Weight Belts and Gloves – Do You Need Them?

I walked into a gym today and saw a really big fat guy with a huge gut put on a weight belt to do bicep curls and bench presses.  I’m sure he thinks he’s helping keep himself, and unless he’s had serious back surgery he’s dead wrong.  I’m here to tell you that weight belts are a waste of time and are probably doing you far more harm than good.

Weight Belts – Years ago, I almost bought a weight belt because my back would hurt while doing squats (even though I was probably only lifting a hundred pounds).  Turns out, unless you’ve had a serious back injury, your lower back should only ‘hurt’ while doing squats if you do them wrong!  If you do them correctly, you’ll be working the hell out of your legs and your lower back all at the same time.  While wearing a weight belt, you’re depriving your body of using all of those tiny stabilizer muscles to keep the weight steady while raising it and lowering it.  Sure, you might be able to lift more, but your lower back will have the strength of a 10 year-old girl.  Not an ideal situation, especially if you have a 10 year old daughter for reference.

Now, when you lift weights without a belt, you have to recruit extra muscle fibers just to keep the weight steady.  This is also why I’ll only recommend free weights instead of machines.  Machines only let you lift in two directions, while free weights will use far more muscles to keep the weight steady.  Stick with free weights, and no belt!  Don’t believe me?

Stuart McGill, who has his PHD in  back studies and back exercises, had this to say when it comes to weight belts:

  • People without back problems don’t get any protective benefit from wearing a belt.
  • If you’re injured while wearing one, your injury could be far more severe.
  • Belts increase your blood pressure if they’re worn properly. Suck!
  • Belts change your lifting styles, often screwing up your form in order to lift the weight.  Not cool.

If you have lower back problems on squats, then your lower back isn’t strong enough to support the weight, even if your legs are.  My recommendation?  Decrease the weight, and really concentrate on strengthening your core before building up the weight on your squats.  Instead of spending money on a weight belt, spend money on a single personal training session and make sure you’re performing all exercises with PERFECT FORM and you’ll be far better off in the long run.

Now, if you HAVE had lower back problems/surgery, I highly recommend getting a doctor recommendation and exercising with a trainer after getting better to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again.

exerciseback_medGloves - People wear gloves to get a better grip on the weight bar, or because they don’t want calluses on their hands.  Personally, I think calluses make you feel more like a bad ass, and I’m guessing the guys at “the Art of Manliness” would agree with me.

When you pick up a bar without gloves and you feel your grip start to slip (not from sweat, but from your strength going), it’s because you haven’t developed your hands and forearms enough.  As you lift heavier weights and work out the rest of your body, your hands and forearms will develop right along with them.  Here’s a great article about gloves and their ‘need.’

I’m a big advocate of keeping things as natural in the gym as possible.  Stay away from machines, don’t add accessories to help you unless you absolutely need them.  Stay away from weight belts, and wear gloves if you feel like you need them.  You can get by without using either.

-Steve

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  • http://yougiveloveabad.name JC

    I know this is a really old post, but aren’t gloves a good thing sometimes? If your hand/wrist strength is holding you back and wearing gloves with weight hooks or straps can help you lift heavier weights with a fuller range of motion… why not use them? You can work on hand strength and callus on the side with tools specifically for those.

  • http://yougiveloveabad.name JC

    I know this is a really old post, but aren’t gloves a good thing sometimes? If your hand/wrist strength is holding you back and wearing gloves with weight hooks or straps can help you lift heavier weights with a fuller range of motion… why not use them? You can work on hand strength and callus on the side with tools specifically for those.

  • http://www.stevekamb.com Steve Kamb

    Hey JC!

    I see where you’re coming from, and I think you do make a valid point. However, I guess I”m just old school in that I love lifting weights knowing that there wasn’t a single artificial thing helping me along the way. I love feeling the steel of the bar on my rough hands as I pull that weight up for deadlifts.

    I figure if my grip gives out before the rest of me, it’s because my body isn’t fully prepared to lift more than that. Adding in gloves and straps do allow you to lift more, more quickly, but it’s also more weight on your joints and bones that you normally wouldn’t have if you were doing it naturally.

    To each his own, but I still lift glove free; I was up to about 315 or so for 3 sets of 5 on deadlifts before I got sick and backed off…working my way back up now (did 3x5x265 the other day).

