Fitness and exercise is a big industry. As a result, hundreds of companies have emerged to sell you equipment that they deem to be vital for your safe and effective workouts. As a result, many exercisers lug a whole bunch of workout paraphernalia to the gym.

 

However, in many cases, this extra equipment is unnecessary and may even prevent you from getting results because they make your workout easier.

 

Let’s examine and discuss the merits of the most popular workout paraphernalia so you can decide whether you need it or not.

 

Knee sleeves 

 

A post shared by EHPlabs (@ehplabs) onDec 10, 2017 at 9:07pm PST

Thanks to CrossFit, many exercisers are now wearing neoprene knee sleeves when they exercise. Neoprene knee sleeves have long been popular in Olympic weightlifting and as weightlifting often features in CrossFit workouts, knee sleeve use has increased. Knee sleeves offer a modicum of support but are mainly good for keeping your knees warm. If you suffer from achy, creaky knees then this can be a real benefit. However, if your knees are healthy then knee sleeves are not essential. Consider knee sleeves as an optional extra that are neither good or bad.

 

Knee wraps

Knee wraps are long lengths of stiff, elastic material that are tightly wrapped around the knees to provide support and “bounce” out of the bottom of a squat. Commonly worn by powerlifters, they can add as much as 20 kg to your squat – more if they are extra tight or you are very good at using them. While this might sound appealing, it’s important to understand that any extra weight lifted is the result of the elastic properties of the material and not extra work from your muscles.

 

If you are a powerlifter looking to add kilos to your competition squat, knee wraps make sense. But, if you are a recreational exerciser who is squatting for reasons other than achieving a new personal record, you should not use knee wraps. It’s also worth mentioning that knee wraps, when worn properly, are VERY uncomfortable and could even cause knee damage.

 

Compression shirts and shorts 

 

A post shared by EHPlabs (@ehplabs) onNov 13, 2017 at 4:50am PST

Compression wear can help keep you warm and also provides a small amount of support. Manufacturers also say that compression wear delays fatigue by reducing vibrations in your muscles but how true that is has yet to be confirmed. Compression wear can increase performance however due to something called Hilton’s law.

 

Hilton’s law states that the nerves that innervate the skin also innervate the underlying muscles. Because compression wear presses down on the skin, your muscles may well function better. Any such benefit is very small but if you have trouble “feeling” your muscle work e.g. when benching you cannot feel your chest, wearing a compression garment may help.

 

On the downside, compression wear also makes it look like you are wearing your younger sister’s t-shirt to the gym. If you want to avoid that shrink-wrapped look, wear your compression gear under your regular workout clothes.

 

Lifting belts 

Lifting belts can help you create more intra-abdominal pressure when performing strenuous weight training exercise. It gives you something to push your abs into as you train. However, many people do not use their lifting belt correctly and, rather than working with it, simply strap one on in the hope that it will provide passive back support.

 

Many also use it when a belt is completely unnecessary – such as when doing cardio or for seated exercises.

 

If you are lifting heavy weights that exceed 80-percent of your one repetition maximum, especially in the squat or deadlift, a belt can be useful, but only if you work with it. For the rest of the gym community, a belt is little more than a crutch which provides a false sense of safety and security which may encourage poor lifting technique or lifting more weight than is safe.

 

Wrist wraps 

Lengths of stretchy, elastic material that are wrapped around the wrists, wrist wraps provide support during heavy pressing exercises. Ideally, you should be able to keep your wrists straight but if you find your wrists bend back during heavy bench or overhead presses, wrist wraps may be beneficial. However, they need to be tight to offer much in the way of support which means that they will need to be removed between sets. This can be time consuming and an inconvenience you just don’t want unless you really need that extra support. 

 

Wrist straps 

 

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Wrist strap are loops of strong material that are used to enhance grip in pulling exercises such as deadlifts, pull-ups, and rows. In some exercises, grip can be a limiting factor and your set might end not because your target muscles are fatigued, but because your grip gives out. Wrist straps circumvent the problem of a weak grip without addressing the cause. In most cases, doing more grip work would negate the need for wrist straps and ignoring grip strength by relying on wrist straps means that grip will probably become even weaker. Some exercisers have small hands which means even their strong grip can fail but if you do not have Lilliputian paws, you should avoid becoming overly reliant on wrist straps and, instead, work on developing stronger hands.

 

Lifting gloves 

 

A post shared by EHPlabs (@ehplabs) onDec 4, 2017 at 6:45pm PST

Barbells and dumbbells can take their toll on your hands. Calluses and blisters can make your hands look like you work down a coal mine rather than in an office. Wearing lifting gloves can reduce wear and tear on your hands and also enhance grip by soaking up sweat. If you need to keep your hands smooth and soft, gloves can be beneficial but the thickness of the glove may also make gripping the bar more difficult than normal. Lifting chalk will help alleviate the issue of sweaty hands but not all gyms allow it.

 

Gloves are a divisive subject in lifting circles with some people loving them while others hate them. If they work for you there is absolutely not reason to wear them. However, if you do use lifting gloves, replace or wash them frequently as they can a) harbour germs and b) stink to high heaven!

 

No piece of training paraphernalia is essential. You could train in the nude and still get great results! However, the judicious use of some optional items may make your workouts more comfortable and potentially more productive. No piece of training equipment will magically multiply your results but in the game of fitness percentages, sometimes even a small advantage is worth taking.