To wear or not to wear gloves when weightlifting? When I started doing weights, I too had pondered over this. Are gloves would help or prove a hindrance to achieving good results?
So should you wear gloves when weightlifting? The simple answer is No. I spend some time on research and also through my weightlifting practice to find out this answer.
So, I had asked my gym instructor as well as some friends who had had some experience under their belt when it came to lifting. To begin with, the answers I found were not unanimous (which is why the ‘debate’!). There were arguments both for and against using gloves, so it took me a bit to figure out the answer for myself.
In time, however, I realized that if you are in it for a long haul and especially if weightlifting is your sport (as opposed to someone lifting weights for whatever particular reason he or she may have), the gloves should be a strict no-no.
This is since wearing gloves prevent you from developing adequate grip and wrist strength and this, it pretty much goes without saying, will be a serious handicap when you are lifting those dead heavy irons later on. Lack of enough hand strength will also make you vulnerable to injuries.
So, why are gloves still popular with many trainers? To get an answer to this, let us first look into some of the benefits that the gloves offer.
Arguments for Wearing Gloves
• First of all, most amateur or first-time lifters use gloves to prevent getting blisters and calluses on their hands. The calluses are often a nuisance and can get in the way of your other everyday activities.
More importantly, for athletes lifting weights primarily to develop strength but whose sport is not weightlifting, getting unexpected blisters or calluses on hands may prevent them from participating in their sport, or at the very least, may compromise their abilities to play that sport.
Take a badminton player, for example, if the player develops a blister in his playing hand during his gym session, that may cause him to sit out for one or more matches. In such cases, wearing gloves may be beneficial, and your trainer or physio may advise you to use gloves, wraps or some other form of protection.
• Another common argument is that if developing wrist or grip strength is not one of your goals when lifting weights (you may already be performing other exercises to gain adequate hand and wrist strength as required for your sport), the gloves can help you lift heavier weights.
Weightlifting gloves (especially ones with wrist straps) help increase the pressure capacity of our hands.
This is because the support you get from them act as extra tendons and ligaments on your wrist joint and this helps you lift heavier weights since usually, your back and chest muscles can handle much more weight than your bare hands.
Many are also of the opinion that the gloves do a good job of distributing the weight evenly across your palm and the fingers whereas lifting weights with bare hands put much more pressure on your fingers as compared to the rest of your palm.
• Gloves act as a placebo! This is from another experienced trainer who holds the opinion that the gloves ultimately act more like a placebo. They provide a mental prop to the athletes, and as a result, the latter can handle heavier loads and train more.
And if such is the case, one may as well wear the gloves as long as their use does not, in any way, negatively affect the outcome specific to their sport.
• Sweaty palms. Another justification for using gloves. The sweat on your palms will make them slippery, and if you are holding heavy loads over your body, slippery hands can prove dangerous. In such cases, it is safer to use gloves.
• Finally, if you are already bearing an injury or if you’ve some weak points on your wrist or palm, it only makes sense that you’ll use some form of protection. Just as an athlete will use some protective wrapping on his knees if he has some injury on the knee or the surrounding areas.
Why Not Wear Gloves When Weightlifting
Now, to the arguments that do not favor using weightlifting gloves. We may start with the calluses again. To begin with, if you’re serious about lifting, you will probably not even bother about calluses.
You may secretly cherish them since getting the calluses may serve as an index of the fact that you are working hard. And this is not just a wishful idea on your part either. The calluses do mean that your strength is growing and your skin is getting harder.
This is the same as when a beginner guitar player starts experiencing calluses on the tip of his fingers. And yet, they are nothing to fuss about. After a few months or so, i.e., once the skin of your palm gets hardened and thickened, you’ll suffer less and less from them.
As to professional athletes, including seasoned lifters, it is, of course, a different matter.
They know their body well, and if they feel that certain exercises may cause calluses or blisters on their hands, then, by all means, they should wear gloves or any protective gear they prefer to keep their hands in right shape.
The second argument we’ve listed here in favor of using gloves pretty much speaks for itself why lifters should not use them. If gloves act as extra tendons and ligaments in your hands, it stands to reason that as a lifter, you should not use them. Since in that case, it acts almost like a performance enhancer.
According to one trainer, due to the extra width that the gloves provide when you are holding a bar, etc., the gloves help increase the neuromuscular activation of the forearm muscles and this, in turn, hinders the development of your forearm strength, not to talk of your grip and wrist strength.
For all these arguments, however, we must also make mention of the fact that there is no authoritative study to prove one or the other side of the argument. However, common sense dictates that when you are lifting, your hand should act as a single unit.
And if you have weak grip strength or not strong enough wrists, then you should aim at developing strength and not compensate for the lack of it by using some prop.
Majority of trainers, who speak from firsthand experience, also concur on this. This is why most beginners are advised against using gloves since lifting with naked hands gives them a great opportunity to develop wrist and grip strength naturally.
To beginners, some trainer would only advise using gloves when they are attempting low rep heavy sets or one-rep maximum. This is since, during these occasions, you’ll feel a lot of pressure doing these reps, and this may prove difficult to handle for a beginner without some support or assistance.
Next, the mental prop argument is applicable as much to using gloves as to not using them! As one trainer puts it that when he asks one of his protégés to have a go at the bar and ‘crush it,’ he wants the lifter to feel the bar in his bare hands and not some soft padding provided by the gloves!
Quite the same reason, one may argue, why passionate smokers would rally against using smoking filters!
To sum up, the basic argument is that using gloves (or any other assisting gear- wraps, belts, and so on) prevent gaining maximum benefit from training.
As a lifter, your aim should be to train all your body parts holistically. After all, it does not make much sense that you will beat up your muscle to get stronger and bigger but won’t work on your wrists and hands so they can get tougher and thicker, too.
Also, think for a moment. How many big guys have you seen who are wearing gloves while lifting weights? Not many, right? Now, consider what we’ve said up to now and it is up to you to figure out why is that.
What if I’m not too confident on my grip/hold?
Use gym chalk-the magnesium carbonate powder. The white powder can create wonders for lifters. You won’t know it until you’ve used it! They will take away any concern you may have regarding your hold or grip strength, and you will feel all pumped up to push harder.
Yes, there are some fancy gyms these days that don’t allow the use of chalk inside their premises. In such cases, consider using the discrete chalk balls.
What if I have an injury on hand?
Well, as we’ve already mentioned, if gloves let you protect or work around an injury you already have (or you fear you may develop if lifting with bare hands) use gloves or any other protective gear that you may find fit. After all, there is no point exacerbating an injury through recklessness.
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