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The glove discussion: Should I use them?

By  Jasper Remmerswaal

This article is my personal opinion and its arguments therefore all arise from my own logic and empiricism. These are not facts backed by science but opinions backed by my own logic and experiences.

A lot of people in the gym use gloves. Guys, girls, young people, old people. The reasons for using these gloves are not all known to me, but on the most common things I hear is that ‘’Gloves give me more grip strength.’’. I also think that a lot of people wear gloves because they think it looks cool, but I have no study backing up this statement. In this small article I will tell my view on the usage of gloves and what I think are the pro’s and con’s.

The grip argument

I am pretty much against the use of gloves, 99% of the time, and I will explain why. Gloves increase bar diameter. Think of yourself trying to grab a tennis ball or a baseball and then trying to grab a football (That means soccer; I am Dutch). The football is way harder to grip, because the ball is bigger, right? This is basically what happens when you put on gloves. The object you are trying to grab will artificially become bigger, making it harder for you to get a correct grip on it (also: try using fat gripz or deadlifting with a fat bar). When lifting gloves do give you more grip strength, this is likely because your hands have become dependent on the gloves. Using gloves for an extended period of time will not give your hands a chance to adapt to the new stimulus. This will make your grip weaker in the long run.

Conclusion: here we have two arguments against gloves.

The ‘’I want my hands to look pretty pretty’’ argument

People often use gloves because lifting gives you calluses (in Dutch: eelt!). A callus is a thickening of the skin (if you still think ‘’what is a callus?’’, quickly google it!). I think fear of calluses is an irrational fear, but nonetheless I will go into it because the argument, besides being irrational, is also futile. Wearing gloves really won’t reduce calluses that much. If you correctly lift a bar, the bar will be held in the most distal crease of the hand (or most proximal phalanges), close to the fingers. In laymen’s terms: grip the bar in the crease between the palm and the first phalanx (=vingerkootje). This will give you the firmest grip and will reduce the forming of calluses. See the picture below! When wearing gloves, it will become hard to put the bar in the correct place. This means the bar will have to lie more to the middle of the palm of the hand. This grip will increase calluses because you will pinch the skin of your hand way more. The palm is more ‘meatier’ and foldable in the middle compared to the end where the fingers are.

What is also important to take in consideration is that gloves will make your hands sweatier because the warmth of your hands will be better isolated. A gym is full of people with bacteria and a fungal infection does well in warm, moist climates. You pretty much give an infection the best climate by wearing gloves. You can also take into account eczema, if you are someone who suffers from this a lot.

Conclusion: Two more arguments against gloves.

Gloves are not allowed in powerlifting and weightlifting competitions.

Well, this argument speaks for itself. You are simply not allowed to use gloves in competitions, so it is better if you don’t train with them when you are planning on competing. Not applicable for most lifters of course, but still an argument worth mentioning.

Are gloves then completely useless?

I opened my first argument by stating that I think gloves are useless 99% of the time. So, what is that one percent? There are two arguments. The first is closely related with the fungus argument: gloves keep your hands warm. When you work out in Antarctica, you will need lifting gloves. The barbells and dumbbells can get pretty cold in some other countries too. However, unless your gym is really cold, gloves are not necessary. The other argument is a torn callus (in Dutch: gescheurd eelt, meestal door een blaar ónder het eelt). Lifting with a torn callus is not a pleasant experience, and wearing gloves to make your training more comfortable is advisable.

I would like to end this small article with a Mark Rippetoe quote. Mark Rippetoe is the writer of Starting Strength (amongst other books), which is considered one of the best reads there is for the novice trainee.

‘’If you insist on wearing gloves, make sure they match your purse.’’ – Mark Rippetoe

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