…YOU ESSENTIALLY HAVE 400 LBS HANGING FROM A PLACE THE GOOD LORD NEVER INTENDED WEIGHT TO BE HUNG FROM.
Big Back Grips Interviews Dr. Warren Willey on the Bio-Mechanics of Weightlifting Straps
BBG: What about grip strength? A number of lifters tell us their main issue with using straps is they become a “crutch”, and that relying on straps to keep the weight in their hand as opposed to using their own strength keeps their grip strength from developing as it should. Can you talk about that? How do you find Big Back Grips differ from weight lifting straps in that direction?
WW: I can pull a lot off the floor with a dead lift, do pull-ups until the cows come home, but I realized I was only doing a part of the work. I was hanging from my straps, not holding myself up. I enjoy the whole picture now, and I am amazed how quickly my grip strength is coming back now that I am actually holding on to things.
BBG: Is it correct to say that weight lifting straps function in much the same way as a noose? A heavy weight is hung from the strap and causes the loop to squeeze down on the wrist joint in much the same way a noose might squeeze down on a human neck? It’s not a pleasant analogy but is it fairly accurate?
WW: Thank goodness the majority of us do not breathe through our fingers, so yes – the analogy is appropriate. Positioning of the straps can cause some damage to the articular surface of the carpal bones (wrist bones). The ligaments between the radius and ulna and the carpal bones are also at risk for injury, particularly the Palmar Ulnocarpal Ligaments, Radial Collateral Ligament, and the Palmar Radiocarpal Ligaments. Ligament damage in-and-of itself is a very hard thing to deal with in medicine as the blood supply to ligaments is relatively sparse. I discuss with patients who have ligament injuries how they would have been better off breaking a bone, as they heal quicker.
BBG: How much pressure is being applied to the joint? Is there a way to measure it?
WW: The easiest application is how much weight is strapped in. If you are doing a 400 lbs dead lift, you essentially have 400 lbs hanging from a place the Good Lord never intended weight to be hung from.
BBG: We’d like to ask about the bruising. One well-known IFBB pro who uses Big Back Grips told us he does back twice a week and goes heavy. The bruising on his wrists was almost constant. Can you tell us:
BBG: What exactly does it mean to “be bruised”?
WW: Bruising or ecchymosis is the result of blood in the skin/tissues, usually from trauma. It can be painful as it is space utilizing and therefore a disruption of natural anatomical planes and potentially function.
BBG: What’s the mechanism of action behind the bruising that lifting straps can cause?
WW: Direct trauma to the tissues such as micro and macro tears of vessels and the subcutaneous structures.
BBG: Is there long-term damage than can occur when the wrist joint, or any joint, is being bruised continually? What symptoms would you want to look out for?
WW: You bet. Longer term or repetitive damage, particularly to articular surfaces of the joints, is a prime cause of arthritis. Upper extremity overuse/injury is a very common thing we see in athletes, often related to equipment problems.
BBG: Now, pain is always a sign of something “not quite right” to one degree or another, correct? Enduring pain might be considered a sign of strength by some, but what is it really a sign of? Does frequent pain suggest accumulating damage?
WW: Pain is a warning sign – God’s way of saying “hey – cut that out!” Frequent pain is an indication of “Hey – get that checked out!”
TEEN BODYBUILDING AND STRAPS
BBG: Through the growing years, young bones are not as fully hardened as they will be later in life, is that correct? At what age do bones fully harden? And before they do, are they at risk at all from the pressure straps might exert?
Bone maturity usually occurs around the time of sexual maturity. In medicine, we call it Tanner Staging, with Tanner Stage V being fully mature. This occurs at different ages for all involved. One simple, and most certainly not exact, way to tell if you are there is hair distribution on the body.
We do want to ask you about chalk. We meet a lot of lifters –chalk users– whose hands are dried, cracked, torn, bloody, etc. There’s a lot macho talk about “I love my calluses”, but is there a downside to working out with raw cracked skin?
If the skin is raw and cracked, it’s a good way to get an infection. Health Clubs are cesspools of disease. I most certainly do not want any exposed or vulnerable wound available for infection…