wrap a belt around a deadlift bar

Photo: Maridav (Shutterstock)

Lifting straps are a must have in the gym bag when performing serious deadlift or pull exercises. (And no, Belts don’t cheat if you know when to use them) but there are different types and it is important to match your straps for the type of lifting you are doing.

All three guys do the same job: They wrap around your wrists and around the barbell so you can lift things without tiring your grip. (Important: They’re called straps, not wrist wraps. Wrist wraps are a whole different thing. Try to avoid calling them “wrist straps” even though they technically go around your wrists; they’ll only add to the confusion.)

Lasso straps are the basic straps that work for most people

Lasso style straps are the cheapest, easiest, and the most likely to find when you go to a sports store and ask about straps. Here is a typical model, and you can see why they are called lasso style. You have a loop and you put the other end of the strap through the loop.

You put your wrist through the lasso piece and then wrap the rest around the bar. The important thing is that the loose part of the strap goes under the bar and wraps itself towards your fingers. That way, they’re not just duplicating what your fingers are already doing.

These straps will help you hold the bar in almost any normal fitness exercise: deadlifting, rowing, even curls, if your grip gets tired after a million repetitions. Their only downside is that they may not be good enough for extremely heavy lifting operations. At this point, you should grab a pair of eights.

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Figure 8 are for when the shit gets really heavy

When you compete in strongman, you’ll want a number of eights. These straps are exactly what the name suggests: a piece of fabric in the shape of an eight. You run your wrist through one half, run the strap under the bar, and then run your wrist (same wrist) through the other half. Once the thumb is in position, the fingers can virtually go on vacation. (Cerberus, who is doing mine, has a video on it their product page where powerlifters and strongman Benedikt Magnússon shows you exactly how to use them.)

You will know you need eights when you lift with lasso straps and they start to unroll on you. This happened to me a long time ago when my best deadlift was around 250 pounds and I was doing high rack pulls with 315. My lasso straps just couldn’t keep up. I bought eight and ended up pulling a whopping 395 pounds competing with them. (It was an 18 “strongman deadlift; powerlifting doesn’t allow straps-in, but strongman does sometimes.)

The minimalist option for weight lifting straps

There is another common type: Olympic weight lifting straps. These are shorter than lasso straps and are simply a piece of webbing sewn together at one end. You put your wrist in the loop and wrap the rest around the bar like a lasso.

The advantage here is that you can share them quickly. Olympic lifters, who enjoy dropping barbells and often suddenly have to drop barbells, use them for deadlifting and pulling, and the occasional snatch. (It is not considered safe to use for cleaningas you may get in a position where you cannot share them.)

If you are into Olympic weightlifting, this is what you should be doing. If your doing strongman or just want the safest hold, you should be eight. And if all of that confuses you, just grab a pair of lasso straps and you’ll be fine.