Walk into any weight room, and you’ll see two types of lifters: Those who wear gloves, and those who do not. Under any circumstance.
If you’re a gym newbie, you might not understand why this would be such a large divide. Aren’t gloves just another accessory or a preference, like what you wear on your legs? Even more importantly, does the handgear give lifters an edge if used correctly?
Short answer: no. But how and why you’d wear something on your hands is a bit more complicated than that.
Why Some Lifters Like Gloves
Lots of guys do wear gloves. For some, they just rock the gear because it’s something they’ve seen on other people. After all, there’s not really a strict set of rules about how to dress when you hit (most) gym floors—so if you don’t know what you’re doing and see dudes wearing something you don’t have, there’s no harm in trying, too.
But for other guys, there is a method behind the gloved madness. We asked our followers on Twitter if they wear gloves, and why. The overwhelming response from the pro-glove crowd was that they sweat so much they lose the ability to grip the bar without some extra help.
Other guys cited concern for direct contact with germ-y shared equipment and, of course, that they worry about developing callouses and rough hands.
There are other legitimate reasons to wear them, too, like if you have open tears on your palms and wouldn’t be able to lift at all without the extra protection. No matter their reason, these guys are faithful to the glove life. If you want to join them, check out these options for your next workout.
Why Some Lifters Hate Gloves
On the other side of the debate lie most experienced lifters (and trainers)—myself included. We don’t like gloves.
It’s not that I’ve never worn a pair; when I started messing around with a basement barbell set as a teenager, I always started the session by strapping on a set. But as I learned more about the weight room, I realized that the extra material between my hands and the bar were just holding me back from mastering proper form on moves like the power clean and developing a stronger grip. After all, that fine etching in your barbells and dumbbells isn’t just there to rough up your hands—that’s called knurling, and it’s there to help you to get a better grip.
Men’s Health Fitness Director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. isn’t a fan of gloves for just that reason. “In theory, you’re “protecting” your skin from the wear and pounding of metal bars, but you’re also losing a ton of natural grip training,” he says. “The best and most organic way for you to train your grip has always been to grip with intent. But you can’t truly grip with gloves, and you lose the ability to truly feel what you’re gripping.”
That inability to take hold of the bar is an issue because you lose your full squeeze strength with the extra layer of material between the bar and your hands, and for the simple fact that you can’t feel the bar as well. “When my hand is in direct contact with the weight, I can more easily adjust and be precise with my grip,” says Samuel. “I can squeeze harder through my pinky, or squeeze more aggressively around my index and middle fingers. I can’t do these things as aggressively or naturally when I’m wearing gloves.”
Samuel also thinks that many of our favorite modern training methods are ill-suited to the glove life. “Our current training world has thick kettlebell handles, thin dumbbells, grenade grips for pullups, battle ropes, and those ultra-thick barbell ends that we grip during landmine work,” he says. “All of these require your hands to feel what they’re gripping in order to hold on.”
Weightlifting Straps FTW
That said, there is one accessory that many serious lifters do swear by: straps. Lifting straps (or grips) allow you to move more weight than your grip strength might normally allow, since the material is literally wrapped about the bar and your wrist.
That’s handy when you start deadlifting for serious weight, for example—although some powerlifting purists might only take “raw” lifts (reps without belts, straps, or other equipment) seriously.
Straps can serve as a good bridge between glove wearers and non-glove wearers; they give you a chance to accessorize and protect your hands from the roughest knurling while also serving a functional purpose. If you’re sold on straps, check out these options—just don’t feel wrap up every single dumbbell in the weight room. Save them for your heavy pull lifts.
Whether you’re on team glove or not, hating on other people in the gym for their weight room attire isn’t cool, so long as they’re minding their own business and not doing anything dangerous.
Unless you’re wearing sunglasses inside for no reason. Don’t do that.
You’ll never need gloves or straps for heavy press exercises like the bench press. Learn to master it in this video: