There may come a time when you look around you and see that everyone is using “extras” when they are lifting. You may or may not be familiar with what they are or for what they are used, so let this article serve as your introduction!
I will let you in on the top five most important lifting accessories, what they’re used for and when to use them.
If you are a competitive CrossFitter or Weightlifter (Olympic Lifting), the first thing you will need to acquire are a good pair of lifting shoes. The advantage of wearing lifting shoes is two-fold: 1) It adds stability and support to your lifting surface (aka your feet) and 2) It elevates your heel, instantly increasing your ankle dorsiflexion. This will add to your ability to push the knees forward when you squat, thereby allowing you to keep your torso more upright for your squats, cleans and snatches.
*Use it: When you lift and squat
Once you start lifting heavy on a regular basis, a weight belt will be something else you will want to get your hands on. Weight belts add stability and support to your midline by increasing intra-abdominal pressure. You breath in before you squat and your lungs expand. Everything in your thoracic cavity gets pushed down and out and internal pressure is created. This is part of what “keeps you tight” when you squat. A belt around the midline is another way to increase this pressure, as it (the belt) is now working to “hold everything in”.
*USE IT: When you squat or lift heavy (above 80% of your 1-RM)
If you have wrist pain or a wrist injury that limits the amount of weight you can lift in the clean and jerk and the snatch, I recommend using wrist wraps as a means to support and protect your wrist joints. I have used them for about two years and they definitely help keep my wrists safe and strong while I’m snatching and putting heavy weight overhead.
*USE IT: When you have a wrist injury or when lifting overhead becomes painful
If you squat heavy and squat often, knee sleeves and/or wraps might be right for you. They can add warmth to the joint and can also add another level of support on heavy lifting days. If you ever find your knees sore and unable to “get warm” – think about getting some.
*USE IT: For heavy lifting, frequent lifting or if you have bad knees
Of the five, this is probably the most “advanced” of all the accessories. Lifting straps can be made very easily from nylon cordage, and are meant to assist the lifter’s grip when doing heavy assistance work or very high rep Olympic Lifting. They protect the lifter’s hands by removing the need to hook grip the bar. DO NOT use lifting straps for cleans. Ever. You will break your wrists and that will hurt.
*USE IT: For heavy snatch pulls, clean pulls and high rep snatch days
Before you go out and drop money on any of these accessories, please realize that they are meant to help lifters during their training. They are not meant as a crutch to help mask a deeper problem. If you cannot hold a heavy barbell without lifting straps, chances are you need some grip work. If you cannot squat below parallel because your knees always feel like they are about to explode, then chances are you need some kind of body work to fix the problem.
Lastly, consult your coach and ask them if any or all of the above would be appropriate for you! Happy lifting!