The author has been involved in Power Lifting for 20+ years. He has a BA Hons from QUB. And has a silver award in the Universal Challange.
Introduction to Strength Sport Equipment
For those who use commercial gyms for general fitness, specialist equipment will not really be an issue unless you are picking up injuries with bad form or subpar instruction. Most users of commercial gyms invariably aim for a balance of cardio and some muscle hypertrophy, for instance working on upper body strength or strengthening/toning legs, usually by use of the variety of 'machines' available.
However, for those athletes who prioritise raw strength, many of the equipment examined in this article with be invaluable, not least due to the prevention of sports injury. For example, from my own experience, the use of knee wraps have increased my squats by often up to twenty kilos (44.09 Lbs).
Equipment as basic as wrist wraps can ease added stress on small bones and tendons, they are cheap and soon prove their worth. Perhaps the most important equipment for squats and other strength disciplines are good quality weightlifting belts. I have included a guide as to what belt to buy and more importantly what to avoid.
Strength Sport Equipment
- Weightlifting shoes
- Knee wraps or sleeves
- Powerlifting belts
- Wrist wraps
1. Weightlifting and Powerlifting Shoes
Perhaps the most important piece of equipment for lifting heavy weights when squatting and deadlifting are weightlifting shoes. For those unfamiliar with them, they often appear identical to training/running shoes. That is where the similarities end. They differ in that they have:
- An elevated heel. This allows for much safer squats and prevents rolling back on one's heels when lifting heavy weights which can be extremely hazardous to both lifters and spotters.
- Solid sole. Unlike running shoes with their spongy soles, weightlifting shoes provide a solid anchor for lifting with no instability in the ankle region with many shoes having both laces and velcro for stability.
- Safety factors and prevention of injuries. Weightlifting shoes by the snugness of their fit minimize the possibility of injuries caused by any wriggling of the feet.
- If you want to increase the poundage you can lift and improve your form, it stands to reason to invest in equipment that will give you that much-needed edge.
The Advantages of Weightlifting Shoes
2. Knee Sleeves vs Knee Wraps
Most people will ask, what is the difference and what is right for me, naturally enough? It goes without saying that both sets of equipment are designed to protect the knees during heavy squats and can add significant poundage to what could be lifted without using this equipment.
- These are compression devices often produced with Neoprene and slip mover the knee to provide support to the entire knee joint.
- There is anecdotal evidence from athletes that leg positioning awareness is improved by knee sleeves.
- Furthermore, athletes claim knee sleeves improve their form and awareness of such.
- However, it is highly debatable that knee sleeves increase lifting ability.
- Knee sleeves are a much older piece of weightlifting equipment, most specifically during squats in equipped powerlifting meets and among non-competitive powerlifters.
- Knee wraps are made from broad polyester canvas that is interlaced with small interlinked rubber cells.
- The advantage in the use of knee wraps is basically the spring motion created on the upwards journey of the squat when the wrap is wrapped tightly to the point of cutting off circulation.
- It is beyond doubt that Knee Wraps can increase the poundage a lifter can achieve, yet they should only be utilised during the heaviest of squats.
- Furthermore, due to the fact that tightly wound knee wraps effectively cut off the circulation around the knee, albeit only for a few seconds, it is common sense to remove them between lifts.
3. Powerlifting Belts
Make no mistake about it, powerlifting belts are heavy bits of kit and not to be confused with the 'weightlifting' belts available for a few dollars in some retail outlets.
Benefits of Using Powerlifting Belts
- Alleviates the stress on the lower back when lifting heavy weights.
- They prevent over-stressed hyperextension when carrying out overhead lifts.
- Provide stability to the spine.
- Increase stomach stability.
- Go for belts that have an equal circumference and are 3–4m inches thick.
- Secure the belt firmly but not so tightly that it interferes with your breathing.
Weight Lifting Belt 101 For Women
Studies Using Compressive Gear for Lifting
- Wearing knee wraps affects mechanical output and performance characteristics of back squat exercise
The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of wearing knee wraps on mechanical output and performance characteristics of back squat exercise. Ten resistance trained men (back squat 1 repetition maximum [1RM]: 160.5 ± 18.4 kg) performed 6 si
- The influence of compressive gear on maximal load lifted in competitive powerlifting
The competition in powerlifting has been divided into two divisions, with gear equipment (EQ) and without gear equipment (RAW). When competing in the EQ division, additional supportive gear can be worn by the athletes, while in the RAW division such
4. Wrist Wraps
Note: Not to be mistaken for wrists straps as used in deadlifting.
Benefits of Using Wrists Wraps
- Wrist wraps primarily provide additional support for the wrist bone during a variety of exercises.
- Wrist wraps provide additional protection for the fine bones in the wrist.
- Wraps are particularly helpful when performing heavy sets of arms curls and the Overhead Press.
- Wraps provided increased grip support even when gripping is significantly weaker.
- With over 30% of women now involved in powerlifting and other strength sports, wrist wraps have proven invaluable to women who in general have smaller wrists.
- If you can carry out exercise without the use of wrists wraps then don't rise them, there is some nascent evidence that constant over use of wraps can in fact weaken one's form and grip in the long term.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.