Weightlifting Gear: Belts, Wraps, Sleeves and All That Jazz

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by TARYN HAGGERSTONE

Weightlifting Gear: Belts, Wraps, Sleeves and All That Jazz

I meant to write this post ages ago but was having a really hard time putting it into words, so the topic got moved to the back burner. But this morning I read an article from BoxLife Magazine — “The Pro’s & Con’s of a Weightlifting Belt” — and it reminded me about this post. Maybe because it’s been sitting there at the back of my mind for so long, it finally started to come together.

Belts, Wraps, Sleeves and All That Jazz

Lifting shoes, wrist wraps, knee sleeves & belts are good tools to help us lift more, but they don’t in and of themselves define our abilities, and we shouldn’t let them.

Each piece equipment has a specific function (or functions):

  • Lifting shoes create a solid base & help us achieve a better position in the bottom of a squat (1)
  • Belts can help us brace better during heavy lifts and result in better/stronger torso positioning (2)
  • Wrist wraps support our wrists during heavy lifts (especially overhead) (3)
  • Knees wraps can provide support, increase blood flow and keep the joints warm (4)

However, it is important to remember that none of these items lift the bar — we do. And we shouldn’t become so reliant on them that we can’t survive without them.

Oly Shoes

Oly Shoes

In my opinion the most important piece of equipment a lifter can have (excluding the barbell) is their shoes. I rarely go anywhere without mine*, I train in them 99% of the time**, and I definitely wouldn’t compete without them. However, every now and then I think it’s good to squat, snatch or clean without them because it forces us to be more aware of our body position and highlights our problem areas/weaknesses  that still need some work.

*I have actually been made fun of for this and called a gypsy because I have a tendency to bring my like (aka my lifters, some workout clothes, and my laptop) with me everywhere I go

**This is an estimate, not an exact figure.

Belts, Wraps & Sleeves

When it comes to other pieces of equipment, like weight belts, knee sleeves, and wrist wraps, I consider them useful tools that can assist us in training and competitions. But sometimes I think we rely on them too heavily and end up using them incorrectly.

Belts

Without going into too much detail about how they work (that’s for another post), belts give us something to brace against during a lift and — when used correctly — can, in fact, help us lift more weight. Essentially, having a belt can make it easier to create intra-abdominal pressure, and as a result we are better able maintain a good position under heavy loads.

OK, so if weight belts can help us lift more weight, what is the problem? Why not use them all the time?
Because we shouldn’t rely on a piece of equipment to create a strong & stable core. If we are consistently unable to (1) keep our torso strong & stay upright in a squat, or (2) maintain a strong back position during deadlifts, then there is probably an underlying weakness or problem that needs to be dealt with, and a belt isn’t going to help fix that, only cover it up.
230lb Back Squat

105kg (231lb) Back Squat

That being said, there is definitely a time and a place for wearing a belt:

  • During heavy reps near (or at) your max
  • In competition (depending on the event)
  • If you’re having an off day (or two) in training & need a little extra support

Whenever possible, though, we should train without one so we don’t become reliant on it and can save “belting up” for when we actually need it.

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