Today’s post isn’t going to have any pictures or any bullshit…just some words and maybe a little tough love. That being said, let’s get down to business.
There are a lot of things in this world that I don’t understand. That list includes, but is not limited to, calculus, MTV’s Jersey Shore, classical music, and the birds and the bees. One thing in particular that I’ve never understood is the use of gloves while lifting weights.
As you might imagine, my inability to comprehend weightlifting gloves contributes in part to my utter disdain for them. Besides the fact that the phrase “weightlifting gloves” is an oxymoron, there are many other reasons that layer this heap of hatred for them that lies deep within me.
I know I’ve mentioned before on my blog that I’m a big fan of strength coach Mark Rippetoe. I greatly respect his knowledge, passion, and mentality towards strength training. His book, Starting Strength, is one of my favorite books on strength and conditioning. This is a direct quote from that book on the use of gloves while training:
Gloves have no place in a serious training program. A glove is merely a piece of loose stuff between the hand and the bar, reducing grip security and increasing the effective diameter of the bar. Gloves make bars harder to hold on to. The ones that incorporate a wrist wrap prevent the wrist from getting used to training. The only legitimate use for a glove is to cover an injury, like a torn callus or a cut, where the workout is important enough to do with the injury and it cannot be done without the covering. A desire to prevent callus formation does not constitute a legitimate use. If your gym makes a lot of money selling gloves, you have another reason to look for a different gym. And if you insist on using them, make sure they match your purse.
Personally, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of training gloves. For me, strength training is somewhat of a sacred practice. Those that came before me and began this whole notion of “lifting weights” founded it on certain principles. There is no place for weightlifting gloves within these principles. There is, however, a place for sweat, blood, chalk, and yeah, maybe some calluses. To steal a line I’ve heard Martin Rooney use before, the use of gloves in the gym is akin to “spitting on the church floor.” As a man, wearing weightlifting gloves is like wearing socks with sandals. Not only does it almost immediately deplete your testosterone levels, but it’s just something you don’t do.
One of the main excuses I hear in favor of the use of gloves, especially from women, is to prevent callus formation. If you’re doing things right in the gym, callus formation on your hands should be minimal. I lift weights at least four times a week and I have calluses, but they are not significant, painful, and nor do they impede my training. Furthermore, why is a little callusing undesirable or considered unattractive? I love that I, as well as my girlfriend, have some minor callusing on our hands. You know why? It tells me that we’re working hard and kicking ass in the weight room. It keeps us in check. And it certainly tells me that we’re not sitting on our asses, sadly, like many Americans do these days.
Let me tell you about my first lift at Cressey Performance. I’ll never forget it; it was on a Saturday afternoon at the staff lift about two months before I began my internship there. We were finishing up with HAS (Heavy As Shit) farmer carries and prowler pushes. After finishing one of my sets of farmer carries, I grabbed my bottle of water for a quick drink. I was already sweating a ton, but when I took my sip of water, there was this weird feeling of liquid all over my hand. When I stopped to take a look, there was blood all over my hand and the bottle. I had unknowingly ripped two calluses off my hands during my set of HAS farmer carries and was gushing blood. When I looked at the floor, I had tracked a nice trail of blood from the farmer bars to my bottle of water. In my head, I was psyched for having drawn blood during a lift, but I felt bad for having gotten blood on the floor. My feelings of regret were immediately halted with the overwhelmingly positive response I got from everyone else in the gym. They thought it was awesome and were happy to help me clean up. In fact, when I came back for another lift a week or two later, other people at the gym had heard about it and thought it was awesome. So my point is not to toot my own horn, but rather that a little blood, some calluses, and the like should be celebrated and embraced if they happen to occur, not painstakingly avoided at all costs. I’m not saying you should try to bleed and develop calluses every time you train, but I consider these things to simply be a part of hard work in the gym.
Using weightlifting gloves and wristbands as a means of “protection” doesn’t do you any good, unless you’re lining up for the New England Patriots. If you need to use gloves and wristbands in that way while performing kettlebell movements, for instance (cleans and snatches come to mind), you’re probably not executing the exercise correctly; your gloves and wristbands are simply a veil for proper grip and technique. You’d be better off losing the gear to practice, reinforce, and cement optimal grip, form, and movement patterns. Since I’ve mentioned kettlebells, you won’t catch me standing in front of someone wearing gloves and performing any type of explosive kettlebell move like the swing. As Coach Rip alluded to in his statement, gloves are just a piece of material between your hand and the weight, decreasing grip security. You need to feel the barbell/kettlebell in your hands and that means having direct contact between your hand and the barbell/kettlebell. If you’re worried about grip security, use some chalk!
I guess you can consider this post as a sort of call to arms. Here I am, asking…no, wait…BEGGING you all to get rid of the “protective” gloves and wristbands. If you have a legitimate injury that needs covering or if you sweat more than Chris Martin in the bathroom after a trip to Chipotle, then wear the gloves and wristbands. Otherwise, leave them at home beneath the chimney this winter to use with some wood when the weather starts to get cold.