There are certain things we use in weightlifting that can help us improve our performance and/or to put us in better positions. The common pieces of gear used in weightlifting are:
These type of shoes have an elevated and solid heel, usually 3/4″ to a full inch. The benefit behind this is it puts your foot in a slightly plantar flexed position which allows your knees to track farther forward. Knees that are farther forward allow the hips and torso to become less flexed and more upright respectively.
Should we use them all the time? No, squatting in your CrossFit shoes or even bare foot is extremely beneficial because it allows the ankle to maintain or even gain range of motion. A good rule of thumb that I go by is 70/30 for your accessory squats (back squats, front squats, belt squats, etc.) and relatively far from a competition date. For the actual lifts, it depends. Are you training strictly weightlifting, or are you training weightlifting in conjunction with CrossFit? If you are doing CrossFit still, make sure to follow the 70/30 rule. If you feel that you are losing ankle range of motion, put your lifters aside for a little bit and start hammering ankle mobility.
The singlet. We put on a skin tight suit to lift heavy weights in front of people judging us. That can be intimidating. However, if you don’t plan on competing in an actual meet, you really don’t need one. The reason behind the singlet, so you don’t cheat. If you’re hiding a piece of gear under baggy clothing, you can get away with it, not so with a singlet. Your knee sleeves can’t touch the singlet just to make sure you’re not wearing another layer that could aid you in any way. It also helps to see the joints, judges need to see the lockout of the elbows, in other words, all joints need to be visible.
During training, singlets are necessary either. Sweatpants and/or tights are preferred to keep the legs warm and to prevent abrasion on the legs from the bar.
Just like with shoes, there is a time a place for knee sleeves and wraps. I personally use both and have different cycles/seasons that I will employ them. When it’s cold, I like to use sleeves because they keep my knees warm. When I’m going heavy, I will use knee wraps because they provide support in the knee joint so I that I have confidence at higher percentages. Also, if I get ballsy and don’t wear sleeves or wraps (usually in the summer) my knees tend to feel like garbage after a week or so without using either. I like to put these aside every once in a while to make sure I’m not using them as a crutch, just like with my weightlifting shoes.
In competition, both sleeves and wraps are permitted. The choice is yours.
There are two types of belts commonly seen in the weightlifting world, one with velcro and one with a buckle. This is totally based on preference. I have both and it depends on how I’m feeling that day. I’ve had multiple times when my velcro has come undone during a heavy set of squats and I cannot finish the set because of it. That won’t happen with a buckle belt. However, I can get my velcro belt as tight as I need it to be, something that sometimes can’t be done with holes in a buckle belt that are spaced evenly apart.
Why would I use a belt? There is some back and forth on this subject in the strength world. A belt increases our abdominal pressure, which makes us more stable through our torso and spine. However, shouldn’t we be able to produce that feeling through bracing alone? Yes and no, just like with shoes and knee stuff, we want to ween off of these if we feel we are too reliant on this. I do program squats or pulls with or without belts, I do specify for my athletes if I do not want a belt. I actually have to tell my athletes to use a belt sometimes, which is awesome in my eyes.
A stronger core is better core.
As far as competition goes, either are permitted.
Ideally, with this equipment we are using it once we get close to a competition or scheduled max out in order for us to get used to that gear and what it does to our body. We are trying to peak at the right time with our strength and have all aspects dialed in.
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