Lifting straps for a bigger back (and grip)!
I've read and heard many times in my life that the secret to a strong grip is to train popular back exercises without lifting straps. These include exercises where you "pull" such as pullup variations and rowing variations. Or exercises where you have to "hold on" such deadlift and shrug variations. Any exercise that you have to grip something to keep it from falling out of your hands will increase your grip strength. I believe for beginners, relying on your grip in these exercises is a simple, and sound strategy for building grip strength and forearm muscles.
Some of us use lifting straps when we train these exercises, which helps us hold on; This takes the "grip stress" out of the exercise. Why would we do this? Aren't we missing out on grip strength?! Here's why: Because Cailer Woolam Deadlifts More Than You.
Cailer has increased the popularity of heavy row variations in recent years for carry over to deadlifting strength; This is the type of exercise where the goal is to increase your deadlift, and it's impossible to do with a considerable weight if your grip is the limiting factor. That's why we're using lifting straps: to increase our deadlift!
If you want a bigger back, and your grip gives out before your back on a rowing or pulldown variation, you're shortchanging your back development (or your deadlift!) I use lifting straps A LOT! And I also use grip-friendly cable attachments on exercises like cable low rows and cable lat pulldown to take the grip out of these exercises, so I can focus on my back muscles contracting and stretching for a maximum pump!
With all this said, I still train my grip directly! We started a grip company for crying out loud! You're on a website whose mission is to maximize your grip strength and grip muscle development! Heck, we even sell lifting straps!? Are you confused yet?!
Here's what you need to know: dogmatically sticking to a simplistic, and short-sighted avoidance of using lifting straps will short change the development and strength of your back. And relying on lifting straps while never directly training your grip will result in the worst forearm development you could imagine on a muscular physique.
The best approach is A LITTLE and A LOT of both! Eschew lifting straps just enough so your grip begins to hold you back on pulling exercises, and then do some sets with the straps to finish off your back! If the load is too heavy even to consider gripping without straps, then use them! Straps also save your grip, so you don't burn them out before specific grip training! Begin training your grip directly once a week with a few different grip tools. The right way here is balancing both the use of straps and direct grip training! It's not hard; it just takes a little instinct and art. So next time you see someone using lifting straps when they train, don't judge them, lifting straps have their place too! And get a gripper!