Tricks of the Trade
The advantages to wearing weightlifting gloves include eliminating the need for chalk, eliminating calluses and preventing sweat from diminishing grip.
The disadvantages are that gloves can make gripping harder because they add girth to whatever you are gripping; gloves can get stinky if not allowed to dry out properly; and gloves can be difficult to get on and off for people who wear them intermittently in a workout. In addition, they can be expensive compared with more modern silicone or neoprene grip barriers.
I do not use weight training gloves, mostly for the disadvantages listed above. However, the advantages are still valid reasons to use some gripping device to assist with weight training. In 2016, there is no good reason for your hands to become as rough as a caveman’s or to resort to the inelegant, messy and outdated use of chalk. I prefer any of the various silicone pads that provide ample protection with minimal bulk. Since you simply place them in the palm of your hand when you use them, you can easily stop using them at a moment’s notice by just letting go. My second choice is the neoprene-style palm pads with finger loops to hold them in place. The finger loop models in particular are helpful for any exercise where you let go and regrip, such as explosive pull-ups with a grip switch from wide to narrow, for example.
In addition to personal training, I also lead an outdoor all-women boot camp, where we do a significant amount of strength training using weights. Many women shy away from strength training with weights, so using gloves is an easy way to eliminate a key barrier to entry—calluses. The women get the added benefit of protecting their hands against being rubbed raw on the pavement during push-ups and other such exercises, and wearing gloves is more hygienic.
Many people feel that gloves provide a better grip, which solidifies their form and allows for a more effective workout. I am a “sweater” and my hands get slick, so gloves really help. Some people also find that certain gloves provide additional wrist support, reducing tendon strain.
Some people believe gloves improve their performance, and therefore they do. A positive contagion can positively impact performance. Positive contagion, similar to the placebo effect, refers to the transference of beneficial properties between animate persons/objects to previously neutral objects. It has been shown to improve performance (Linkenauger, et al. 2011. PLOS ONE. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0026016).
Disadvantages to gloves are that you have hands already; gloves cost money; and gloves can be forgotten or lost. Also, some people see calluses as a badge of honor, so gloves are a no-go for them. Gloves can have a negative impact on grip and the coordination of some moves, especially using an Olympic bar or heavy weights.
Personal Trainer, Beth’s Boot Camp
Jacksonville Beach, Florida
I think gloves are mainly good for preventing calluses. It all boils down to personal preference. While gloves can make it easier to grip the bar, they are also a hindrance for anyone who wants to develop grip strength. I think gloves actually provide a false sense of grip strength, and that is one big negative to using them. If I am lifting heavy weights, I might chalk up but only for dead lifts. I don’t waste time trying to convince clients not to wear gloves, as some people just like using them.
Owner, Rebel Muscle
Personally, I love gloves. Not only do they help prevent calluses, but gloves with wrist wraps also help provide stability to the wrist. This is helpful to me, as I have fractured both wrists playing football. Some clients and colleagues prefer to wear gloves, and some do not.
The type of glove matters: Gloves geared for general fitness are less bulky and provide basic covering; gloves for weightlifting can come with wrist wraps and more cushioning in the palm area. Depending on how you want to use gloves, there are alternatives such as chalk, lifting straps and exercise grips (covering palm only).
Health Fitness Manager
I recommend wearing workout gloves to protect your skin from calluses and bacteria. Gloves provide a better grip on equipment with a rough texture, which could damage the skin when pressure to grip is applied. If you purchase a pair of lifting gloves that fit well, you won’t even feel like you’re wearing them.
Personal Trainer, Cycle and TRX® Instructor
I sometimes wear gloves to help with gripping—some bars and weights are so rough they are brutal on my hands. I wear men’s gloves. I also have women’s gloves, but they are shorter in the fingers and don’t protect my hands as much. I’m tall and have long fingers, so the men’s gloves offer better protection for me.
Personal Trainer and Health Coach, Moxie Fitness
Some gloves are helpful for giving the wrist a lift to avoid too much flexion in yoga and/or Pilates. They can also help you avoid blisters when lifting weights. I have a client who wears gloves because it gives support to his arthritic thumb.
Some people are fine with roughing up their hands, but others can’t do that. For example, my husband is a doctor who needs to maintain a level of sensitivity in his hands to help with diagnosis. He has a pair of gloves for almost every occasion.
Private Pilates Instructor
I have two clients who swear by workout gloves and wouldn’t work out without them. Of course, when we perform exercises requiring manual dexterity, clients have to take the gloves off (in those cases, I guess you could call gloves a hindrance). Gloves can be helpful or not; it depends on what you’re doing at the time. Perhaps more important, it depends on whether the client using gloves believes them to be a help or a hindrance. After all, perception can be reality.
LaRue Cook, MHA, JD, CSCS
Owner, LEC Fitness
For working out with kettlebells, I use and recommend workout gloves that are shorter in length. Gloves make it easier on the swings, giving clients flexibility in the wrists. If clients sweat a lot, they can hang onto the kettlebells better—saving the mirrors or windows! When I do strength training with dumbbells, flex bars, curl bars, adjustable cable machine, pull-up bars, etc., I like to use gloves that wrap around my wrists. I use them not for support but as a reminder that the wrists should be stable when lifting.
Get Fit in Five
Workout gloves offer few performance advantages, and we have found them to be more of a personal preference than a performance enhancer. Clients who do not want calluses or want to maintain a softer feel to their hands will typically wear gloves. Only a few clients utilize gloves now versus 10–15 years ago, when everyone was using wrist wraps, belts and gloves. Most of these artificial aids have gone by the wayside for the average fitness enthusiast. Many lifts that we perform require the handle to rotate through the hands, and wearing gloves impedes this action versus assisting it.
While we don’t mind if a client chooses to wear gloves, they aren’t something we promote or sell in our pro shop anymore.
Dale Huff, CSCS
Co-Owner of NutriFormance Fitness, Therapy & Performance and Athletic Republic–St. Louis Sports Performance Conditioning
I have a couple of pairs of gloves, but I am not married to using them. I do recommend them sometimes for certain female clients, based mostly on the workouts we go through. Some guys wear gloves with straps, hand cloths and paper towels. To each his/her own, as long as you can handle the load or it protects your hands.
The pros are better grip, more comfort and wrist support. The cons are worse grip, dependency and lifting technique.
Owner, Balanced Fit Life
Personal Trainer, Piedmont Hospital
I advocate lifting with and without gloves so clients can feel the difference. I like using gloves to cut down on calluses. I’m a sweaty girl so gloves help give me that extra rep—especially with heavier weights. They also give me more wrist support. However, I always try to perform high-volume dead lifts without gloves to strengthen my “natural grip.” I like to think about gloves in this way: Gloves help me lift heavy dumbbells in the gym, but in the real world—where I may not have gloves—I want my hands to be just as strong as when I use gloves in the gym.
Owner, CarmenBFitness Personal Training
Greenville, South Carolina