How and When to Accessorize Your Fitness
CrossFitters are known to the outside world as a cult fitness group, complete with a uniform of tight shorts, crop tops, and zero drop shoes. If you’re really drinking the koolaid, then you will find a whole new level of accessories to use in your fitness routine. You can’t forget your knee sleeves, weight belts, wrists wraps, custom jump ropes, headbands, etc. Our coaches often field questions on what these accessories are for and when to make the investment in these supporting pieces. This article is a resource for when to use accessories and how to use them to enhance your fitness rather than holding you back.
Olympic Lifting Shoes
Olympic lifting shoes are built as heavier shoes to give you a firm base while weightlifting. This shoe comes with a raised heel to help with lack of ankle mobility and in turn improve your squat. If you are serious about weightlifting (ie: interested in competing or follow our barbell program religiously, then they will be worth your investment. These shoes should be what you do the majority of your olympic lifting in. For example, a day with a max squat or a lot of squatting or heavy lifting.
When not to use:
For every squat ever. With an elevated heel, you are able to have a cleaner squat; however, that does not mean you should use lifters to hide your lack of ankle mobility. Doing this will only inhibit your ankle mobility over time. I try to limit my use of Olympic lifting shoes to days where I am working higher percentages (over 80%), but I am not a weightlifter. If you are someone who wants to compete in the sport of weightlifting specifically, using these shoes more often is totally appropriate because that is what you will compete in. These shoes are also not meant for deadlifting. The elevated heel will add more distance between the barbell and the finish of your lift. Wearing these on a deadlift makes you do more work than you need to. Stick to your zero drop shoes (Nike MetCon, Reebok Nanos, No Bulls, etc.) or lift barefoot.
Weight belts are great for helping you to move heavier loads and give you a tool to brace your core against. Ideally, we will learn to brace on our own first before turning to a belt. The weight belt is for the experienced lifter and should only be brought out for lifts at higher percentages (I hold myself to an 80% or more rule with the belt as well). A weight belt can be super helpful for any kind of heavy lifting: deadlifts, squats, presses, cleans, etc, but only at heavy percentages for that particular lift.
When Not to Use:
Your metcon. Unless your workout calls for super heavy lifting, we probably do not want a weight belt. I see athletes reach for the belt for light weights with a lot of repetitions because they think they need it for the higher volume. Using a belt in these situations means we are doing our core a serious disservice by using the weight belt as a makeshift core and not learning to engage and brace the core on our own, limiting our strength gains over time.
If you are running into issues with back pain while performing certain movements, then take some time to discuss the problem with a coach. Sometimes all you need is a little technique fix and some accessory work to get the right muscle groups firing again. I also believe that beginners should shy away from the weight belt for at least 6 months to develop a strong core on their own. The belt is a tool to get you to brace harder in your heavy lifts, not as the brace itself.
Here are some of our favorite brands:
Rogue Leather Belt (for serious lifting)
Rogue Velcro Belt (for workouts when you need to be in and out of the belt quickly)
2 Pood Performance (with angel wings designed by Mattie Rogers)
Knee sleeves are a great for athletes who struggle with staying warm, they keep your joints warm between sets on days with longer rest times. They can also be helpful for giving a little bounce out of the bottom of the squat, for a workout with a lot of burpees, or when lunges show up and you don’t want your knees to be torn up. They provide some compression, making them helpful for knees that may be a little sore and could use the compression to reduce or avoid swelling. As with the weight belt, I encourage people to limit their use to heavier lifting only.
When Not to Use:
Knee sleeves are not a replacement for fixing your squat pattern or going to the doctor’s office or some other medical professional for your knee pain. Knee sleeves are best to wear for heavy loads or in conditions where you just really need the extra support/warmth that they provide.
Wrist wraps are used to support the wrists for overhead and pressing movements. Try to limit their use to days when you are lifting heavy or feeling extra sore in the wrists. These can easily become a crutch for a lack of mobility and strength in the wrists. If you do choose to use wrist wraps, then pair them up with wrist mobility and strengthening pieces to limit your need for them down the road.
When not to use:
As with all of these pieces of equipment, we want to use the tool to enhance our fitness rather than a bandaid to cover the root cause of the issue. Avoid using wrist wraps on lower weight pieces or as you are warming up to heavier weights. Incorporate wrist push ups into your warm up to improve wrist flexibility and limit your need to use wrist wraps.
With all of the pieces mentioned above, it is important to note WHY you are using that piece of equipment. These pieces are not intended to cover underlying issues with a temporary bandaid. I always recommend reaching out to a coach for a second opinion on using all of these pieces of equipment when you are getting started with them. Each piece has its purpose and value in training but they should not be a substitute for making your own body strong first. Basically, don’t be like this guy.