When is it appropriate to wear weightlifting straps? Or is it as simple as saying "use them whenever needed to enable your grip to hit your targeted amount of reps in any given set"?

I love weightlifting straps. You should use them. Assuming you know how and when to use them. Straps enable overload, i.e. the ability to perform extra reps or handle poundage you would be unable to do without straps. An elite iron master using straps can turn a 3 rep set into a set of 5, a 5 rep set into a set of 8, an 8 into a 10 or 12 rep set. You can pull longer and you can pull heavier using straps. Those extra reps and that extra poundage convert into addition muscle and strength.

Straps are only used for one function: to improve grip power when pulling a payload towards the body - think about it: you don’t need straps on bench presses, squats and overhead pressing (pushing poundage away from the body) but you sure as hell tax the grip maximally on rows, cleans, high pulls, deadlifts, snatches, cleans, pulldowns and pull-ups. The clever trainee will note that they are all back exercises. If grip becomes the limiting factor in back work, you need lifting straps.

I personally wear straps on all my back exercises. Despite having average size hands, my grip is strong, thank you very much. I have deadlifted 744 and have never lost a competitive deadlift due to grip. The anti-strap argument is, "I want to simultaneously build my grip." To which I retort, not all of us have grip issues and I prefer those muscle-building strength-infusing extra reps I am able to grind out past the point where my “no strap” grip would have given out.

About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of numerous books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.