Monday, December 17, 2012

10-Second Tip: Bad Bars, Grip, and Straps

By Andrew McGunagle

Having consistent access to high-quality strength equipment is fantastic. If you have benched on a bench made to competition specs, lifted in a power rack with compact hole spacings, or wrapped your hands around a bar with excellent knurling, then you surely know nice equipment makes a difference.

The only downside to regularly using good equipment is you become acutely aware of the drawbacks of poorly constructed benches, racks, and bars when you have no choice but to use them. You feel relatively unstable when benching, awkward when squatting, and your grip gives out much sooner when deadlifting.

Helplessly attempting to hang on to a bar with terrible knurling is especially frustrating. Combine smooth bars and the common commercial gym policy of disallowing chalk use, and you can expect to deadlift less weight for fewer reps than you normally do with nicer barbells.

Fortunately, this issue is very easy to remedy. All you need to do is purchase a pair of lifting straps to wrap around the bar and your grip will become a non-issue. Lots of guys on the internet whine about straps and state that using them is "cheating". These protesters need to realize that straps are an absolute necessity when dealing with bad bars. I have noticed my grip begin to slip as much as 50 to 100 pounds sooner when using bars commonly encountered in commercial gyms compared to when I use a Texas Deadlift Bar or my Pendlay NexGen HD Olympic Bar.

Most straps are relatively inexpensive, but it is worth noting that, just like strength equipment, the quality of straps varies. The IronMind Strong-Enough Lifting Straps and the Spud, Inc. Wrist Straps are widely used and recommend by many strong lifters. Some trainees, weightlifters in particular, prefer shorter, closed-loop straps. I have not had any issues using the lifting straps I got for free from Elite FTS, but I have only had to use them the handful of times when I have deadlifted in my school's rec center.

So, if you lift in a commercial gym and deadlift with bad bars without chalk, then strap up when the bar begins to slide out of your hands. It's not cheating - you're just leveling the playing field. You will not suddenly be able to deadlift as much as George Leeman, but you will be able to train your deadlift effectively rather than being held back by the equipment you use.

Thanks for reading!