Is your equipment holding you back?

We show up to the gym and take five minutes before the class starts to slip on our gloves/gymnast straps, knee sleeves, lifting shoes and wrist wraps. Then we warm up and workout. Sound familiar? As competitive beings we are all guilty of loading up on whatever equipment we believe will improve our workout times and provide any aid during a tough workout. Countless dollars are spent on equipment that is designed to help us out, but could this equipment actually be holding us back?


Here are some types of equipment that may be doing more bad than good:


  • Knee sleeves
  • Gloves/Straps
  • Wrist wraps
  • Lifting belts


You may be thinking: “Knee sleeves support my knee and help prevent injuries,” or “Gloves/straps keep my hands from tearing.” You’re not wrong. These are the purposes for which these pieces of equipment were created. So what is the issue? Why shouldn’t you wear this equipment that you’ve spent your hard earned dollars on? The issue isn’t using the equipment you’ve invested in. The issue is ALWAYS using it.

Physically, your body begins to become dependent on certain equipment when it is used excessively. The support from your gloves, knee sleeves, lifting belts and wrist wraps will begin to weaken those areas and not allow them to become stronger. So when should you use them?



Equipment and its recommended use:


  • Knee sleeves: Use them for 75% to max lifts, but leave them off during warm-ups and lower-weight workouts. It’s beneficial to strengthen your knees when you have the chance to. If you like to wear them during workouts with weighted lunges to protect your knees from the ground continue do so.


  • Gloves/Straps:  Try strict movements and some low rep workouts without them. Doing this will help strengthen your hands and grip. If a workout has high rep and high friction movements, then wear them for protection against tears. Avoid wearing them during warm-ups.


  • Wrist wraps:  Do not put them on until you are done warming up. Try keeping them off unless you are performing a high rep WOD or a 75% to max effort lift and you will begin to see an increase in wrist strength and a decrease in wrist pain.


  • Lifting Belts: Give your core the opportunity to do some work and become stronger. Only use them for 85% to max effort lifts and high rep workouts that you know may cause some low back discomfort.


With all of this said, safety comes first. If you have a past injury and have to wear supportive equipment to work out pain free, please continue to do so. This is about excessive use of equipment for those of us with NO past injuries. If you are used to wearing these pieces of equipment at all times then you must SLOWLY begin to wean yourself off of them until you can achieve the recommended use. 


Matt Cook
Matt Cook Matt Cook's picture
Sat, 12/19/2015 - 06:47

#teamminimalist ... I assume you'd add lifting shoes to this list? Use them for Oly class or heavy lifts but not all the time.

KyleH KyleH's picture
Mon, 12/21/2015 - 09:42

Well put, Gabe.  I would definitely echo the advice about the lifting belts.  It may force you to lift a little less weight than you could with a belt, but the benefits of training at those moderate weights without it will more than make up for it.  Gale used to tell people that we don't "do abs" in crossfit because we squat and deadlift, and it's completely true.