train muscle groups is important. More frequent stimulation means more frequent growth stimulation, so on and so forth.
However, increasing frequency is even more important if you’re specifically attempting to get better at a certain movement. By consistently working the same technique 3-4 times per week, you begin to really settle in by focusing on moving the weight, rather than worrying about technique.
Additionally, I also recommend increasing the frequency that you train with heavier weights.
In addition to perfecting technique, you also need to perfect your technique under heavy load, since your movement patterns will probably change when maxing out versus normal rep work. Further, getting accustomed to weight that was once very heavy for you, will increase not only your confidence but also your ability to move heavier weight.
For reference when I was focusing on increasing my bench, I benched 2-3 times per week and ensured that for at least 1-2 sets, I was working over 315 pounds. By doing so, within a few weeks, there was no question in my mind that lifting 315 was easy, leaving the door open for continued progress above and beyond that amount.
If you’re specifically interested in building your bench, you should bench often and lift heavy often to allow you to be accustomed to the rigors of very heavy training.
Perfecting Your Technique For Yourself
I mentioned it earlier, but I really want to drive this point home. While it’s important to have a safe and effective technique, you need to manipulate your technique until you find what works best for you. By doing so, you’ll create an environment for growth that is both safe and effective.
Like I mentioned, I use what is typically considered to be close grip, which is very different from how many other people bench. But it works for me, and really, that’s what matters.
While this isn’t a “how to bench guide” per se, these are the techniques and ideas I used to increase my bench press to 365 in the matter of a few months.
I suggest attempting to use some of these techniques in ways that can help you actually increase your bench press.
If you aren’t sure how to do that, consider looking into my services as a training coach or imply inquire about what options I provide (I provide many, just ask). I use all of these principles and more in every training program I provide.
Additionally, consider downloading my 12-week Strength & Hypertrophy program named Potentiate. This program was based on the techniques I used to build my biggest bench, squat and deadlift ever. Best thing is, it’s free (donations accepted). You literally have nothing to lose but everything to gain.
How Should I Transition Out Of My Diet... My Keto Diet.
Part 1: Returning To Maintenance
First and foremost, it's important to know that while calculators such as the ones provided by MyFitnessPal are very general. Unfortunately, they don't have the ability to understand that you've been dieting for the past few months. So, while 2020 calories may be "maintenance" for your height, weight, composition and activity level, it's certainly not the correct amount for your situation.
If you're basing your weight loss (or maintenance) off of calories, it's imperative that you find your actual maintenance intake by counting calories and watching your weight fluctuation for a few days. If your weight stays the same, then you've found your "current maintenance," which I'm almost certain will be different than the MyFitnessPal Calculator.
Second, in terms of reverse dieting, you're certainly correct about that increase (1520 to 2020) being a bit too large to do over night. However, it's important we touch on the different methods of reverse dieting.
Method 1: Slow reverse dieting
While slowly increasing calories (<50 kcal at a time) can potentially allow for better control, I believe it's a bit too slow. Consider that for most people, 50 calories over or under maintenance won't make a difference. That's literally fewer calories than eating an extra oreo.
While having moderate increases in calories might be great for monitoring weight changes, It's a bit too slow. Not to mention, if you're only increasing calories by 50 or so every week, you'll remain at a "deficit" for a very long time, which could reduce your responsiveness in the gym.
Method 2: Fast reverse dieting
In this case, you're increasing immediately back up to your original "maintenance calories intake." This is wrong in my eyes for a few reasons.
First, this isn't your maintenance anymore. With such a drastic change of body weight and a strong reduction of calories for some time, you're metabolic rate decreases, otherwise known as adaptive thermogenesis. So, if you automatically jump up to your original "maintenance" it's likely that you're actually in a surplus.
Second, if you immediately jump up to higher calories (significantly higher) you don't have the ability to adjust before weight gain occurs. You could accidentally consume 5-10,000 extra calories in a matter of a week (overall) and not even know it.
Method 3: Moderate Reverse Dieting
I suggest using the same methods that would be used for weight loss. After finding your "current maintenance," increase that amount by 20%. During this increase, monitor weight daily to understand how you're responding. If you haven't gained any weight, increase by another 10-20% based on your response.
By using this method, you can make small adjustments while increasing calories meaningfully, yet not so much that you accidentally get fat as a result.
Don't immediately increase calories in their entirety but also don't increase at the pace of snail. Start with a 20% increase of calories (or an extra meal of protein, veggies and a light carb). Weigh yourself daily and increase calories further based on how your weight and performance in the gym changes.
