Training with Supportive Gear

For the longest time, I’ve been against most people lifting with any kind of supportive equipment. Maybe against is too strong a word, because I do see a value in some situations. My beef with it is that people with no real business wearing gear end up wearing the most of it.

I’m not really talking about powerlifters here. They’ve got their reasons, and not all of it is the latest trend of gear-whoring (which is why we see squats and benches shooting through the roof since around 2000, while the DL has gone up maybe 50 lbs in 30 years).

No, the quintessential example here is Gym Curl Guy. This guy is in every gym. He’s the one walking around with a leather belt on; if he ever actually touches a weight, he’s doing something like concentration curls.

I have to wonder what this guy is protecting. Since this is also the same guy that will try to tell you that deadlifting will wreck your back, well…you know. It’s an old football injury from high school, surely. Nothing to do with the fact that he’s never bothered actually strengthening the core or anything.

At any rate, I do own a belt. A damn good powerlifting belt at that. Until recently I haven’t used it a lot; on max attempts in a squat or deadlift, sure. But otherwise, I’ve never really seen much use. I’m of the mindset that you train weak, compete strong. Lift without the belt in training and you’ll benefit from it when you have to test a max.

That’s been the theory anyway. After discussing this with some powerlifters recently, I’m starting to change my views a bit. I stand by my thoughts for beginners, but I’m starting to come to the conclusion that after a point, if you want to continue to get stronger, you almost need some kind of supportive equipment.

This is in part due to my latest injury – which isn’t that big a deal in the scheme of things, but it does have me wondering if maybe I’m being a bit of a blockhead by not taking advantage of some of the supportive gear I’ve got laying around.

I’m still not going to endorse triple-ply canvas gear, not by any means, but with the assortment of injuries I’m racking up, I’m really finding it hard to argue with wearing my single-ply briefs and a belt while squatting, at the very least. Same for the bench shirt – I can’t bench with any sort of weight without risking another shoulder injury. Boards and floor presses are fun, but my sweet Rage-X would at least let me do some full ROM benching without risking another shoulder blow-out.

And yes, I realize that there’s plenty of guys out there that can move more weight than I can without anything on. That’s not even relevant right now; those guys aren’t having connective tissue injuries any time they try to move beyond a specific threshold. My holier-than-thou “I can do it myself” anti-equipment stance seems to have bitten me on the ass.

It was a different matter when I was 23 and didn’t have these problems. After 10 odd years of training, the heavy stuff takes it out of me far more than it used to. Just some food for thought; I realize that my stance isn’t all that common in powerlifting circles especially, but for any of you readers that have similar thought processes.