Healthy Bodies
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • January 2010
Written by  Brian Bankenbusch, CSCS, CES, PES

Weightlifting accessories — Are they worth it?

Weightlifting accessories such as belts and gloves have been used for decades, but when is the right and wrong time to wear them? And are they really helping you? This article will focus on these two commonly used accessories, how they work, and when and when not to wear them.*

The weightlifting belt is a staple in most gym settings. There is no doubt that the belt should be used in certain situations, but you never hear about why you should not wear the belt at other times. The purpose of the belt is to give additional support to the core musculature (abdominals, back and hips) as well as the spinal column during lifts that place more pressure in those areas than normal. These lifts could be anything from a barbell squat to a bench press. When a person wants to lift heavier-than-normal loads, and the core and spinal column need additional help and support, it’s time to wear the belt.

It is a misconception that a belt should be worn at all times or for every lift. Before you throw that belt on and go lift some weights though, think about how you might not be helping your overall core strength simply by wearing it. If the belt is worn in situations that are not “maximal lifts,” the body will start to assume that the extra help will always be there and, in turn, start to decrease the amount of pressure it gives the mid-section during lifts that need its help. By wearing the belt all the time, you are teaching the body to decrease the amount of pressure the mid-section gives during activity or lifting, therefore putting you at a higher risk of injury if you don’t wear the belt one day. Keep the core involved with your lifts by training it to engage every time, even with heavier weight. Only wear the belt if you are doing a heavier weight than normal.

Gloves work along a similar premise as the belt does, but instead of adding pressure, they add grip. Unfortunately, just like the belt, gloves can hinder your overall performance. The hand is a very complex part of your body. It actually has more neurotransmitters — what send signals to the brain and spinal column — than the shoulder. (This is important because we often worry about the shoulder first and not the hand.) These transmitters relay all kinds of information to the brain and spine to figure out a way to safeguard and react to whatever it is you touch and/or grab. When you wear a glove while lifting, the number of transmissions is reduced. This, in time, will drastically decrease the amount of hand grip strength you generate. In turn, this can affect the simplest of tasks like opening up jars or shaking hands. Once again, just like the belt, wear the gloves only when you need the additional grip (i.e., pull-ups, deadlifts, etc.), but not for every exercise you do. Train your hands to be transmitter friendly and watch them get stronger.

The weightlifting belt and gloves were a great invention, but we should not become dependent upon them. Our bodies thrive on being challenged, that is how it improves. Challenge your body to use the muscles it has and only wear these devices when it is absolutely necessary.

The views, opinions and advice in this article do not apply to middle/high school athletes or any minor due to state safety requirements; they’re also not intended for therapy patients. 


Brian Bankenbusch, CSCS, CES, PES, is the owner of Epic Fitness & Sports Performance LLC. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist with over 10 years of experience training high school and collegiate athletes. He is devoted to bringing proper education and superior program design to the community. Brian is also a certified corrective exercise specialist, wellness coach and personal trainer. For more information, visit http://epicfitness-sports.com or call 414-464-2156.

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