Part 2: Switching Macros
As far as switching macros are concerned, your first consideration should of course be calories. However, I think it's important to not ignore the potential of switching macros here. If you were normally consuming carbs and simply wanted to increase or decrease, it wouldn't be a big deal. However, since you've essentially been keto for sometime, special care should be taken when switching to a higher carb approach.
First, you've been consuming little to no carbohydrates for some time. To all of sudden increase carbs drastically won't only upset your gastrointestinal system, but could also lead to unwanted fat gain. The reason for this is largely because you're simply not accustomed to the high carb intake anymore. Not to mention, your body is likely optimized for metabolizing fat rather than a large amount of carbohydrate.
Essentially, this is the possibility: You're in nutritional ketosis, primarily using ketones (metabolized fat) as energy. Now all of a sudden, you consume a large amount of carbohydrate. So, does the body immediately switch to metabolizing carbohydrate? Well, sort of.
Obviously the body needs to metabolize the food you eat, but it's more so of what happens once the byproduct of that metabolism (carbohydrates now become glucose in the blood). Does that glucose get used? Probably not, since you're body has been primarily using ketones as energy. Now you have both high blood glucose and high levels of fatty acids in the blood (which is similar to what occurs with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Now let it be known I'm not saying this will happen to you, just that it's a possibility. I mean is it hard to believe that they body may have difficulty digesting and using large amounts of a macronutrient that you haven't consumed for months?
I would suggest along with your slow increase calories to slowly reduce the level of fat you're consuming, while slowly increasing carbs. Here's an example of how I would slowly transition out of your macro distribution:
If you're transitioning out of keto, it makes sense to reduce fat and increase carbs in steps, rather than all at once. Since you've been avoiding carbs for some time, increasing them by over 100% immediately can cause gastrointestinal distress and may even lead to unwanted fat build up. Overall, it just makes sense to slowly change macros rather than all at once.
Overall, if you're transitioning out of a diet or even also transitioning out of a high fat diet, I suggest modestly, yet meaningfully adjust your food intake. Do so sequentially while closely monitoring your weight.
If you increase carbs and total calories drastically from the start, you risk unwanted weight gain that you won't be able to remove. If you take things too slow, you could waste weeks or months due to continuing your calorie deficit. In both of these situations (which happen to be the same situation) taking the moderate approach is likely the superior option.
One of my favorite things to do is to search through reddit, specifically r/fitness and find questions that people are asking about training & nutrition. Questions that I believe almost anyone would benefit from hearing answers. So that's what this is. I've done it before but I think it's time to revisit this reddit fitness questions and answer segment.
Keep in mind, if you have questions that are similar and desire an answer, please reach out. I'd be happy to address any questions in the next iteration of this segment.
Question 1: Do You Need To Use Compound Lifts?
First of all, compound movements like the squat, deadlift and press are truly great for building a strong base of well, strength as well as creating maximal coordination between muscle groups, allowing you to efficiently produce strength.
Overall, this to me is the most important reason to use these exercises, not because they are typically great at building mass.
The thing about these movements is that they allow you to stimulate a large amount of muscle at a relatively high amount of weight. Together, this creates a fairly large growth stimulus across many different muscle groups. Essentially, these movements are efficient at stimulating growth for a large amount of muscle, rather than a specific few.
However, you have to consider that in doing so, some muscle groups will be worked to a greater extent than others. For example, you’ll certainly stimulate your abdominals with a squat or deadlift, but if you were planning on specifically building your core strength and definition, you’d want to work them directly rather than use the stimulus from squats, alone.
Really, you don’t need to use movements like the deadlift and squat, but you should, since they can provide you with a strong base of muscle coordination and strength, which is functional and can also improve your performance during isolation movements, which can expedite the growth process.
Overall, you can certainly build a reasonable amount of muscle by specifically focusing on working certain muscle groups directly (isolation movements) but you’re missing out on building a strong, functional base, which might actually improve your ability when working with isolation movements.
If you have the ability to occasionally use compound movements with heavy weight, you should. Just don’t discount the importance of isolation movements as well. If you want a specific muscle group to grow, you should work it directly.
Compound movements like the squat, bench and deadlift stimulate a large amount of muscle, requiring them to work in unison. However, when doing so, some muscle groups will be worked to a greater extent than others. Thus, it makes sense to have a healthy combination of compound movements and isolation if you’re looking for a complete package.
Question 2: How can I start to look "fit"?
Truth be told, there isn’t anything special about this question. There’s unfortunately no secret answer that would be different from a normal prescription for getting fit. But just in case, here’s how I would respond.
