Weight Training Accessories
The three most commonly used weight training accessories are a weight training belt, gloves and shoes. Although all three do offer some positive aspects they are not absolutely necessary for a safe and effective resistance training programme.
Other less used weight training accessories include items such as knee wraps, knee sleeves, wrist wraps and wrist straps.
Four most important weight training accessories
1. Clothing for weight training
Strength training is a challenging physical activity that requires functional exercise clothing. You will see everything from tight-fitting one-piece suits (similar to those worn by wrestlers) to baggy pants and shirts. Men often wear tank tops or T-shirts and shorts. Women may wear similar clothing or choose to wear shorts over a bodysuit or shorts and a Lycra sports bra (with or without a tank top or T-shirt).
However, clothing for weight training should be comfortable and allow freedom of movement during all exercises through a complete range of motion.
In warm environments, you should wear clothing to keep you cool during exercise. In cold environments, you should dress in clothing to keep you warm during exercise.
The clothing that you select for weight training should be comfortable and durable. You should feel good about your appearance when you are weight training. If you do not feel good about your appearance, the tendency is to quit participating.
2. Weight lifting gloves
The knurling (small ridges to assist your grip) on many bars and dumbbells, and the handles on many weight machines can be quite abrasive. This will make your hands rough and create calluses.
Weight training gloves are not a necessity. However, they will help you avoid developing calluses and will provide a better grip. There are also lifting gloves on the market that may assist in gripping. These gloves usually have a rubber palm with indentations on the surface to help you hold on to the bar. Lifting gloves typically have open fingers, offering you better finger dexterity. They also usually have a padded and reinforced palm, which can aid in comfort. If you do choose to wear gloves make sure they have a snug fit and allow you to “feel” the weight (for better control).
3. Weight lifting shoes
Wear shoes that have firm support, especially from side to side. Look for shoes that have a normal-sized heel width, such as tennis shoes, rather than the wide or waffle heel of running shoes. Cross-training shoes are an excellent choice because they provide the best overall stability and versatility.
4. Weight lifting belt
Another type of gear seen in weight rooms is a weight belt 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) wide made of leather or nylon.
Weight belts can increase intrathoracic pressure to help stabilize the spinal column during heavily axially loaded exercises such as the squat, dead lift, and overhead press. People should not develop the habit of wearing a weight belt tightly at all times, as this does not allow the core abdominal muscles to be exercised appropriately during general training.
Use a belt when performing lifts that create a fair amount of low back stress. On the other hand, we do not recommend that you wear a belt during all of your lifting. This may actually make the muscles that normally assist in lower back support “lazy”, because their workload is reduced. If you have a history of lower back problems follow the advice of your doctor.
If you currently wear a lifting belt on a regular basis, do not make any sudden or extreme changes in your routine. Gradually reduce the number of belt wearing situations in your workout sessions. This will provide the supporting muscles time to adapt/strengthen.
Other weight training accessories
1. Wrist wraps
Wrist wraps can be utilized when heavy weights are used in the following exercises: bench press, dumbbell press, squats, barbell and dumbbell curls, and any heavy Olympic lifting exercise, such as the power clean and snatch and the clean and jerk.
2. Wrist straps
Some strength and conditioning coaches call wrist straps, “cheater straps”, as they reduce the athlete’s requirement on his/her grip strength. Conversely they do allow you to train with heavier weight on exercises like shrugs and power cleans.
Wrist straps are made of cotton or nylon webbing and wrap around your wrist and the bar. This takes stress off of your forearms and makes grip strength less of a factor. The use of them can potentially limit hand flexor strength gains – which may not be in an athlete’s best interest.
3. Knee wraps
It is not unusual to see competitive lifters (and many recreational lifters) use knee wraps during training and competition. Many lifters feel that wraps provide them with extra support, help alleviate knee pain, and aid in lifting performance. Some experts feel that knee wraps can potentially cause (or contribute to) knee problems such as chondromalacia, which is a roughening behind the kneecap.
Knee wraps can be used for heavy squats, dead lifts, and very heavy leg presses.
4. Knee sleeves
Knee wraps should not be confused with knee sleeves. A wrap is usually a cotton elastic blend that comes in a long roll three to six inches in width. It is applied by spiraling and overlapping it up the leg and over the knee. Knee sleeves, on the other hand, are typically elastic or neoprene (a type of dense foam rubber) and slide up the leg and over the knee. They do not supply much additional knee stability unless accompanied by lateral stays. We do not recommend knee wraps for the average resistance training practitioner. We also do not encourage the use of knee sleeves unless recommended by a doctor, physical therapists, or certified athletic trainer.
It is important to know when to use and when not to use weight training accessories such as wraps, straps, and weight belts. Generally, refrain from using accessories during high-volume, low-intensity training.