Weightlifting Equipment and Accessories
Various tools of the trade exist for weightlifters. These tools or pieces of equipment can greatly assist a lifter that is performing high load, high volume training by protecting the joints that can be affected by performing the classical lifts and their various assistance exercises. Below is a list of some of these pieces of equipment. It is important to note that some of these equipment pieces are not allowed in competition, and it is important for the lifter to not develop a dependence on them, ensuring that the joints and neuromuscular structures are stressed appropriately developing their strength.
Wrist wraps help support the wrist by creating a compressive force around the joint and protects the wrist in extension when supporting the bar overhead. There are many various brands and styles of wraps including Rouge, Eleiko, Ironedge, Rehband, Sling Shot, Risto, Spud Inc, HumanX by Harbinger. Sizing suggestions as recommended by Rouge Fitness include 12” or 18” wraps that provide ample support and wrist mobility for Weightlifting exercises or 18” or 24” wraps that provide extra support for Powerlifting & Strongman training with less wrist mobility. Wraps are made out of a combination of elastic, polyester and cotton material. A new product by Jerk Fit called Woddies provides wrist support and also protection for the skin of the palm, preventing any torn calluses occurring.
Lifting straps enable a greater barbell load to be lifted during pulling exercises before the forearm strength gives way. It also helps a heavy load to be lifted while protecting the thumb from the hook grip. This allows an overload stimulus to be placed on the musculature during training when completing clean and snatch pulls. Weightlifting variations see the strap not loop around the wrist in a fix manner so that they can be released easily during the clean and snatch movements in the receiving position. They can be made of cotton or leather or a combination of materials. Again it is important not to utilise wrist straps for the pulling exercises for every single rep so that dependence is not created for them.
Knee wraps can be in the form of a wrapped material around the knee or in the form of a compressive sleeve. This compression on the joint again helps protect it and can assist in preventing sideways tracking of the knee, and the barbell movement in general, increasing the amount that can be squatted by about 10 percent or more in some lifters. They also provide an elastic recoil effect when moving up in the concentric (muscle shortening) phase of the squat after the eccentric (muscle lengthening) decent. The wraps can also provide warmth to the knee to aid performance and potentially reduce soreness and injury whilst squatting. Knee wraps are usually made out of the same material as the wrist wraps.
The sleeves come in various degrees of thickness such as 3, 5 and 7 millimetres. And are made from neoprene material. Rehband is a very popular brand for sleeves with most CrossFit or Athletic equipment companies providing options for you to purchase such as Ironedge, Rouge, and The WOD Life. The sleeves are not to be confused with wraps as they are different pieces of equipment (i.e. you slide on the sleeve, and you wrap the wrap).
If purchasing wraps use them for lifts that are near maximum efforts or above 85-90% of your max. But again avoid over use as this can create dependence. Sleeves can help provide some compression (although not as much as the wraps) but are excellent at maintain a warm knee joint throughout a lifting session.
Shin sleeves provide warmth to the calf muscle area when lifting. They also help protect the shin skin from damage, as it is advantageous to have the barbell travel as close to the body as possible during the first pull (from floor to knee height) of the lift. Many lifters use long athletic socks as protection for the shin with some custom made socks having increased padding in the front section offering further protection.
If performing weightlifting, weightlifting shoes are a must. Once you have lifted in weightlifting shoes you wont ever want to lift without them, especially during heavy sessions. Weightlifting shoes provide lateral stability to the foot, improving your technique. They also often have a raised heel with improves the range of motion at the ankle joint increasing the depth that can be achieved when squatting. The sole of the shoe is extremely hard which allows the forces that are transferred into the ground to not be lost, improving the amount that can be lifted. This in opposition to running shoes that are designed to absorb ground reaction forces during foot strike. Various heel heights can be used, with lifters who have a poor deep squat position requiring a higher heel to help them achieve a deeper squat.
Weightlifting belts are designed to increase intra-abdominal pressure (air pressure within the body in the trunk area). This is similar to taking a deep breath and holding it, known as the val salva maneuver. As with all wraps for a specific joint, increased pressure on or within that joint can aid in protecting it when performing a lift. It is contentious for many lifters if a belt actually provides assistance. They most probably do have a role to play when lifters are performing maximal effort lifts in training and competition. But all lifters do not use them. The clean and Jerk is the classical lift that belts are more commonly used for but again personal preference is different for each lifter again. There are limitations on how wide (12mm) a belt can be when it is used in competition also. Belts are made of leather or synthetic material and can be buckled together or velcro. Leather belts with buckles do provide a greater level of stability.
The hook grip is used to increase the loads lifted during the classical lifts in weightlifting. However this grip is extremely painful and can damage the thumb. Taping of the thumb with general sports tape or specific branded tapes such as Goats Tape or Rock Tape are available providing good connection and flexibility for the joint. There is also equipment pieces called nubs out there in the market by Jerk Fit that are a permanent sleeve that can slide over the thumb offering protection.
Lifting suits create compression for the entire body. It is not advantageous to have the barbell connecting with loose clothing, slowing down its velocity, hence close fitting suits are used by lifters in competition. The bar must travel close to the thigh area during the second pull which is why compressive suits are used. Cost range for a suit can vary from 50-150 dollars plus depending on the type of material used and the design. They are most beneficial in competition. Sylvia P is one of many companies that can provide you with a variety of styles and material options for your weightlifting suit.
Lifters consistently use chalk on their hands to maximise their grip during lifts and offer protection to the hand. Some lifters place chalk across the front of the shoulders and their color bones to reduce friction of the bar on the body in the receiving position of the clean. Chalk can be bought in blocks and can be kept in bags or chalk tubs or bins and are a common sight in weightlifting clubs. Liquid chalk options are also available and they are considerably less messy.
Eight blocks of chalk will cost you $30 from Ironedge while small containers of liquid chalk will cost only around $10 from Rouge fitness. Liquid chalk will prevent chalk dust settling on equipment and on clothes while still providing improved grip on the bar. It is the magnesium carbonate that provides the chalk with its texture and improved grip properties.