Gear, gear, and gear…

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Ok so let’s discuss using gear for your WOD. I’m referring to everything from knee sleeves, to knee wraps, wrist wraps, gymnastics grips, belts, Oly shoes you name it. Let’s start with a couple disclaimers.

  1. Competitions don’t count for this discussion, we are talking training. If you are competing wear 9 head bands, eye black, knee sleeves, Oly shoes, gymnastics grips, two belts and a full body compression suit for all I care (just don’t forget your KT tape). The point of competition is to try to win and do your best and if that gives you the slightest edge go for it.
  2. Never compete with any gear you haven’t trained with before.

Ok here it goes.

Gear is great and has its place, but it is misunderstood by the majority and abused to say the least. That fancy gear is designed to aid and enhance your performance. It is not made as first aid for crappy / lazy movement, or worse yet, a lack of training. Let’s talk about a couple things in particular:

1) Belts- “It supports my back.”- Uh, no.. Belts are supposed to be used to assist your abdominal wall to push against to make your mid line tight and to create as much pressure with your diaphragm as humanly possible. I like our athletes to maximize their ability to brace their core before the belt is introduced. If you don’t understand the concept you can’t use the belt properly. It should not be used because you have weak musculature and cannot support the load you are working with. My rule of thumb: leave the belt at home unless you are working above 90% or working with a volume so high that mid line fatigue is imminent. That way when you put it on you will actually get the benefit of it.

courtesy of EliteFTS

2) Knee sleeves- Knee sleeves (not knee wraps) are not for “support”. Sleeves are not knee braces that restrict your movement to certain parameters and meant for safety. They are to keep your knees warm and to create heat about the joint. They will also provide a very small amount of elastic rebound out of the bottom of the squat. Ace wraps can be a step up from the sleeves and actual knee wraps are for power lifters and actually do put pounds on your lift. (you DO NOT put power lifting knee wraps on by yourself** all power lifters know this) You don’t need your sleeves to move a 95/65# barbell. Leave them at home for the light weights or low reps.

 

3) Oly shoes- These are a great piece of gear and allow for a more upright torso in the Olympic lifts and high bar/front squat. They should not be used as a crutch for crappy ankle mobility. If you are wearing them for pistols or air squats then you should be spending more time getting good ROM at the foot and ankle. Unless you are on the platform working on your lifts or doing a heavy barbell movement leave them in the car. (There are possible risks to prolonged use that are outlined here)

4) Gymnastics grips- Great tool for high rep pull ups or muscle ups. I use them for anything in the 100+ range for pull ups and 40+ for muscle ups (that # may be different for you). Grips save my hands when the possibility of tearing is high. Chalk goes hand in hand with this. I know, I know, chalk makes you stronger! It’s true, but chances are you are using is too much. Outside high volume pulling and heavy lifts just grip the bar harder and your grip strength will improve. If you are doing Fran leave the grips in your locker!

5) Compression pants/shorts- I love them and wear them all the time. Most importantly I use them for improved recovery as it helps boost the rate the lymphatic system removes waste by increasing pressure in your system. Kelly Starrett outlines this here. You don’t need them for every WOD, they don’t improve performance! (we aren’t talking about squat suits or trousers here, those also add pounds to your lifts)

We could go on and on with every piece of gear that “enhances” or “improves” your performance but I think you understand what I’m talking about here. If you are a competitive athlete then you should be concentrating on improving your mechanics and technique. That is what will “enhance” your fitness, not all the new gear. I’m not hating on that stuff, I own every piece of gear I just listed, but I don’t use it every time I train. It should be used when necessary not as a fix to your problems.  I would tell you that even in some training sessions that you would normally use gear, go without it. Constantly varied right?? I think the saying is “you will fail at the margins of your experience”. Push those margins. Spend the time working on your movement and chase perfect form.

Mechanics and consistency now, gear later. All the gear in the world comes in second place to hard work and good movement every time!!

Keep training hard and hit your weaknesses,

Fern