Let’s assume you have read our article on the 3 best squats, you have chosen the perfect squat for you, and you have you have perfected your technique through hours of practice. You have made the mind to muscle connection and you have achieved the required level of mobility through stretching. Its now time to feel the full benefit of the squat by loading the bar and preparing for some seriously heavy lifting. Lifting heavy requires confidence. Its easy to stay on the weights your body has become accustomed to but when you are pushing for a personal best, when you are loading weights where there is uncertainty; you cannot be afraid…you must be fearless. You have to be prepared to try the weight and fail after a few reps and return next week with confidence that you will get more reps out. Here we list equipment that will support you during these heavy sets:
Ugly Footwear = Heavy Squats
Squatting in your tennis shoes or even bare feet is one of the worst things you could be doing to your body, as you are slowly but surely displacing your hips, shoulders and spine and shaping it toward any side which you are mostly leaning on, and trust me, you are leaning on one side more than the other, thus generating muscle and structural imbalances that, if taken too far, will become irreversible.
There is only so much weight you can push properly without causing some form of discomfort for your knees, ankles and lumbar spine. While squatting in tennis shoes, the weight is distributed unevenly on your body, causing your knees to wobble, your hips to generate force disproportionately and you lower back to round.
All of these very serious issues can be preempted with Olympic weightlifting shoes. Yes, they will be a costly investment, forcing you to watch in sadness as you cash out a couple of hundred bucks, but believe me that this investment will be the wisest one you’ve made.
Shoes such as these are specifically designed to keep your body in place, help you generate more power with their rock-hard soles and maintaining proper form as they are engineered to put your entire body in the perfect squatting position.
Keep in mind that no matter how good these shoes are for your health, they will not stop you from getting hurt if you execute improper form.
Weightlifting Belts do more than Just look Cool
There is a lot of professional dispute when it comes to weight belts, as they are either harmful to your internal core, or they’re actually helping you strengthen your core by having something to push out against. The arguments for both statements are valid and the important thing is knowing when you absolutely need to be wearing it. That requires time and practice.
A belt should be at least 1cm thick and preferably 10cm wide, giving you the support your core needs to keep the back in position.
For a beginner, a weight belt is completely unnecessary, but for a seasoned lifter trying to reach a new 250kg PR, wearing a belt would be a wise choice. If you do feel as if you need to be wearing one, then learning the proper way to use it will enable you to reap the full benefits of the belt.
There are many brands that make weightlifting belts on the global market, and many of them will take advantage of misinformation in order to sell a product that doesn’t work. A belt should be at least 1cm thick and preferably 10cm wide, giving you the support your core needs to keep the back in position.
You place the belt high, beneath your rib cage, not at your waist, and you tighten it so that when you engage the core, your abdominal wall is pushing hard against the belt. This will give you stability and a bit more power. Keep in mind that the belt is not to be used on a regular basis. To put it in perspective, there is a reason why Olympic weight lifters don’t use belts, they don’t need them, their abdominal walls are extremely strong and in order to stay injury-free, they practice mobility and force impeccable form on every single repetition.
A belt is an awesome accessory for reaching that new PR, but becoming too dependent on it will eventually have an adverse effect on your weightlifting goals.
Knee sleeves or Knee Wraps, Which are Better?
Unlike proper footwear, knee protection is optional, although preferable. At some point your knees will start hurting a bit. There is no way around it, as it’s the natural process of strengthening your body – your wrists will hurt from benching until they become stronger and your knees will hurt from squatting. You can read about how to listen to your body and tell the difference between the “growing” pains and “warning” pains that could be injury-related.
The need to put on knee sleeves or wraps comes at the point where you feel the weight has become too heavy for you to be squatting with a confident mind, being sure that nothing will crack under pressure. Generally, there is no need to use knee protection until you reach decent weight such as 140kg and up, after which it would be wise to be on the safe side.
As for which is better, it comes to personal preference, but if I can give any experienced advice, knee sleeves are better for training sessions and knee wraps are used when you compete at you absolute maximum.
wraps are not only good for benching but are very important for squatting, as they give you the support you need
Much like the weight belt, you have to be careful when choosing sleeves as the majority of products out there do not meet the necessary pressure requirements in order to have effect on the knee joint. Look for a 7mm thick knee sleeve in order to have the support your legs need to keep remain stable under heavy pressure.
Knee wraps, contrary to sleeves provide much more pressure, locking the knee joint in place for maximum security at the cost of blood circulation and sometimes mobility, and they are not to be worn for long periods of time, rather for those instances when you need to push your body to the absolute limit. No need to go with wraps until you reach a 250kg squat, so don’t worry, you have some time.
Wrist Wraps make you Squat More, Believe it or not!
If you have any serious squatting aspirations, you have by now gathered that the low bar squat is the way to go. Not that there aren’t amazing high-bar squatters out there, it’s just that you can read about why and if the high-bar is better, somewhere else.
Now, when squatting with the bar rested on your rear delts rather than on top of your traps, the point still stands that your hands and elbows need to be tucked in for maximum stability and back strength, although the pressure on your wrists is significantly higher and at some point as you progress in weight, they will start to hurt. That is why wrist wraps are not only good for benching but are very important for squatting, as they give you the support and strength you need to be able to fully concentrate on squatting and not cave in due to pain in your arms.
There are a bunch of options, and whichever one you opt for, the main point is to tighten the hell out of them. Aside from tightness, I feel the need to explain something very obvious that most people get wrong when putting on wrist wraps, thus rendering them useless. In most cases, people wrap them below the joint or above it, solely. In fact it should be wrapped above, below and in the middle of the joint, in order to give maximum stability. Don’t forget to loosen them immediately after your set so that you get the blood flowing again in preparation for the next set.
Chalk is Sexy
When you put on lifting chalk, you instantly become more appealing to the opposite sex, researchers say.
Okay, they probably never said that, but my girlfriend did. Nevertheless, no matter how sexy you may seem to anyone when putting on chalk, there are numerous benefits to this wonderfully simple piece of invention, applicable in almost every single instance of weight training.
In this case, chalk is used on your back, instead of your palms. That’s right, you read it right, spread chalk all over the part where the bar will sit, and thank me later. Among all of the accessories you can have and use, chalk is by far one of my all-time favorites. It keeps the bar from rolling out of your sweaty hands and it keeps it from sliding from your back when squatting.
Obviously, I am not talking about high-bar squats where the bar is more secure than your girlfriend’s bra. No, I’m talking about low-bar and front squats. At some point, when you become very strong and the weight becomes decent, the fabric of whatever it is you’re wearing to the gym (if you want to keep your skin, you’ll stay away from stringers) will not be able to produce enough friction for the bar to stay in place, and it will slowly start sliding down your back (or chest), causing all kinds of trouble.
So what do you do? You sacrifice your new gym clothes, chalk it up, look all bad-ass and you lift more weight safely while looking all raw and sexy to everyone around.
Much like bodybuilding supplements, do you absolutely need accessory equipment? Hell no. Will they make your life easier and help you reach your goals a bit faster? Definitely, as they can help you overcome your fear when lifting heavy.4