    -Steve

  • Bzholend

    I disagree with you on the use of gloves for a few reasons. One is that some men don’t want to have callous hands regardless of the manly appeal of walking around with rough hands. Even though the aesthetic appeal of smoother hands may not be worth the price of training gloves, the most important reason for gloves is infection control. Gloves should be worn for the user’s safety and everyone else’s safety as well. Whether someone is just carrying germs (we all are) or serious viral/bacterial particles, everyone should wear gloves to prevent the spread of infection.

  • Finross

    Even with gloves I still developed calluses.
    To do without them would make it far worse and I for one don’t like the discomfort of hard skin on my hands.
    It is manly to go hunting for your food too, but far more sensible to go to the supermarket instead.
    I like sensible.

  • Finross

    Even with gloves I still developed calluses.
    To do without them would make it far worse and I for one don’t like the discomfort of hard skin on my hands.
    It is manly to go hunting for your food too, but far more sensible to go to the supermarket instead.
    I like sensible.

  • Gwheeler6

    Hi
    i agree i started training  when arnold was at hes peak no pain no gain .spit and saw dust gym wind was blowing in the gym as the windows fan light would not shut bitter out side ice on the mirrors and just a small stereo they were the days . could hardley walk out of the gym as legs were sore from squating.
    just train harder no gloves or belt hardcore. 

  • Lance Magic

    I love your site. I’m gay and being a somewhat militant homo because of the horseshit I have had to deal with all my life, I wonder.. does the comment about rough hands and big arms apply to me too? (sarcasm intended) I can’t be mad at you if you”re STR8 and you want to illiterate how manly shit is like dick-powder to Pavlov’s bitch. I just get pissed that I live in what is still an exclusively hetero-inundated world where it is assumed that everyone fits into these tiny little asphyxiating gender roles and archetypal roles. Whatever. I still like your site. You have a lot of comprehensive information here.  

  • http://www.stevekamb.com Steve Kamb

     hey Lance!

    Thanks for the comment; my apologies, I certainly didn’t intend to offend…the article has been edited to better reflect my views.

    Hope you stick around the community. Cheers!

    -Steve 

  • nightman

    You clearly don’t understand the purpose of a belt.  The belt actually enables your abs and low back to work even harder than they could without one, because it gives you something to push against.  And they keep your spine safe by enabling those muscles to protect it that much better.

    This article seems to be written for people who aren’t strong yet, so those people probably wouldn’t benefit from a belt right away.  But as they get stronger, the use of a belt will benefit them immensely.  I would estimate that when you’re squatting your own bodyweight for sets, that would be a good time to start using one.

    Do some research in the online communities of people who are actually strong (squatting 1.5BW at least), and I’m sure you’ll be convinced of this.

  • nightman

    BUT – I dig your site.  I am a desk-bound nerd who discovered strength training through the Starting Strength program at the beginning of 2011 and have never looked back.  I try to spread the good ideas that I’ve used to my advantage, but most people just don’t want to hear it.  So thanks helping to preach the gospel of compound free weight exercises.  Hopefully some people will listen.

  • Maximum05

    Nightman, you are correct with you statement of wearing a belt. It is used to “push” against and not to “support” you back in the way you would think.

    Try holding your hand on your stomach and back and then tighten you ab muscles. Your back also tightens. Most serious lifters will use a belt BUT the one they use is usually 4″ all the way around and does not look like the 1072 and 1073 belts show about in the picture.
    Now with that being said the poster does have a good point about belts not being used properly. As a lifter you should not be using a belt for anything other than you heaviest lifts and only on you final sets when it is needed. 

    It is like using straps during the deadlift. You should only use them when your grip begins to fail and not on all your lifts.

    As for gloves…I don’t use them. Rough hands are a way of life for all heavy lifters.

  • Dutchguy

    http://70sbig.com/?p=884?p=884

    I hope you learned since 2009..

  • Al

    What if your hands are seriously too sweaty?

  • Reply

    While your logic may be right, your advice suggests that we all bring these bacteria on our gloves with us home, in our car, in our duffle bags.. And since most gloves aren’t easily washed, the risk of spreading these viruses are far greater than just thoroughly washing your hands after working out at the gym, in addition to the free hand sanitizer they offer.
    Think about it, bacteria multiples in double every 15 minutes. If you bring home sweaty ass gloves that’s been gripping onto every weight at the gym, assuming that every person who wears gloves don’t bleach them when they get home, the bacteria rate is MUCH higher, logically speaking.

  • John

    Then you aren’t a man, you’re a pussy.

  • Ron

    Why are you pissed at that? You should be pissed that you think like a bitch and want to be a bitch. Men = men and if you’re born a man don’t try to change your role in life by becoming gay. In other words, man the fuck up Lance.

  • JM

    Chalk them