Some people demonize them, others swear by the little extra kick in strength training. Hardly any tool is as controversial in the fitness community as traction aids. The straps made of textile or leather, also called “lifting straps”, don’t look particularly spectacular even at second glance. The article reveals exactly what pulling aids are about, which variants are used, where they are supposed to help and what exactly divides the fitness community.

Classic pulling aids are straps made of textile (e.g. neoprene or cotton) or leather about five centimeters wide with a loop at one end. The side closest to the wrist is slightly padded on some models. So-called pulling or lifting hooks are even more convenient. And the name suggests it: The band that you wrap around the dumbbell or pull-up bar during training is replaced on the palm of the hand by a hook covered with non-slip rubber.

The principle of pulling aids is simple. With the classic straps, you slip your hand into the loop and tighten the Velcro fastener. The rest of the band is neatly wrapped around the barbell several times, depending on the length. The lifting aids with hooks are attached to the wrist in such a way that the hooks rest on the palm of the hand with the open side facing up. Now they can be hooked from above for pull-ups and guided to the bar from below for deadlifts.

Pulling aids were primarily developed for free weight training and strength training with your own body weight. What does that mean specifically? Pulling aids work wherever barbells are involved. And it doesn’t matter whether you pull yourself up on the bar – like with a pull-up or whether you lift the bar from a standing position with appropriate weights. A classic for this is the so-called deadlift, a basic exercise from weight training. Here, from a slight squat, a barbell is raised from the floor until the legs are straightened. Pulling aids can also be used for bench press or training with dumbbells. Important: Pulling aids are forbidden in official competitions.

Chalk (also known as magnesia) is usually used to improve grip on the bar and bind sweat on the palms of the hands. However, if you slowly lose grip strength during the last set of exercises, the chalk can’t do much. And this is exactly where the pulling aids come into play. Regardless of whether you use a hook or a sling: The lifting aids on the barbell relieve the strain on the forearms that are heavily used when deadlifting and thus also influence grip strength. When deadlifting, you mainly train the back extensor and the front thigh muscles. The juice often runs out first in the forearms and hands. The traction aids therefore offer the possibility of training the target muscle (in the back or the legs) a little longer. In addition, significantly higher weights can be lifted and pulled with pulling aids. Sounds like a useful training tool. And that’s it, if you keep one important basic rule in mind: proper technique when performing the exercises has top priority.

As practical as the pulling aids are for burning forearms, the little helpers are hotly debated. Central point of criticism: The fact that the forearm muscles sound the alarm is a signal from the body that the training load limit has been reached. With the pulling aids you undermine this protective function and risk injuries resulting from overloading. Rather, you have to train your grip strength in a targeted manner, according to the traction aid skeptics. Their thesis: Anyone who regularly uses pulling aids in training promotes muscular imbalances between grip and forearm strength and the power in the back, (upper) arms and legs.

Last important note: Beginners should avoid using traction aids during their first units in the gym or at home. If you are a bit more ambitious, you can occasionally use traction aids at the end of training sessions to tickle a few percent more out of yourself.

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