Gym Gloves… Helpful or Harmful? Lets Find Out!
Go to any commercial gym and no doubt you’ll see a bunch of guys wearing gym gloves.
When it comes to lifting belts, chalk and lifting straps it’s quite rare for anyone to bat an eyelid… but gloves have a whole different stigma surrounding them.
“Glove are for wimps!”
“You don’t need gloves you just need to toughen up!”
I’m sure you’ve heard a few similar lines to the above during your time in the gym and online…
When it comes to gym gloves the majority of guys reside in one of two groups…
1. Gloves Are Great! They Help Me Train Harder!
The first group proudly sport their gloves in the gym, wearing them for any and every exercise they perform.
They find that they no longer get rough, callused hands and they’re able to perform an extra rep or two on certain barbell movements such as the bent over row.
2. Gloves Are For Wimps
The second group despise gloves. They’d never be seen dead wearing or associating with anyone that wears gym gloves.
They perform all exercises without any wraps or grip support as they believe callused hands are something to be proud of, and that while wearing gloves you’re unable to properly feel the movement you’re performing.
Benefits Of Using Gym Gloves
Are there any actual benefits to using gym gloves? Should you be wearing them during your heavy compound lifts? Let’s take a look…
1. You’ll Be Able To Grip The Bar Longer
Whether you’re performing a set of bent over barbell rows, smith machine shrugs or dumbbell hammer curls there becomes a point where you just can’t hold on any longer. The targeted muscle, be it your back, traps or biceps is still good to pump out a few more repetitions… but you just can’t. Perhaps your grip is fatigued from the previous sets, or the sweat is causing the bar to slide down in your hand…
This is where gloves shine.
A well designed workout glove places emphasis on the palm of the glove, where you’re going to be gripping the bar to ensure there’s no slippage or movement.
The result? Instead of your grip failing first you’ll be able to keep going until the targeted muscle fails – thus eliminating the weak link.
2. You Won’t Destroy Your Hands
Rough, callused hands are inevitable if you’re regularly hitting pull-ups, deadlifts, rows and the vast majority of other heavy compound movements.
Unless you wear gloves this is always going to be the case – the rough gnarling of the barbell being grasped tight, set after set…
Some will see this as a con as they believe unless you’ve got rough, battle-worn hands you haven’t pushed yourself hard enough in the gym.
Alas, gloves preventing your hands from tearing calluses is definitely a benefit in my books!
3. They’re Comfortable
Grasping a pair of parallel bars at the calisthenics park on a cold winters morning is far from comfortable, the same can be said for grasping the barbell with 405lbs loaded up for your fifth set of deadlifts…
Gloves protect your hands from the elements – be it the freezing cold bars during your outdoor workout or the rough gnarling on that final set of extremely heavy deadlifts.
Cons Of Using Gym Gloves
1. Your Grip Will Be Worse
Didn’t I just say your grip will be better wearing gloves as a benefit? Yep! Your grip will be better in terms of slipping due to sweat, but gloves make the barbell/dumbbell/machine you’re holding onto thicker! The thicker the bar the harder it is to grip.
Hell, products like FatGripz were invented to specifically replicate training with a thicker bar.
I guarantee that you will not be able to perform as many reps on your pull-ups, bent over rows or deadlifts if you’re grasping a thicker bar (or you feel as if it’s thicker thanks to your gloves).
This is why gymnastic grips are popular, they’re very very thin to prevent adding additional thickness to the bar. Meanwhile, gym gloves are often big and bulky, doing you no favors!
2. You’ll Begin To Use Bad Form On Key Exercises
Wearing gloves for basic exercises such as a biceps curl or lat pulldown isn’t so much of a big deal… but when we’re talking about exercises that emphasis hand placement (and where the bar sits) such as the barbell bench press and front squat gloves can get in the way.
The design of the gloves can encourage you to grasp the bar on the wrong part of your hands (the majority of guys wearing gloves on the flat barbell bench press grip the barbell too high up on their hands).
This will lead to plateaus as you increase the weight as well as a big chance of injury (particularly wrist problems!).
3. You’re Not Addressing The Root Of The Problem
Using gloves for every workout, or even every other workout may have you putting up bigger numbers in terms of reps and weight lifted – but as your strength in the targeted muscle groups increases your grip strength falls even further behind.
I don’t advocate entire workouts using hand crushers and hanging from bars just to increase your grip strength, but as you begin to lift heavier weight, perform weighted pull-ups and increase the volume on your hanging abdominal exercises you’ll find your grip strength does steadily increase over time.
So, When Should You Use Gym Gloves? (My Opinion)
The cons of wearing gym gloves while lifting without a doubt outweigh the pros.
The only way to venture beyond the uncomfortable feeling of gripping a barbell is exposure therapy… do it every day!
Your grip strength and hands will strengthen, and when it comes to calluses gym gloves are by no means a way to completely avoid them (as the glove rubbing on your hand can also cause calluses).
Want To Increase Your Grip Strength? (The #1 Unconventional Method)
The biggest issue with gloves, as we discussed earlier is that they won’t help you build grip strength, period.
Grip strength is built hanging from the bar while hitting your pull-ups, while painstakingly lifting that bending barbell off the ground during your deadlifts… but there’s another way you can build your grip strength that provides a change of scenery.
Go rock climbing.
Rock climbing is the ultimate builder of grip strength, from learning how to grip in different positions to supporting your bodyweight on a mere few fingertips… if you go indoor or outdoor rock climbing semi regularly you’ll never be worried about your grip strength failing before the targeted muscle group again!