To Use Grip Straps or Not?

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An Air National Guardsman is carried during an active shooter exercise.
Master Sgt. Rebecca Boddicker, with the 155th Air Refueling Wing and simulated injured person, is carried on a stretcher by fellow airmen, Lincoln Fire and Rescue, and the Lincoln Police Department to an awaiting ambulance during an active shooter exercise at the Nebraska National Guard Air Base, Lincoln, Neb., April 24, 2014. (Staff Sgt. Mary Thach/U.S. Air National Guard photo)

Many people like to hit the gym and focus on heavy lifting for long periods of time. If you are this type of heavy lifter/body builder, you may find that the one thing that prevents you from not completing your workout is that your grip fails -- especially on heavy pulling, deadlift and hanging days. Here is an interesting question from a future military member who has a background in powerlifting/body building and is focusing on more running, but he builds his PT strength and muscle stamina with higher-repetition lifts and calisthenics:

Stew, I have been lifting for years and I am finding that the one thing stopping me from finishing big-repetition pull-up workouts is my grip. Any suggestions on 1) strengthening my grip, and 2) is using devices (straps) to help prolong my workout (especially on pull-ups and farmer walks) something you recommend?

Sure, pull-ups, pulldowns, rows, rope climbs, farmer walks and deadlifts will crush your grip -- especially if you do several of these in a circuit. I recommend you do them without grips at first, then resort to grips when needed to complete the workout. I also have created a Grip Workout circuit that I like to use at the end of a workout, just to top off my grip muscles after a challenging pull day.

I recommend using straps, especially when the workouts get long and you need a little more grip stamina to complete it. We have done long runs and shuffles with stretchers carrying 150-200 pounds of sandbags, or we switch out members of the group as the injured man drill. Do this on a USMC endurance course, and you have yourself quite a workout.

You also will find that you need people to rotate carrying the stretcher either with one hand or both. If you have a small group, you may want to bring some form of grip strap. This is where I really like the Versa Gripps, though you can see from its site, it is developed and sold to hardcore lifters.

There is also a tactical application to this specific product that I like that is different than your typical grip straps used for decades by heavy lifters. The reason I like the Versa Gripps Pro is that they offer not only grip relief when needed like your normal canvas/nylon straps, but they also are extremely helpful when carrying stretchers with 200+ pound soldiers on them for long distances.

You can leave them on your wrist like a wrist band and turn them around and grab the bar, stretcher or heavy piece of equipment with ease when needed. I have made my own canvas straps, but have easily lost many straps over the years simply because I could not secure them to my wrist.

It is important to work your grip for any tactical profession, but having a backup grip saver could be something that helps you with your job carrying gear, saving lives or deadlifting a truck!

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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