Many professional power lifters, and body builders make use of lifting straps, wraps, and weight belts, because they offer extra support, or prolonged grip while working with heavy weight.
Wraps are generally used to provide greater support and protect joints from incurring injury while working with substantially heavier loads. Straps help an athlete grip and hold on to a bar, or dumbbell for a longer duration than normal. Weight belts help stabilize the spine and core by increasing inter-abdominal pressure, and aiding in supporting core musculature during many lifts, such as squats, dead lifts, and shoulder press.
The only time an athlete should utilize any of this equipment is when they are performing max lifts, such as power cleans, squats, or bent over rows. This is only true when the athlete performs high intensity, low repetition sets, around a one to three repetition range. Then these tools are used as a safety precaution, to prevent injury.
Utilizing them while training during all lifting activities, in turn actually detrains the athlete. As mentioned earlier, they should only be used during max lifts. Using them while performing non-maximal lifts can promote the detraining of stabilizer muscle groups that are supposed to work during a particular lift. For example while performing a dead lift, maintaining a neutral spine and tight abdominal musculature is an important component to the proper mechanics of this lift. Wearing a belt can cause your core musculature to relax and can contribute to their weakness, which in turn can be detrimental to proper form.
When training my own clients, I do not allow them to use any of these items. I teach them proper weight lifting mechanics without the aid of these tools. The only time I utilize straps, wraps, or belts, are when they are performing low repetition, heavy power lifts, or max lifting. These particular clients are also at an advanced level of training. Lifting heavy requires immaculate form, and that takes some time to master, especially in regard to power lifting.
Weight training in general should be as functional as possible. The use of straps, wraps, and belts are mostly tools for cheating the muscles of any work they should be doing. Training without them will actually make you stronger, more functional, and overall a better athlete. In other words, you should never use a weight belt when lifting less than maximal loads.
Keep training simple without all the gadgets. Get rid of all of those straps, wraps, belts, gloves, and pads while your training. Get used to holding the weights with your bare hands. Rid yourself of that pad on the barbell while squatting, and get used to that bare bar on your shoulders. What happens if you forget your sissy pad, you’re not going to train that day?
Chances are if you unsuspectingly need to lift something heavy, you wont have any of these items with you anyway. Get your body used to lifting in its purest form, without the use of these tools. They are what I refer to as “ crutches”. They will only end up debilitating you.
Jon Torerk, CSCS