Posts tagged weightlifting
Embracing Your Own Standards

I’m a little late on writing about this and at this time, I’m sure a hefty dose of people have seen the article “Be a Box Babe, Not a Barbie: The Top 9 Crossfit Female Faux Pas”. If you haven’t, go ahead and read it. Just be prepared to get a little ragey.

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So at first glance, this comes off as a typical “oh look, another bitter internet dude telling women how to look” but then you realize...it’s written by a woman. Who is a coach at a Crossfit gym. At this point, you just go “what the…”. I’m not one to chime in on loooong discussions on Facebook or other social media but I just could not help myself with this one. The TL;DR of most comments surrounding this article involves women being really pissed about it, other women defending the author saying it was just supposed to be funny, quite a few men thinking it was ridiculous, and a handful of men agreeing with the article. Overwhelming, the article failed. Quite a few rebuttals were written, my favorite of which is THIS. There were a few people who attacked the author, but truthfully, I don’t see the point in doing that (note that the “you” addressed in this post is NOT directed at the author). What she wrote is nothing new or innovative - it’s alllll the same stuff that women have been hearing for a long time. It’s stereotypical, judgemental, and catty.  My overall feelings on the article? It does absolutely nothing to help women. Period.

But I’m not here to write a point by point rebuttal on why this article is one epic facepalm. In fact, I think that there is some silver lining to something like that article being published on a large, very public platform - it gave women a chance to come together and say “hey, not cool”. And THAT is really important.

While the notion of fitting into some standard of beauty is nothing new, it becomes problematic when it turns into a mean girls club. Saying “you can’t lift with us!” because of what someone is or isn’t wearing is just plain ridiculous. In an arena where a large portion of coaches, athletes, and passionate individuals work really hard to help women empower themselves through picking up a barbell, it seems downright counterproductive to tell someone to be a “box babe, not a box barbie”.

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I don’t care WHAT you’re wearing - if you’re approaching training with a barbell for the first time, I’m going to be more focused on encouraging you than critiquing your outfit. I've been in a few conversations that start with asking what the heck a bunch of us are doing (the gym I go to has a "barbell" program focused on strength and power, in addition to Crossfit classes), what it's like, and after I wax on poetically about my love for squats (for waaaay too long, sorry  y'all), there is often something said like "I totally want to do it! But I'm kinda of terrified".  At that point, I'm focused on convincing the other person to talk to the coach about it and that it really is a lot of fun, there is no need to be intimidated, that everyone in the group is really supportive and encouraging, and that they're going to get some high quality coaching and get better. Those conversations wouldn't happen if I just had an attitude of being better than everyone else, or some bizarre notion that I'm more "serious" than the next person because my hair isn't done. That would completely defeat the purpose - I want people, especially ladies, to come hang out and get strong and squat. It also undermines the work my coach does to build a quality program and encourage people to join it.  Why would I want to turn someone away by being judgey?

If you’re focused on encouraging women to pick up a barbell or embrace strength or forget what the media tells them to look like, being catty isn’t the way to do it. The judgmental attitude presented in that article is exactly what SHOULD NOT happen. It makes me sad when I hear women saying things like “I’d like to try Crossfit/weightlifting/etc. but I’m not good enough” or they’re terrified of the judgement they would receive for not having a 6-pack and wearing short shorts. And guess what? They’re not usually afraid of getting this judgement from men - they’re afraid of getting that judgement from other women. How messed up is that?! By endorsing the sentiment of, “you’re only serious about your fitness if you conform to these standards”, you’re also endorsing putting women in another box - it’s a slightly more muscular box, but it’s a box nonetheless. Trading conventional standards of beauty for Crossfit/fitspo/whatever standards of beauty is like trading a pink box for a blue box - it’s the same thing but it just looks a little different on the outside. Would you ever tell a 7 year old girl that she can only be strong and serious if she looks a certain way? Why then is it okay to say those things to other women? When did women in strength sports become a cool kid contest and when did we all stop encouraging women to find and embrace their own standards?

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[oh look, I'm squatting with my hair down and curled, wearing a cut off shirt, and probably some mascara too]

The notion that a woman can’t be a serious athlete if she wears makeup, has her hair done, or heaven forbid, has a matching outfit is just about the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.. There is this idea that as women, we need to make sure that we try hard without looking like we try too hard. We need to look girly, feminine, be muscular, but not all big and bulky (which is just ridiculous #bigandbulkylife4ever), we should be aesthetically pleasing, but not wear too much makeup or do our hair, be a bit provocative, but don’t be dress too scandalously. No one needs to justify what they’re wearing to anyone, period. I don’t have to justify my cut-off shirts and spandex shorts to someone so they can validate my worth as an athlete. My clothes, my hair, and the presence or lack of makeup on my face has NOTHING to do with me being an athlete - it doesn’t make my squat go down, it doesn’t impact my ability move weight, and it certainly doesn’t imply that I’m not strong or not serious about getting strong. Moreover,  it has even less to do with anyone else.  I’ve got goals and standards for myself, and they don’t involve making sure my outfit and eyeshadow is acceptable to anyone else.  So, if you’re concerned about how many coats of mascara I’m wearing while you’re at the gym, you’re doing it wrong. Moreover, if you’re going to stand there and be catty about it, you’re definitely doing it wrong.

