Whether you are looking to make your time at the gym more productive, fast track your gains, or simply improve your one-rep max numbers, learning how to properly lift heavy weights is important.
And although technique and muscle mass are the two primary determinants of just how much weight you’ll be able to lift, accessories can help too. Accessories are great because they not only improve your lifts, but they make your gym sessions safer and protect you from injury. In this article, we’ll go over some of the best gym accessories that give you the best bang for your buck.
Gloves are single-handedly, no pun intended, the best accessory you can use in the gym unless you’re an extremely advanced weight lifter. High-quality gloves can help improve your grip, protect your hands from damage, and help you focus on weight lifting more. Many beginners see an improvement of 5 to 10 kilograms in their lifts when they first start using gloves.
Gloves have a few things going for them:
- They’re extremely accessible: they are cheap, you can easily order them, and you can find gloves that perfectly fit you and your weight lifting style. This makes gloves one of the first accessories any regular gym-goer buys.
- Gloves are easy to carry, clean, and wear. This makes them a perfect choice for beginners. You just need to put them in your bag, wear them in the gym, and you’re ready to go.
- Gloves don’t need expertise or experience to use: some accessories only shine after you spend weeks or months learning how to optimize their use properly, but gloves don’t need any experience.
Experienced lifters often forgo using gloves altogether and start using chalk. This is extremely common in weight lifting competitions where chalk is almost exclusively used over gloves. Chalk has some great advantages, sadly, it isn’t without drawbacks either:
- Chalk is also extremely accessible. You can buy it or order it within minutes — you can pack it easily and take it to the gym with you.
- Chalk is more effective than gloves — it allows you to have more control over your grip while protecting your hand from injuries. Practically, this means that you’ll be able to carry heavier weights with chalk than gloves.
- Chalk doesn’t afford your hands the same protection gloves do: the purpose of chalk is to maximize your lift, not to protect your hands, as such, you can expect more injuries when using chalk. This might not mean much during one-off competitions, but during regular gym sessions, this might hamper your ability to fully train.
- Chalk can be harder to apply at the gym than just wearing gloves: chalk sticks to equipment, is not easy to apply, and needs protective storage. These create small inconveniences that make the overall experience worse than just wearing gloves.
#3 Wrist Straps
Wrists are often one of the weak points in lifts — they can limit how much you can lift, they are prone to injuries, and they often take more to train than other parts of your body. That’s why weight lifters often make use of wrist straps to help them with their lifts, and it is certainly a great accessory.
- Protects and supports your wrist: this is quite meaningful during high-weight lifts like deadlifts. If you have a weak wrist, this can substantially improve your performance.
- They are relatively inexpensive, easy to carry, and easy to wear. So this makes them an excellent choice for people that don’t have a lot of time to prepare or pack.
- It may result in weak wrists: since wrist straps act as support pillars for your wrists, by over-relying on them, you won’t be training your wrist, which can hamper your progress in the long run.
#4 Lifting Belts
A weight lifting belt is one of the more advanced gym accessories — it is an accessory that you see a lot of advanced lifters wear, and this is for good reason.
- Increased pressure: increased intra-abdominal pressure gives you the structural support you need to lift more weights, especially during specific lifts that rely on the abdomen.
- Injury protection: the structural support lifting belts give you will help protect your spine from injury. While this is not relevant for people lifting small weights, it can be very important for people lifting very large weights.
- Less effective training: how does your body gain muscle? The process is simple: you need to train it, eat enough protein, get enough sleep, and your body does the rest. But if you rely on lifting belts too much, you might not be able to sufficiently train your muscles, which would lead to slower gains.
- Different ideal movements: once a trainer becomes advanced enough, lifting becomes a precise science with very careful moves to optimize and maximize performance. When you start wearing a belt, as the structure of your body and its weight changes, so will the ideal way you can lift weights. This means that you’ll need a period of adjustment until you regain and exceed your previous performances.