A GUIDE TO GEAR (Pt. 2)
To continue this series, I’m going to cover some of the other main pieces of gear you typically see being utilized. Hopefully, you found the last one to be helpful and are now set up for success when it comes to belts and shoes. For this article, I’ll be going over knee sleeves, wrist wraps, and gloves.
Mmm, knee sleeves, one of my favorite pieces of gear. Knee injuries are probably one of the most common in the sports world, and these are good way to help prevent you from having an injury. Now, this is not to be confused with a knee brace (although it is similar, I would say a knee brace is more for post-operative or injury/rehab). Braces are much more restrictive, and serve to protect a previous injury from sustaining more damage.
So what are knee sleeves? They basically provide a protective cushioning and compression for the knee to provide some support without limiting much movement. They help prevent the knee from a future injury. This is especially helpful if you already have bad knees, but also for us CrossFitters that tend to do a lot of running, jumping, squatting, and weightlifting. The compression helps increase the blood flow, and it keeps the joint warm, which results in less pain/inflammation and better movement.
This doesn’t mean you need to wear them all the time. Like all gear, you don’t want to completely rely on it. Plus, some movements it simply is not needed (for example, the bench press). However, if the knee is going to be helping with a lot of the force in the lift, it would probably be a good idea to wear it. I wear mine for squats , weightlifting (clean & jerk or snatch) and if I’m doing some sort of jumping. It all really depends on the individual. Age and background have a lot to do with the if and when you should wear them. I may only be 28 years old, but I have put a whole lot of miles on my body from my time in the Marines, Roughnecking in the oilfield, and as a Firefighter. Once I started using knee sleeves, I had a lot less pain with led to better movement. But, I did not forget to do accessory work to help strengthen my knees. Yoga was a big part of the equation to having less knee pain. Don’t just throw on a “band aid” over your pain and expect your body to get stronger on its own.
Knee sleeves can be very beneficial, just make sure your technique is on point and you use them in the proper manner while continuing to strengthen the joint with accessory work and mobility.
Like a belt, but for your wrists. For many, this is another necessity when it comes to lifting heavy or overhead. This is also something you shouldn’t use when warming up. Like all gear, don’t become dependent on it. However, if you are missing lifts just because your wrists hurt when you could just be wearing wraps, you’re missing out on some vital strength gains.
There are a couple different types of wraps. One is a bit thicker and usually has Velcro to secure it. These are pretty good for the lifts that don’t require a lot of motion (bench press, deadlift, strict press). Then there are the more flexible wraps that are a bit thinner, which are more ideal for the Olympic lifts. I personally like using the flexible wraps, also known as strength wraps, because they are easy to adjust on the fly. This is helpful for WOD’s where you may find yourself doing different movements and may need support for one of the lifts (for example: Clean & Jerk), but not the other (for example: push up). Usually, when it comes to gymnastics, wraps are not needed.
Again, don’t use these as a band aid to simply cover up mobility issues. Do accessory work to improve your wrist strength and flexibility, and don’t completely rely on your gear.
I don’t recommend using gloves while you work out, however I know that a lot of people love them. Ultimately, this decision is up to you. Wear what makes you comfortable, and if you really want to continue wearing gloves, who am I to stop you? There are some times that it may be good to wear them, however, I will give you some reasons that may make you reconsider.
First off, it is actually hurting your grip. Gloves add a gap between your hands and the bar, which basically makes the bar thicker, and it will be much more difficult to maintain your grip. This will not only make it harder to grip, but can also mess with your technique. It can also lead to the bar being in a bad position, which can then lead to wrist pain. If you’re doing the Olympic lifts, it’s going to be much more difficult to establish a hook grip with gloves on. A lot of people wear them to help protect their hands and prevent calluses from forming, but you will get a callus whether you wear gloves or not. You’re also more likely to rip because the gloves will cause your hands to get sweatier, especially in this humid climate.
So, what should you do instead of gloves? Perform proper hand maintenance. Cut and/or shave your calluses, use a good hand lotion to strengthen your skin throughout the day and at night. Check out this article from 2011 for proper hand care http://www.crossfitwesthouston.com/2011/12/17/cure-for-the-common-tear/ . Also, use a small amount of chalk to help your grip with the bar. The only time I think it would be OK to wear gloves is if you’re trying to cover up a rip, but even then you’re still going to be irritating the skin.
The decision is yours, but in my personal opinion, you will be much better off without gloves.
Finally, like I said in my last article, the most important piece of gear is you. Take care of yourself first, and utilize some gear as needed to assist you when needed. Make sure you are using them properly, and if you need some recommendations on which brand to use be sure to ask your fellow athletes or one of your coaches here at CrossFit West Houston. Now, go forth and conque