You like lifting heavy weights, right? Who doesn’t?!
Do you like lifting HEAVIER weights and would you like to lift those weights well into your 40s, 50s, 60s???
If that is the case, put your fancy belt and knee sleeves away.
Yes, you heard me correctly: If you want to eventually lift heavier than you are lifting now and/or you want to lift well into your Master’s years, you might need to let that gear gather a little bit of dust.
What is “gear” and what does it do?
Weight belts and knee sleeves are two of the many tools that lifters can employ to aid their snatch, clean, and jerk. Wrist wraps and pulling straps are also important tools to support a lifter’s performance.
A belt helps an athlete increase the amount of intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) he or she can exert. This kinesthetic tool allows the athlete to feel something against which he or she can brace the abs. With more IAP, the athlete becomes more rigid and therefore has a better chance at not only stabilizing the core, but transmitting power out through the legs and arms.
Knee sleeves help keep the athletes knees warm and provide a little bit of support for the joint. The elastic nature of the sleeve also helps give a small snap out of the bottom of a clean or snatch.
Wrist wraps help stiffen the wrists and help provide the feeling of more support for weight overhead.
Pulling straps are used for accessory clean or snatch pulls. To help develop the posterior chain, weightlifters do pulls 2-3 times a week. These pulls are done with relatively higher intensity weights. The limiting factor of these movements should not be one’s grip. As a result, straps take a bit of the load off the grip and help the athlete focus more on developing strong hamstrings and glutes.
When you should NOT use training aids
If you are a newer lifter (less than a year of training), you have no business wearing a belt. If you a more moderately experienced lifter (3-6 years of training), but suffer from poor technique in your cleans and squats, you should wander away from your belt for a spell.
Time away from the belt will develop your ability to create deeper IAP. Given that you won’t be able to use the belt for heavier weights, you’ll be able to keep the intensity relatively lower on each set. As a result, the wear and tear on your nerves and soft tissues won’t be as severe and you’ll be able to recover better during a preparatory phase of training. The stronger you get without the belt and sleeves you will find that when you do go back to the gear, weight that was once tough will be much more manageable.
When you SHOULD use training aids
In any phase of training you should use straps on your snatch and clean PULLS. At Steelworks Strength Systems, we don’t believe in using straps on full snatches (maybe from the hang from time to time). We believe that the classic lifts should be done as close to the manner in which they are done on the platform and that means no straps. However, pulls are fair game. Pulls are designed to train the posterior chain (hams, glutes, lower back). As stated previously, we don’t want the limiting factor of this movement to be grip. No matter the phase of training or the intensity, wear straps during this movement.
For wrist support, wrist wraps can be worn. We try to not encourage our lifters to wear straps, but we also don’t prevent them from wearing straps. Given the relative small size of the wrist relative to the weight, a little extra support on the wrists is not a bad thing.
Knee sleeves are ok to be worn during squats. They generally help keep the knees warmer and provide a bit more confidence under the heavier loads of squats. If you are a masters athlete over 40, I’d recommend sleeves on not only squats but also the snatches and clean and jerks.
Finally, belts can be worn during Competition phase programming when the volume of lifts is lower and the intensity is approaching maximal. We recommend belts at cleans and jerks of relative intensity at 90% or higher, but even then use the belt sparingly. We do not recommend wearing belts during snatches.
The first step towards gaining some new found strength is to be selective in the types of gear you use during your training. If you can push your weights without the aid of supportive gear, when the time comes to use it you’ll be that much stronger.