If your goal is to encourage women to embrace strength, say “eff it” to standard beauty conventions, and empower them - you should be leading by example and building them up rather than critiquing their hairstyle.  Show them that they should embrace their own standards - not the medias, not a “crossfit babe’s”, or anyone else’s notion of what it means to be strong.

Gift Guide for Strength Athletes

This time of year there are lots of “gift guides” for all sorts of target markets - foodies, runners, winos, etc. but I’ve yet to see a gift guide marketed towards people who like to pick up heavy things and put them down. So I thought I would make one! And, you know, if any of these things just happen to show up on my doorstep… I wouldn’t be mad. Just saying.

giftguide

Wrist Wraps

I personally have Strength Wraps and love them - I’ve got REALLY tiny wrists so they’re one of the only wraps that don’t feel bulky or impede my wrist movement. They’re pretty light (although you can get them a bit heavier if you’d like) and work well for any of the Olympic lifts where you need some wrist flexibility. Plus, they come in tons of fun colors and designs.

If you’re looking for something with a bit more heft and that’s a bit stiffer for heavy pressing, try these Rogue wraps.

 

Knee Sleeves

I use knee sleeves a good amount (more discussion about that here) and just recently ordered myself a new pair from EliteFTS. I’ve also heard amazing things about Rehband knee sleeves. Just make sure you ask the person receiving them to size themselves since it’s a pretty specific item that needs to fit correctly.

Lifting Straps

I actually need to purchase a pair of these myself. I very rarely use them but they are something to have in your toolkit if your sport allows them (Strongman usually does for max weight deadlift events). EliteFTS has a big selection, as does Rogue, and Lift Big Eat Big also makes straps as well.

 

Belts

There a couple of things to consider when purchasing a belt:

1. Competition legality - different sports/federations have different requirements for what is and is not considered “legal” for a belt. This is going to mostly impact the size of the belt (for example, 10mm or 13mm) and possibly the thickness. Again, it varies for each sport and/or federation.

2. Style - There are two styles of belts that would make a great gift - some people like to use just one style, I personally use both depending on the lift. There are also styles within styles (belt inception!?) which is largely personal preference.

The two styles I've used are what I'm calling "velcro/soft" belts and "hard/powerlifting" belts. Not the technical term I'm sure, but yeah.

Velcro/Soft belts - I LOVE my Harbinger belt and I’ve also really liked using Valeo belts. I prefer the velcro style rather than the buckle style (like this) but again, that’s just personal preference. I use mine mostly for Olympic lifts, pressing, and sub maximal squats and deadlifts.

Hard/powerlifting belts - These belts are a bit pricier, depending on what you get, and again, there are several styles here. I’m partial to the lever style belts simply because they are easier to get in and out of by yourself and the belt that is on my own personal wish list is from Inzer and the above belt from EliteFTS is also pretty awesome. From prong-style belts, there are quite a few options - I’ve heard great things about this belt from Rogue.

 

Shoes

If you’re feeling really generous, I’m sure the Olympic weightlifter or Crossfitter on your list wouldn’t hate seeing a pair of Adidas adiPower’s or Nike Romaleos under the tree. I know I wouldn’t.

Reebok Nanos are a great all-around shoe. I love mine and need to purchase a new pair since mine are pretty worn down.

 

Books

There are tons and tons of books out there that would be perfect for any athlete but here are a few of my favorites and a few that are on my wish list. These range from very technical/science heavy to mindset to nutrition and everything in between.

- Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches by Greg Everett

- Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe

- The Texas Method by Justin Lascek

- Supple Leopard by Kelly Starett & Glen Cordoza

- Paleo for Lifters by Justin Lascek

- Supertraining by Yuri Verkhoshansky

- Progress by Chris Moore

- Science & Practice of Strength Training by Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky

And when all else fails...get gift cards or scope out clothing, books, and gear from these places:

- EliteFTS

- Rogue Fitness

- Lift Big Eat Big

- Fashletics

- FringeSport

- Juggernaut Training Systems

You can also check out some more info about the type/brands of gear I personally use and love here.

That's it! I'm sure I missed a few things so let me know what your favorite gifts/brands/types of gear are and what you would like to receive this year!

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:

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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!*