Should You Wear Workout Gloves?
There is an almost limitless variety of workout apparel…
Shoes, workout pants, shorts, tank tops, hoodies, etc.
Yup, the world of fitness truly does have a wardrobe unto itself.
But I digress…
Anyway, if you’ve spent any time in the gym, you’ve probably seen a bunch of people that wear special gloves while they’re weight lifting.
And this is definitely a divisive topic among the varied members of the gym community.
Some people will look at you with murderous rage if you all but dare suggest that gloves can be beneficial.
Other people swear by them, and wouldn’t even think of weight lifting without their trusty hand protectors.
But what’s the real deal here?
Should you be wearing gloves when you workout – and, if so, which ones should you buy?
Well, to help answer these questions, I am going to take a thorough look at the pros and cons of wearing workout gloves, so you’ll be armed with all the information to make this decision for yourself.
The Pros Of Wearing Workout Gloves
One of the main benefits of workout gloves is the grip advantages that they supposedly offer.
You see, holding onto heavy dumbbells or barbells can be tough, and a lot of people will find that they tend to slip (especially when your hands get sweaty).
Workout gloves are designed with this in mind, with the palm area being constructed specifically to help you firmly grip onto the weights that you’re lifting.
And, of course, the gloves will also make sure that sweat never causes the weights to slip out of your hands.
Let’s face it, one of the major points in favor of workout gloves is that they can be a lot more comfortable than going barehanded.
Yup, those weights can be cold, rough, and uninviting to wrap your hands around.
Gloves help to solve this problem, effectively protecting your hands from the elements.
This is especially true if you’re working out in colder climates. Iron can get pretty damn cold, and workout gloves will largely protect you from this unpleasantness.
Now some brands of gloves also provide an additional benefit, in the form of extra wrist support.
These gloves typically have a velcro strap that you can wrap tightly around your wrist, making it feel more stable.
Some people feel that this prevents wrist injuries, and can also be used to rehabilitate current wrist issues while still weightlifting.
The Cons Of Wearing Workout Gloves
Wait a minute, I thought you said that gloves gave you better grip…
Well, I did, but gloves can also hurt your ability to grip the weights too.
Let me explain.
As a general rule, the thicker the bar, the harder it will be to get a good grip on it.
This is why there are products specifically engineered to make bars thicker – like Fat Gripz, for instance.
When you wear gloves, you are effectively adding an extra layer of thickness to the bar.
And depending on the gloves themselves, this can be pretty significant.
On pulling exercises (like deadlifts or rows), or pull-ups, you may find that wearing workout gloves actually limits your ability to lift as much weight, since your grip will often give out before the muscles that you are primarily training do.
For certain exercises, like bench press and shoulder press, it is important that you keep the bar in the palm of your hand, close to your wrists.
When you wear workout gloves, it will often force the bar to move up towards your fingers, due to the increased bulk from the glove.
This can put unwanted pressure on your wrists, increasing the likelihood of injuries over time.
In addition, it will often make your lifts more difficult, since the bar positioning will be off throughout the movement.
Once you start wearing gloves to the gym, you can come to depend on them.
Workouts just won’t feel right if you aren’t wearing your special gloves.
And, really, this may not be a problem…as long as you always have your gloves with you.
But no doubt about it, you’ll definitely be less flexible about how you work out.
What About Calluses?
I wanted to save this one for last…
You see, from my observations, the biggest reason that most people want to wear gloves is to avoid calluses.
Nobody wants to have cheese-grater hands, so many people understandably use workout gloves in an effort to avoid this.
Well, wearing gloves won’t make much of a difference to whether you’ll get calluses or not.
I have lifted extensively both with and without gloves. In both cases I developed calluses.
In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that you may get even worse calluses with gloves, as a result of holding the bar incorrectly.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend that most people wear workout gloves.
Technique is incredibly important when lifting weights, so that point alone overrides any of the potential benefits of using gloves.
Now, to address the primary fear, you can treat any potential calluses that develop by moistening them, and shaving them down if necessary.
Or they might not actually end up bothering you – and you may even start seeing them as badges of honor as you lift more and more weight.
If you are considering wearing gloves for grip issues, I would suggest working on your grip strength instead.
Or purchasing some straps, chalk, or even an eco-ball, if you feel your grip slipping during heavy barbell pulls.
All of that being said, I don’t think that workout gloves are the worst thing in the world.
If you are lifting mostly lighter dumbbells, live in a really cold climate, or just prefer the way that gloves feel, then go right ahead and wear them.
In fact, I’ll be following up this article soon with some of my recommendations on which gloves you should consider.
But for now, let me finish with one more benefit of NOT lifting with gloves…
And while this is only my opinion, I believe that workout gloves take away from the visceral experience of lifting weights.
There is a barrier between you and the weight. Your hands never feel the cool steel of the bar, but instead only the warm embrace of their protective sheath.
Is this more comfortable?
Is it better for getting you pumped up and lifting more weight?
Not in my experience…