Let’s be completely honest here for a moment. We’re a lazy society. We employ as many shortcuts and easy fixes as are humanly possible. Our lives are filled with gargets, inventions, and small shortcuts which allow us to do more, in less time, with less work involved. This is good – to a point. Of course it’s more beneficial when you can send out a single email to your entire staff in 30 seconds instead of holding a large meeting or making fifteen individual phone calls. However, this propensity to find the easy way to do things can short-circuit our efforts in the gym. When you’re lifting weights, there are plenty of ways to “make things easier”. The problem is, the biggest guy in the gym is usually the guy who outworks everyone else. You can keep finding shortcuts and quick fixes, but your workouts will only become shorter and easier – which means you muscle-building goals will never be met. We only grow when we are challenged, and if you’re using a series of shortcuts to avoid hard work, you’re cheating yourself. Here are a few commonly used tools for making your trip to the gym easier, along with some discussions on their usefulness.
Many bodybuilders, particularly those who use their hands for other delicate purposes, use weight gloves. If you’re a concert pianist who also deadlifts 500 pounds in your spare time, then that is a fine idea. If you’re just “that guy” who wears his weight gloves with attached wrist straps when doing leg day, you may want to re-evaluate your situation. Gloves are useful in times when the gym is cold, the equipment is old or rusty, or you just cannot hold the bar. Wearing them all of the time will prevent your hands from developing calluses and “toughening up”.
This one is hard to condemn for movements such as squatting or deadlifts. But when you’re completing a set of skullcrushers, wrist curls, or crunches, is it really necessary to use a back brace? Absolutely not. However, some people still feel the need to wear the belt from the minute they walk into the gym door until the moment they leave. It may feel like a sort of ‘armor’, but it also prevents them from developing lower back strength and stabilizer muscles, which may make you more vulnerable to injury. Only use the weight belt on the heaviest sets of the compound movements.
Many powerlifters and hardcore bodybuilders like to use thick work boots for movements like deadlifts or squats. This can be acceptable, especially on squats where you do benefit tremendously from the use of a well-reinforced boot. However, just as with the other movements, they are overkill for most things you do in the gym. If you see a person wearing work boots on the treadmill, please laugh at him. Loudly.
Powerlifters regularly use chalk when benching or completing deadlifts to assure a firm grip on the bar, even when the palms get sweaty. Limit use to these free weight movements where safety is a concern. If you find yourself using chalk for crunches or lying leg curls, it might be time to revoke your “man card”!
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