What are the Benefits of Using Accessories?
You may have walked in the gym, only to see the guy or girl who has the massive gym bag. In that bag they have all sorts of goodies. They pull out belts, wraps, straps, and knee sleeves. You’re probably wondering what all of that does and how could it help you?
When you start out at the gym, it may not be crucial to have all of these things, but as you progress, they become super important. The main purpose with all of these accessories, is typically to keep you safe and help reduce injury. An added perk may also be the performance benefits that they can bring when it comes to reps or even amount of weight lifted. Let’s break them down.
Probably one of the most common forms of equipment that you’ve seen in the gym. However, most people don’t realize what it’s actually doing. The original thought is that it’s supporting your lower back. However, this isn’t full the case. You see, as we lift something heavy, you hear the cue to breath in on the way down and out on the way up. The reason we do this is so that we can build what is called, intra-abdominal pressure. The pressure that we build in our diaphragm and lungs will help to stabilize and support the spine during a movement. This is especially important once you start to get into lifting heavier weights.
When you bring a belt into the equation, this only becomes more effective. The belt isn’t what is actually supporting the back, instead, it just allows you to create more pressure in the body. The belt gives you something to press the air into, and acts like a second intra-abdominal wall (yes, there are abs in there that you can’t see). This helps you to brace and support the spine during a heavy lift.
Now, belts don’t have to be used for everything. When wearing one ALL the time, you may actually end up weakening some of the natural muscles that are present. Save the belt for when you absolutely need it. This will make it twice as effective when you are lifting.
There are multiple kinds of belts as well. The best belts are made of high-quality leather and use a prong system or a lever. The lever belts are great because they are easy to loosen and tighten, which makes them super convenient. Plus, they last forever. The cheap belts that are made of nylon and Velcro never last long, nor are they that safe. There is a fantastic lever belt that is made by Inaka Power. This belt is made of high-quality leather that will last forever it seems. The actual lever is very high quality and won’t budge on you even during heavy sets. Plus, they come in some great design!
All in all, a quality belt is extremely useful and worth the money. If you’re serious about your training, then this should be a staple in your gym bag.
Straps are something that most lifters have on hand. These are either leather, nylon, or some other strong material and go around your wrist. They have an extension of strap that is used to wrap around the bar or handle of something. This allows the strap to support your grip. It’s like have two hands in one.
Why is this helpful? It keeps your grip from going out, which is often the first thing to become exhausted. The larger muscles may be able to keep going, but you can only go as far as your grip will allow you. So, you can extend your working sets to get more reps in, which equals more growth. You can also lift a little heavier than your typical grip will allow. This helps to push the muscles in way that drives more growth and strength.
You want to avoid using straps for every single set. Especially you lighter ones. This is when you should be relying on that natural grip so that it gets stronger. If you’re using straps for every set, you begin to rely on them as your only way for getting the weight up.
They are an extremely useful and valuable tool that belongs in that gym bag.
I would go as far to say that lifting wraps are the second most common form of lifting accessory at the gym. These are wraps that include elastic that go around your wrist. Some vary in thickness and length depending on what you are training for, but they help out a ton.
The wrist is an intricate joint and depending on the person could be larger or smaller. Either way, with so many moving parts, sometimes it needs help staying stabilized. This is where a wrist wrap would come into play. They are wrapped around the wrist so that they provide some compression on the joint. This keeps it rock steady.
The stabilization may actually improve your strength, but also helps to reduce the risk of injury.
Wrist wraps should not be used for every set, just like the other accessories. Over time this could lower the strength and stability of the joint overall. Save them for those heavier sets or once you have worked up to your working weight.
Knee sleeves have been around for some time; however, they have increased in popularity. This is mainly due to the change in material that they have received. Originally, knee sleeves were almost like a tight sock. You pulled it on over the knee and it would give some compression.
However, now, knee sleeves are typically made from a strong neoprene material. This is similar to what you would find on a wet suit. The reason being is that they help to not only provide stability and compression, but also keep the knees warm.
Our joints can get cold while training, especially if you live somewhere that has a cold climate. By keeping that joint warm, it moves better. The blood is there, and it keeps things running smooth. This reduces the amount of injury that one may experience with a knee bending exercise.
They are a great tool, especially if you are lifting heavy. They won’t change the game for you, but they go a long way with safety and stability that can improve your gains.
Again, you can find some great knees sleeves that will save those knee caps here. They come in awesome designs that will not only keep you safe, but make you look cool while doing it.
Unlike the other accessories, you can wear your knee sleeves even for warmups. This will help to get the joint warm and pull in some blood. Plus, they aren’t easy to put on when you’re sweaty!
Accessories are great. There’s a reason that you see the most experienced lifters with all of this stuff. It helps your performance but can also keep you injury free. If you can stay injury free, then you can train for a longer time. A longer time spent training means more gains.
If you’re feeling serious about your time at the gym, then consider grabbing some new tools to add to the bag.