Weight Lifting Gear: What, When, and Why I Use Mine
It’s no secret that weightlifters and Crossfitters love their accessories - on any given day, I will change my shoes at least once, wear one or two different types of belts, use wrist wraps, knee sleeves, and maybe even lifting straps. My training partners and I often joke about how often we have to change shoes and anytime anyone gets new gear, they’re so excited to try it out.
Deciding what to use and when to use it is largely personal preference - I train with people who use nothing aside from weightlifting shoes, some who don’t even use those, and then there are others who belt up for just about every lift. Again, it really depends on preference. I didn’t start adding things like belts, wrist wraps, and knee sleeves in until I felt I “needed” them or it was recommended that I invest in them - I think a lot of brand new lifters probably don’t need much of anything (other than lots of practice), maybe a belt for 1 rep max squats and deadlifts but that’s about it. Personally, I love my accessories - here are the things that I use day in and day out:
1. Weightlifting shoes: Why weightlifting shoes? Weightlifting shoes have a heel which helps with stability in the bottom position of the clean and snatch - they help maintain a more advantageous, upright position for these lifts. Most lifters wear them for the olympic lifts (clean & jerk and snatch) as well as squats (back, front, overhead) and some pressing movements (push press, strict press maybe). They’re a clear necessity if you are focusing on olympic weightlifting however, they’re also used in other sports like Strongman and even Powerlifting.
I wear mine to clean, jerk, snatch, press (even bench - it helps since I’m short), squat (front, back, overhead) and I go back and forth between using them for atlas stone loading. The brand I currently wear is VS Athletics - they’re relatively cheap, ship quickly, are available in most sizes, and are fairly sturdy. I’m going to upgrade eventually but they are a great first weightlifting shoe.
2. Belts: The purpose of belts is to increase intra-abdominal pressure and more pressure = more spine stability. In my very limited experience, the belt is only really useful when you can breathe properly when wearing it - one cue that is often given is to “fill the belt” meaning, you’re gonna want to learn how to properly utilize the valsalva maneuver. You can read more about the ins & outs of using belts here. I use my belt when lifts are heavy OR when I’m trying to focus on creating stability in my core and need some feedback. For squats, I’ve been not using a belt for anything under 155lbs and will push that “belt line” up a few pounds every few months.
I wear two different styles of belt - a soft velcro style from Harbinger and a harder leather/suede belt (not sure what the brand is, it’s my coach’s).
I use my soft velcro belt for cleans, jerks, moderately heavy (volume) squats, and 1 rep maxes on lifts like push press, overhead squat, front squat.
I use my coach’s Powerlifting style belt for heavy intense squats (upwards of 180lbs for reps) and deadlifts over 200lbs. I’m getting mine own belt soon and going to go with a lever style belt (easier to get in/out of by yourself) from Inzer.
3. Wrist Wraps: Wrist wraps help provide extra stability to the wrist in overhead movements. Most people can benefit from these since most people have limited wrist flexibility - obviously, increasing your wrist strength and flexibility is important so don’t think that wraps will all of sudden give you that perfect rack or overhead position.
I have Strength Wraps and love them. I’ve got freakishly small hands and wrists so some of the more heavy-duty wraps felt a little too bulky on me. I will probably be getting a sturdier pair for things like heavy bench pressing but for now, I really love my Strength Wraps. I use mine for clean & jerks, snatches, pressing (bench, strict, push press), and things like overhead squats.
4. Knee sleeves: The main function of knee sleeves is to keep your knees warm. They don’t really provide much support and sleeves won’t really give you much bounce during squats either (knee wraps are a different story). I’ve got pretty bad knees and my knees get stiff easily during any given lifting session, especially when it’s cold out. I’ve been using a very cheap pair of knee sleeves from Ace (you can get them at Walgreens) but my quads have outgrown them so I need a new pair. I’ll be getting these from EliteFTS - quite a few people I train with have them and love them. I’ve also been experimenting with wrapping my knees with ace bandages for squatting (and other things right now since I have no knee sleeves) and I greatly prefer it - I feel like the fabric doesn’t bunch up behind my knees as much and for some reason, it feels better. Again, it’s a personal preference thing.
I wear my knee sleeves pretty much the entire time I workout but especially for clean & jerks, snatches, squats of any kind, loading stones, and basically anything where my knees will be absorbing impact or bending. Again, my knees aren’t great - I’ve got virtually no cartilage left in my left knee so they get stiff and achy quickly, so I use knee sleeves a lot.
And those are pretty much my core items of gear that I use on any given day! Any piece of gear that you can't live without?
*DISCLAIMER: I’m not a coach, professional anything, or any jazz like that. Just speaking from my own personal experience!*