I often have people ask if they should be using weightlifting shoes, or a lifting belt, or knee sleeves. If you’ve ever seen me workout, you know that I usually have all three on. Kind of overkill for a rowing workout, but leave me alone. Here’s a breakdown of why I wear them, when I wear them, and if you should wear them.
Weightlifting shoes tend to have a very firm and flat sole. This gives you a solid base to support whatever lift you may be doing. They also have an elevated heel. This reduces the amount of ankle flexion you need to squat low, which also allows you to keep your torso more upright when you squat. That can be very helpful for a front squat, thruster, clean, snatch, OHS, etc.
If you have problems getting below parallel, weightlifting shoes will help. If you’re getting more serious about lifting weights, you should get a pair. Try these out, if you’re looking for something cheap that will do the job, and these, if you always need the best. If you just love moving fast and you’re just trying to get a sweat on, then pass.
A dozen years ago, I had a pretty serious back injury (pre-CrossFit). As a result, I am constantly concerned about keeping my back safe. Lifting belts are good for that. More than that, they help you keep your torso tight. You know how I’m always telling you to tighten your abs or keep your back flat? A belt will help. You expand your stomach and push out against the belt.
Some will argue that a belt lessens the work your core has to do. That is true. But when the weight gets heavy, I’d rather be safe than worry about getting a core workout. I usually put my belt on around 75%.
If you have any back problems, or you just want to lift more, you should pick up a lifting belt. This one is very inexpensive, and I’ve girls use it at National level competitions. For the guys, I like this one. For heavier lifts, I use a leather belt like this one.
Knee sleeves help protect your knees by providing light compression and keeping your knees warm. You know how we warm up every day? Well knee sleeves make sure that your knees STAY warmed up. The light compression isn’t enough to be uncomfortable, but you will definitely feel more supported.
I’ve been thinking about this one all day. And I think everyone should wear knee sleeves. Why? Because why not? There’s no downside. If you have knee pain, they will reduce it. If you don’t have knee pain, they could help keep it that way. If you’ll never have knee pain in your life, they will help you lift better. If you want to get in cheap, try these from Hookgrip. Honestly, I’ve never tried them, but anything wrapped around your knees will make you happier. Some of my National level lifters use these, and they are also pretty inexpensive. This is the classic knee sleeve. Beware that they are sold in singles. These are the new kid on the block and they have a TON of support. Maybe too much for WODs, but great for lifting.
That’s my take on it. If you have any questions, shoot me an email at Neil@CrossFitKirkwood.com.