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A Great Idea
These things are one of the biggest innovations, in my mind, in recent years to power rack design.
You can fail a heavy rep halfway up without destroying your bar and/or the traditional steel safety spotter bars.
They also open up the possibility for more comfortably (and quietly) doing rack lockouts, ie: setting the bar down at the bottom of each rep and having to start the rep at the bottom.
When the straps are positioned a certain way, you can feel the bar touching the straps at the bottom of the rep before it gets to a point where the straps stop the bar, giving you an excellent tactile indicator of your rep’s depth, unlike the hard jolt of safety bars.
What’s Been Going On
Warning: Not all safety straps are created equal.
Those straps ripped right apart at the stitching from 405 being dropped on them. That’s 200 lbs per side. At a 10,000 lb rating each, they should have held up even considering the shock load from the falling weight.
In April 2018, this Youtuber received a letter from Titan Fitness warning him not to use their safety straps anymore, that there are quality problems leading to failure, and that they will be sending out replacements at the end of the month.
Presumably this letter was sent to all owners of their safety straps. They also offered refunds for the straps when requested.
Update Dec 2018 – See the note below on Titan’s new upgraded straps they came out with.
Quick Rant on Safety
He and another lifter suggested using the normal steel safety bars as a backup, sitting just below the straps in case the straps fail.
The spirit of that suggestion I like. Mitigate a risk by creating a redundancy. An engineer would be proud. Here, that’s a bad solution, in my opinion, even temporarily. Maybe I’m just more adverse to risk, but if I don’t feel like each element of my redundant system can be trusted on its own then it’s not redundant system at all.
Plus, you should be setting the straps at the lowest height you can to keep them out of the way while still saving your bacon as needed. If you’re going to set the safety bars below that, the safety bars will serve little purpose.
The whole point of a power rack over a smaller squat stand – or a bench press unit – that has no safety spotter system is the SAFETIES! If you can’t trust the straps that you carefully set at the perfect height, the whole system is pointless.
I’m really not that annoyed at the lifters who suggest using the safety bars as a backup. They’re working with what they have at the moment, I’m sure will be careful, and they plan on getting a better solution established soon with replacement straps. I’m mostly just annoyed that Titan never tested these or would let such a critical safety issue slip through.
I should note that I have a Titan X-3 rack and am happy with it. Titan has been responsive to customer feedback, and they have made several iterations of improvements on their racks. Hopefully Titan will learn a big quality control lesson with this mistake, and it will never happen again.
It’s the Stitching
It’s not the strap material. It’s the stitching that fails. Or it could be both, but the stitching is what’s failing first.
This knowledge sent me to do research on the stitching, and stitching material, used on Titan’s straps. Maybe I could get a high res image and start comparing. Alas, as of writing, Titan removed all of their (old) safety straps from their site.
Luckily, I found a video close-up of Titan’s straps. This is called a box-x stitching pattern. That’s fine, as far as the pattern. A box-x is used all the time, particularly for applications where the direction of force is variable.
Of note that is that there is only a single box-x. Two would be better. But with the way Titan’s straps were failing, I don’t expect that would have made a difference. It appears to be the thread that was the problem. They needed stronger thread, or possibly only because they were using the box-x pattern.
So as we go through some other designs below, I’ll point out the stitching and how it differs from Titan’s.
Note: See further below for an updated version of Titan’s safety straps.
So What Brands of Safety Straps Are Good?
The Original: Spud, Inc
Spud, Inc was the first one to innovate these as their “suspension straps“. At the time, everyone was doubtful. How could a piece of nylon be trusted like a big steel bar? Well, they have held up by all accounts.
Ropes and webbing made of nylon and other materials have earned trust in the last 20 years in the boating, climbing and aviation communities, where the consequences for failure are just as severe as a failed rep with 405. Once you get used to it, and test it safely, you’ll realize how strong the stuff is. Gym equipment is simply catching up to the technology. Steel power racks with safety bars were invented 100 years ago. Maybe it’s time for a change.
Spud’s suspension straps universally fit any power racks. They hung from the upper frame of the rack, on either side of the bar, so you would be touching the straps as you lowered the weight down for each rep, reversing your rep just short of the loop at the bottom of the strap. Works pretty good!
However, Spud Inc’s strap design has some issues. The straps can slide around, and you want to make sure the chain is in the right position, either on the top, bottom, or right in the middle, depending on whether you want it to scratch up your rack, your bar, or clink against your bar as you go up and down in your reps. This prompted another design.