First of all, you should consider adjusting your nutrition to first allow for weight loss, but additionally, be in line with your intended result. If you’re hoping to “get fit” you’ll want to first improve the quality of your food intake and second, ensure that you’re in a negative energy balance.
This simply means that you’re reducing that amount of energy you’re taking in, while maintaining or increasing energy expenditure.
The best way to accomplish this is to either begin tracking calories and macros, and/or increase consumption of protein and vegetables. Essentially, stick with foods that you think are “healthy” and try to reduce the amounts foods that are dense in calories (think junk food).
Second, I suggest having a training plan that encompasses a wide range of training styles. This includes lifting heavy sometimes, lifting lighter sometimes, training like a bodybuilder, training like a Crossfit athlete and training like an endurance athlete.
Really, and while this won’t be a popular opinion, look at most highly competitive Crossfit Athletes. While this isn’t exactly a scientific suggestion, just consider how jacked and defined those athletes are. Not to mention, most of them can run 10 miles without even thinking about it.
So essentially, if you want a “fit physique” you first need to eat in a way that will favorably adjust your body weight/fat in the direction you need and then train in a way that will probably get you fit. Not gigantic, not small like an endurance athlete but rather the whole package.
I suggest training with the following focuses if your goal is “to get fit”:
Many people get caught up in technicalities when it comes to “how you should train.” Really, it’s quite simple. If you want to get strong, you should train to increase strength specifically. If you want to get big, train to get big. If you want to get “fit” then you should train in a way that will allow you to do so. In my opinion, training and mastering all facets of fitness is the answer to this question.
Depending on your primary goal, you should train in ways that will actually allow you to achieve it. If you want to be strong, train to get stronger. If you want to get big, train to get bigger. If you want to get "fit" then train with a wide variety of training styles to ensure that you don't only look fit, but can also play the part.
Question 3: How to train around sensitive joints?
Keep in mind this is personal anecdote, but I’ve found that if I have sensitive regions, such as the tendons around the elbow during triceps extension exercises, I always opt for a compound movement instead that will work that target muscle group.
Surely, using isolation movements are the best way to specifically improve a muscle group, but when using these movements, two things can happen:
1.Either you put way too much direct stress on the muscle and tendons or
2.Your muscle outgrew tendon strength.
In the first scenario, this is typical. For example, the triceps muscle grouping is fairly small, relatively speaking (consider the amount of muscle that comprises the “quadriceps” compared to the amount of muscle considered to be “triceps."
When doing a compound movement, you can place this muscle group under much more stress. However, when using an isolation movement, you’re also placing much more direct stress on the joint and tendon(s) that allow for that movement to take place.
In the second scenario, it’s not unreasonable that with a large amount of direct work to specific muscle groups, that they can outgrow the tendon that connects the muscle to the bone.
That’s because the tissue that makes up tendons, cartilage and ligaments has a poor blood supply, meaning that recovery and build up is slower than that of the muscle it’s attached to, creating imbalance and potential risk of injury. In fact, that’s one of the reasons that many steroid users experience injury, since the muscle is growing at a sped up rate compared to the tendon.
Over years of experiencing this issue myself, I’ve come up with two solutions.
First, I’ve found that by using a compound movement that still works the target muscle, you’ll place less direct force on the joint and tendon in question. So, while you may not be working the muscle directly, you’ll still potentially stimulate growth.
Second, just take a break from directly working that muscle group. If you’re having pain, that’s a good indication that you’re placing too much overall or direct stress on that area.
Lastly, I suggest trying to find alternatives that work the target muscle group. If scull crushers hurt your joints, but triceps pushdown doesn’t, simply opt for the other exercise. Just because you had one exercise planned, doesn’t mean that an alternative won’t provide almost identical benefit.
Pain around joints during isolation movements is quite common and could be due to just too much direct force on a small muscle / tendon group or because your muscle has outgrown the ability of the tendon. If this describes you, consider opting for compound movements and finding alternative exercises for the target muscle group. Always attempt to train around pain before completely abandoning it. Most exercises have alternatives that will achieve the same end results you're hoping for.
Chances are that you've seen someone wear straps in the gym before and perhaps you've even used them in the past. So should you be using them?
Lifting straps are sort of a strange accessory in the world of lifting. Some bodybuilder's use them, powerlifters use them sparingly and much of the time, strongmen wear them, even during world record attempts. Even so, there are some mixed messages about when and even if you should use them at all.
Why Use Lifting Straps?
