You don’t need all the gear to get started with weightlifting, but if you’re looking to make serious progress, it can certainly help you upgrade your training routine. Here are some of the products that might help…
Weightlifting is one of the most popular forms of exercise out there, which is no surprise given that there are so many benefits to lifting weights. As well as improving your overall strength and fitness, studies have shown that it can also reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. And then, of course, there are all the mental health positives that come with getting stronger and lifting bits of metal sky-high.
Lifting weights can be a really fun hobby too, whether you’re training on your own or with friends. It’s one of those activities that there’s always more to learn about or progress with. All you really need to get started with is a set of light dumbbells, a kettlebell or a barbell; as you progress, you might be looking for new ways to improve your strength and your enjoyment of lifting.
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Fortunately, there’s a whole range of weightlifting accessories you can use to improve your experience. And although none of them are strictly necessary, they might help to prevent injury and also make lifting feel more comfortable.
Here are some of the most useful weightlifting accessories…
We put our knees under a lot of stress and pressure when weightlifting, and that can increase our risk of injury. Knee sleeves are compressive straps worn around the knees that limit kneecap movement. That helps to prevent injury and can help your technique in a range of movements including squats. If you feel any pain in your knees during weightlifting, whether that’s due to previous injuries or a lack of mobility, knee sleeves can help (although really, to increase mobility, you’d be better off regressing to bodyweight and building back up).Plus, many people use knee sleeves to help their bodies recover from a heavy workout – they can reduce swelling and therefore pain.
“Knee sleeves are useful for squats and Olympic lifting in particular,” says personal trainer Hannah Ashby. “It prevents any twinges and you feel like you’ve got a lot more power in your legs because your joints feel more secure.”
Ashby adds that they can also be useful for exercises such as lunges or burpees as they can help to minimise bruising when your knees touch the floor.
There’s a shoe for absolutely everything these days and weightlifting is no different. Lifting shoes, which are becoming increasingly common, can help you to feel more stable during movements like squats, cleans and snatches. They also lighten the load on your ankles, preventing them from rolling inwards and helping to improve your posture, thanks to their elevated heels. The shape of the shoe can also enhance your mobility, particularly in the ankle, knees and hips, while the solid base (usually far more sturdy than a regular pair of trainers) is good for minimising the risk of injury.
“I would only recommend buying lifters if you’re really into weightlifting,” Ashby says, explaining that they can be a big expense but that they are useful for Olympic weightlifting. For anyone else, wearing a pair of converse (they too have a thick, solid sole) or lifting barefoot is a good alternative.
If you’re intent on lifting heavy, then lifting straps can help you to increase your load – especially if you struggle with grip strength. They loop around your wrist and around the barbell so your hand and the barbell are hooked together. Sometimes, you might have the muscular strength – for example, in your legs while deadlifting – to lift a certain weight but you’re unable to grip it due to a lack of forearm strength. It’s then that these types of wrist straps can be useful.
It’s worth flagging that these really are only worth using if you’re going heavy. Using straps for weight that you can shift easily isn’t a great idea because there’s always a risk that you’ll become over-reliant on them and lose the grip strength you already have. “When you use lifting straps, you’re not testing your grip strength at all,” Ashby says, stressing that it’s important not to use them unless you’re lifting much heavier than usual.
Wrist support wraps
Although they look and sound similar, wrist support wraps serve a very different purpose to lifting straps. It’s common for people to overextend their wrists while weightlifting, which can lead to injury. Wrist support straps stop this by keeping your wrist in a neutral position, preventing them from stretching forwards or backwards. The straps are made from a solid material and sit on your wrists to stop them moving back and forth. They’re most useful for exercises like bench presses, shoulder presses and clean and jerks.
“Wrist support wraps are very useful if you ever feel any discomfort or twinges in your wrists when you lift overhead,” Ashby says.
You’ve probably seen professional weightlifters wearing belts – they can help people lift more by forcing the body into a ‘brace’ position. This works by increasing the pressure on your abdominals, engaging those muscles to help you lift more, and it also reduces the pressure on your spine, which means you engage your legs rather than your back more while lifting (your leg muscles are generally stronger than your back muscles so it can help you lift heavier). It can also reduce the risk of over-straining the back muscles or loading the lower back unnecessarily.
It’s really important to try to get used to being in the ‘brace’ position when lifting – whether you’re wearing a belt or not. Ashby uses the phrase “be your own belt”. Again, belts are something you should only use when you’re lifting heavy, but they might also be useful for understanding what bracing your abs should feel like.
If you’ve seen people wearing fingerless gloves in the gym, they’re not trying to keep their hands warm – they’re sporting weightlifting grips. Again, these are designed to help you to maintain your grip on the barbell or bar when doing movements like pull-ups. They can also prevent skin ripping on your hands and blisters and calluses from forming – something that many people who lift weights struggle with due to regular contact with the metal bar. You can also find grips that sit around your wrist.
You’ve probably seen or used a barbell pad when doing exercises like hip thrusts. They’re designed tostop the barbell from sitting directly on your skin which can sometimes be uncomfortable and leave bruises.
“Make sure not to use them when doing exercises like squats or it might negatively impact your form,” Ashby says, explaining you should only use them in exercises where the bar feels uncomfortable when it sits directly on your body.
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