Around 2011, Sorinex noticed how reliably they worked and came out with straps designed in the same manner as traditional safety bars, attaching to Sorinex rack uprights via brackets and hanging horizontally. They are a better solution, because they are easier to adjust precisely via the upright holes and don’t touch your bar at all until they’re needed.
Here’s a lifter testing the Sorinex straps with 365 lb.
That’s some serious confidence in the straps to be dropping 365 on your neck. Sorinex passes the test! Theirs is 42.5″ long to attach to 3″x3″ tubing.
Rogue, of course, has excellent straps as well that no doubt have gone through plenty of testing as they do with everything. Rogue has never been known to cut corners on safety. They have several models to choose from:
- Infinity Safety Straps – fits 24″, 30″ or 43″ depth, 2″x3″ tubing with 5/8″ or larger holes
- Monster Lite SafetyStraps– fits 24″, 30″, or 43″ depth, 3″x3″ tubing with 5/8″or larger holes
- Monster Safety Straps – fits 24″, 30″ or 43″ depth, 3″x3″ tubing with 1″ holes
Rogue’s stitching goes all the way up through the loop, and they have an additional layer of material stitched on top to prevent wear from the bar knurling to the structural stitching underneath. Smart!
Unlike some attachments, the pegs on any safety strap brackets don’t have to fit well into the holes on the rack uprights for these to work. The straps just hang down anyway. So the Infinity and Monster Lite straps work for 5/8″ holes, 1″ holes, or anything in between.
Rep Fitness has some heavy duty 30″ straps made for their PR-5000 series rack, with the same sizing compatibility as the Rogue Monster Lite (30″ long, 3″x3″ tubing, 1″ holes).
Their stitching extends in their case all the way down the straps, going through the loop and overlapping into the first pass of stitching. It doesn’t look as clean as Rogue, but it’s good. These just came out in April 2018 (this month, as of writing), and Rep has not yet added much of a description to the product page yet.
Update: Better Straps from Titan Released in Summer 2018
Good news! Titan came through by fixing the problem, as they have with other issues in the past. They use a stronger thread now, and they have upgraded straps for the T-2 racks, the T-3 racks, X-2 racks, X-3 racks with 24″ depth, X-3 racks with 30″ depth, X-3 racks with 36″ depth. and their new TITAN series racks.
The stitching closing the loop has a V pattern instead of the box-X. Oddly enough, the three versions of straps, to fit each model of rack on their website, appear to have a slightly different stitching pattern, but they are all a V pattern. More importantly, the thread looks to be thicker, or at least it’s starkly visible with white thread so you can see its integrity visually.
Here is Titan’s video testing the new straps with 500 lbs in April 2018, soon after they discovered the problem and got some new prototypes to test.
So given the timing, clearly they treated it as an urgent issue and got to work right away. They also didn’t rush the new straps out. It was another couple months before they were listed again on their website.
Coop bumped the test up to 800 lbs, from higher up…
That about settles it. They will hold up to catching an unreasonably high drop from a fully loaded barbell.
Other Brands and Compatibility
We have a list of power rack attachments by size, to help you pick various brands of attachments that will fit your rack, including safety straps.
Safety straps in particular are an attachment that do not have to fit perfectly on the rack to be perfectly safe. A little bit of slop in the length of the strap or in the fitting on the rack’s upright is fine, as long as it locks into position securely. So you have a few options with some racks in getting whatever straps look best to you, whether it’s by quality or price.
Important: Strap Length
When the straps fit the rack too tightly, the bar resting on them wants to roll to the middle. This isn’t good, because it can mean it’s going to roll back into you when you bail a squat, or it will crush your midsection when you fail a bench press.
To prevent that, attach one bracket of each strap higher on the rack upright, moving the low hanging point of the strap to where you need it. You can do that to a huge degree with the Rogue and Sorinex straps, which hang quite loosely. The Rep straps hang tighter, but I confirmed with Alida at Rep Fitness that theirs are long enough to do it.
Being able to adjust the height on each side has the added advantage of fine-tuning the strap height to where you need it, just below the bottom of your range of motion. For example, if the hole spacing of your rack is 2″, this method allows you to adjust the height in 1″ increments.
Next, load your bar with some weight to test the height. For testing the bench press height, keep the weight well within what you will be able to lift comfortably after setting the bar down on the straps. The straps may stretch a little under load, and you want to make sure it’s right.
Your bar’s knurling could start to cause the nylon straps to fray, or even damage the stitching.
Rogue has wear guards built into their straps. For any other brands, consider getting wear sleeves like this to protect it. It’s a cheap and easy solution that’s used in other applications to protect polyester or nylon straps from abrasion.
Any thoughts you have about using straps instead of traditional safety bars? Share in the comments below!