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The Top 5 Gym Tools

We all know when it comes to CrossFit performance if we look good, we feel good. Nothing helps this more than some styling accessories. We all know a weightlifting belt, knee sleeves, and lifting shoes improve our time on Fran/Grace/(insert benchmark workout here) by 10-20%.*

(*-No actual research exists to support this claim…yet!)

In all seriousness, accessorizing can be helpful but our bodies were made to move, and move well, without any added equipment. When was the last time you saw a toddler tell mommy they needed their knee sleeves before dropping into their naturally perfect squat to play with toys?

Now that being said, using supportive equipment can definitely have its benefits. Read on for some do’s and don’ts for the top 5 gym tools.

Weightlifting Shoes:

Benefits: Hard flat sole to provide a stable platform and greater force transfer for squatting. Elevated heel to assist mobility, allowing a more upright torso in the bottom of any squat/Olympic lift.

Bottom line: Our ancestors had beautiful squats well before the Nike Romaleos hit the market. Don’t let the use of weightlifting shoes become a crutch and a detour around maintaining proper ankle and hip mobility.

Knee Sleeves:

Benefits: Provide compression and warmth around the knees for heavy/high-rep squatting.

Bottom Line: Knee sleeves can feel like a blessing from the squat gods, but fair warning, without proper cleaning, their smell can deter your training partners from working out with you. On a more serious note, knee sleeves are not the cure for knee pain. If you have some knee discomfort make sure to address the issue with proper mobilizations and stability/strength work.

Wrist Wraps:

Benefit: Provide compression and support for the wrist, especially with heavy/high-rep overhead work.

Bottom Line: Similar to the knee sleeves, wrist wraps are not a cure for wrist pain. The wrist is a complex joint, make sure to be taking care of them just like any other highly used joint in CrossFit. Side note, these also make for great sweat guards but beware, they too can get smelly if not cleaned regularly. (#AllOlfactorySensesMatter)

Gymnastic Grips:

Benefit: Great for high volume gymnastic work on the rings/bar.

Bottom Line: Use these as often as possible. Tearing your hands is never fun. It doesn’t matter how tough your calluses are, your skin can only take so much before it gives way. If I’m traveling and I can only take one piece of equipment, it would be these.

Weightlifting Belts:

Benefits: The feeling of a stronger brace/peace of mind with heavy/high-rep lifting.

Bottom Line: This may be controversial, but I don’t think anyone should use a belt until they know how to properly brace and can explain it well to someone else. The belt is not a cure for back pain. The belt provides a mental sense of security but there is no evidence it actually reduces the risk of injury. Now I will admit our cores definitely feel stronger using a belt (Placebo? Perhaps.) So I say use it sparingly for those maximal lifts or extremely high-rep lifting workouts. Otherwise, learn to use your natural belt: your core.

Be on the lookout for our next issue where we discuss how starting a workout without a shirt on increases capacity by 15%, but taking it off mid-workout can actually provide a boost of 30% or more.**

(**-Again, no actual research supports this yet, but it works, I promise.)

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