Tools of the Trade

In my younger days of training, I eschewed belts, lifting shoes, wrist wraps, knee sleeves, and other tools of the trade as “crutches.” I opined that if I couldn’t lift a particular weight or perform a certain movement while barefoot, then I couldn’t really do it. When I began competing in strongman, my tune changed out of necessity. And, when I started training with equipment, a funny thing happened – as my overall numbers improved, my numbers without equipment improved too. So, training with equipment has a time and a place, and it’s important to understand what each piece of equipment does so that we can use it properly. Here we go:

Weightlifting Belt

Tools of the Trade

What it does:

  • Provides a 360 degree surface to press against for core activation
  • Teaches you to brace properly

What it doesn’t do:

  • Replace core musculature to provide support

Knee Sleeves

Tools of the Trade

What they do:

  • Keep the knee joint warm
  • Provide a surface against which to press out. Similar to a belt, they can teach us to properly engage our muscles.

What they don’t do:

  • Provide structural support for your knees. Knee sleeves come in 3, 5, and 7mm variations, and they’re made of neoprene. They aren’t strong enough to support your joints. Knee wraps – the fabric wraps that are actually difficult to squat in without weight – are the only things sturdy enough to support the joint.

Lifting Shoes

Tools of the Trade

What they do:

  • Provide a solid surface to press against, allowing 100% of our force production to go into the floor.
  • Provide some heel lift to allow for a more upright torso in the catch of the snatch and clean.

What they don’t do:

  • Serve as a substitute for ankle mobility work

In all cases, the equipment SHOULD help us engage the proper muscles necessary to perform our lifts correctly. This should translate to lifts without the equipment. When used excessively, we end up relying on the equipment to help us lift, and it will become a crutch – we will not be able to engage the proper muscles without it.

So, when should we use equipment? For shoes, when you’ve mastered the basic mechanics of the squat, snatch, and clean, adding lifters can help provide the additional stability to lift heavier. I wouldn’t use them before you’ve mastered the mechanics and coordination of the lifts.

Weightlifting belts should be reserved for lifts 80-85% and above. If you can’t properly brace up to that point, you have bigger issues than a lack of equipment. Knee sleeves are the least risky. If you find that your knees ache without them, use them. Keeping the joint warm is great for mobility and stability.

I hope this answers some of your questions. Happy lifting and see you in the gym.

fill out this form to get started >>

Take the first step towards getting the results that you want!