Lifting straps really just allow you to hold on to significantly greater weight, even if your grip strength is up to par. For reference, my biggest deadlift was 550 lbs, without straps. During that lift, my grip strength was certainly put to the test. On another occasion however, I've held a 700+ lb. barbell, using straps; something I would not have been able to do otherwise.
In essence, lifting straps allow you to place significantly greater stress on large groups of muscle than if you were not using straps. In theory, lifting straps should allow you to progress faster as compared to not using weightlifting straps.
It's not uncommon to be able to deadlift an additional 5-10 reps, solely because you have straps on. Over time, that increase in training volume could be meaningful.
An Argument For Lifting Straps
As just mentioned, lifting straps can allow you to use significantly more weight than if you were not using the straps. Just about any lift that involves some form of pulling can benefit from using straps.
For example, the deadlift. The deadlift is a posterior chain dominant lift, meaning that basically all musculature on your back side is being recruited to some extent when performing a deadlift. The reason that straps may be beneficial is that your grip strength will be significantly less powerful than the combined output from all posterior chain musculature.
In the above argument, you have to decide if letting grip strength be a limiting factor in your training is important to you. If it isn't the use of straps would make sense.
Even more convincing is when completing single arm exercises, such as a dumbbell row. Surely, your lats, rear delts and biceps can row 130 lb. dumbbells, but can you actually hang on to it? In this situation, you have to decide which factor is more important: Grip strength, a balance of grip and target muscle strength / growth or just building the target muscle group.
Lastly, the use of lifting straps may allow for significant improvements in training volume. For instance, it's not uncommon to be able to deadlift an additional 5-10 reps, solely because you have straps on. Over time, that increase in training volume could be meaningful.
An Argument Against Using Lifting Straps
One argument against the use of lifting straps is that you may eventually create imbalances. For example, if you use straps always when you deadlift, you may be able to deadlift 600 lbs. But what happens when you can't use straps? Perhaps you can only hold on to 530 lbs. without straps.
In this case, what do you do? Do you always lift with straps? Do you drop weight and forgo your 600lb. deadlift for the sake of increasing grip strength? Do you need to do separate, grip specific training to catch up?
This is an issue that surprisingly happens with many powerlifters. During training blocks, lifters will use straps to get ahead of the competition and then on competition day, they can't hold on to 90% of their estimated max.
The issue with this really depends on why you're lifting. If you're lifting for competition, lifting straps can be beneficial, but you'll be required to often train without them to make sure grip strength is up to snuff. If you're just looking to get stronger or to body build, straps can be beneficial, but still present issues in terms of grip strength.
The Situation Should Determine Use Of Straps
You're A Beginner
If you are a beginner (just starting or have trained for less than 6 months) I advise against the use of lifting straps. The reason for this suggestion is 2 fold. First, as a beginner, your advances in strength will be fast enough. Almost anything you do will benefit you in terms of strength. If you're using an actual periodized training plan, your gains will probably be even greater.
Second, as a beginner, you need to focus on building a base of strength and coordination, including all musculature, including those involved with grip strength. As a beginner, you want to ensure that you strength growth includes your grip strength. Otherwise, you could end up being very strong, yet only able to hold on to a quarter of the weight you need to continue growing.
As an advanced athlete, you may need to look towards different methods to increase strength. The use of lifting straps may be that answer.
A good example for application would again be the deadlift. As an advanced trainee, you understand the extent of your strength for the most part. If you do, then you understand that lifting an additional 50+ lbs. because of lifting straps can be incredibly beneficial for improving strength.
However, it's important to know that this is situational. Surely your end goal should dictate how you train. However, I advise against always training with straps, since you can become reliant on them, creating imbalances between your muscle and grip strength. Their use should be situational for overload, with other sessions allowing you to train without straps to bring your grip strength up to snuff.
The Verdict On Lifting Straps
Lifting straps can be a very valuable tool for improving strength but they can produce imbalances between your grip strength and actual muscle strength, resulting in reliance on the lifting straps.
As a beginner, you shouldn't use straps since you'll have such rapid growth anyways. The use of straps could create large imbalances, which may stick with you. As an advanced trainee however, the use of straps situationally to improve strength and training volume may be beneficial. However, it's important to remember that imbalances can occur. In this situation, you should train often without the use of straps to ensure that your grip strength improves along with other musculature.
Do you use lifting straps? If so, when? Have they helped you like you'd hoped? Let me know in the comments below.
This article topic was provided by Kristin Damitz, a Doctor of Occupational Therapy Candidate.