Laine Norton

Author Archives: Laine Norton

Proper Way To Do Deadlifts – A guide to perfect deadlift form

You need to learn the proper way to do deadlifts because they’re F***-ing awesome!

No need for a long intro here. No self-indulgent story about how the deadlift saved my life. Coz’ it didn’t and you came here to learn about deadlifts for yourself, not to learn about me.

As a quick note, so you don’t waste your time, this guide is based around the conventional deadlift only. I lift conventional and prefer if over sumo for the majority of people.

I may do one on the sumo deadlift at some point since it is a lift worth doing and it seems to be becoming ever more popular on the powerlifting platform too. Until then, you can check out this sumo deadlift tutorial by

Click here for a nice conventional vs sumo form comparison from KateLiftFitness.​

The benefits of deadlifts

If you have already read my how to squat properly article, many of the benefits of squatting can be said about deadlifting as well. So, in an effort to avoid repeating myself, I will list a few of the top benefits that are more specific to the deadlift alone.

Stronger core, legs and back

Not only does the deadlift work a lot of muscles, the main muscles that it works are absolute powerhouses.

Deadlifting puts a huge emphasis on your core muscles, upper/lower back muscles and your legs. All of those muscles are used heavily every single day and even more heavily in most sports.

Every athlete would benefit from strengthening their core, back and legs. An exercise that can strengthen all three simultaneously cannot and should not be ignored.

It also happens that weaknesses in those muscles, particularly the core and back, are very often a contributing factor to back pain and injuries.

With back pain and back injuries being such common occurrences, it really makes sense for everybody to be performing some kind of deadlift in their training plans.

Improved Posture

poor posture

The deadlift can strengthen postural muscles to help you stand straighter and taller

Holding an effective, solid position for a deadlift demands good flexibility and a strong upper back.

It kind of works in a two-fold manner. If you have developed a poor posture of your shoulders/upper back over time, the deadlift can be used to discover the areas where you are lacking in mobility and strength.

For example, you will have a tough time keeping your shoulder blades tight and packed down if you have a rounder and hunched-shoulder posture.

When you become aware of the issues you have, you can then use the deadlift, alongside some other mobility work, to help improve the problem areas.

If you are able to build up enough flexibility and back strength to hold a solid spine position throughout a heavy deadlift, I have no doubt that your posture will improve as a result.

Mental Toughness and grit

To get yourself in better shape and to get strong takes hard work. At times, you are going to have to get uncomfortable and push past your current limits. Maybe even lift some weights that are a little scary.

Learning how to push hard and not give up at the first sign of difficulty can be a skill that you can improve upon over time. Deadlifting is probably the best exercise to learn how to do that.

Grinding through a hard set or rep and really pushing yourself from time to time is key to making progress. Sometimes, to conquer a barrier you are going to have to dig deep and grit your teeth.

comfort zone

Deadlifting can teach you how to do that in a much safer way than most other exercises.

With the deadlift, you aren’t going to get stuck with the bar on your back or with the bar crashing down on your chest. If you try to push and can’t quite make it, you simply lower the bar back to the ground.

I’m not talking about taking stupid risks here or lifting weights that are too heavy for you to handle safely. Your technique still needs to remain safe and pretty solid.

What I’m saying is that you can use the deadlift to learn how to dig a little deeper and maybe take a few more calculated risks than you can with a squat.

You also feel like an absolute king when you do finally stand tall, chest puffed out while holding the bending bar after grinding through a truly gut-busting personal best lift.

Works more muscles than any other lift

In my how to squat article, I said that a huge benefit of the squat was the sheer number of different muscles that are activated during the exercise.

The deadlift is very much the same, if not better. It pretty much engages the muscles of every main muscle group in your body. The only group that probably doesn’t get a huge deal of work is your chest. Everything else is hit in some way or another.

Muscles activated during a deadlift

Of course, the more muscles that you work, the more muscle you have the potential of building.

Learning the proper way to do deadlifts allows you to work large numbers of different muscle groups with heavy weight in a single exercise.

Moving multiple muscles and joints in one exercise is an excellent way to get your body working as a single unit.

During daily life and in sports, your body functions as an entire unit. It makes more sense to spend the majority of your time training movements that require total body activation in the gym.

Muscles worked in a deadlift

Honestly, there are so many muscles worked at some point in the deadlift that I probably couldn’t even list all of them properly if I tried.

I am just going to stick to the main muscles worked. Those will be the ones that you are likely to care more about anyway.

Of course, to target all the muscles effectively, it is important to learn and consistently practice the proper way to do deadlifts​ before piling the weight on the bar.

Muscles worked in a deadlift

As you can see, deadlifts work a ridiculously large amount of muscles!

The main muscles targeted by the deadlift are going to be your glutes, hamstrings and spinal erectors.

Other muscles that support and work as synergists are the quads, calves, adductors, abductors, all of your upper back and shoulder girdle muscles and your core musculature.

Your forearms and hand muscles will also be getting an extreme workout. Making the deadlift a great grip builder as well.

Your pectorals (chest muscles) are one of the few muscles groups that don't get a whole lot of work in the deadlift. They may tense up and stabilize your shoulder slightly but there won’t be a whole lot of work being done by them.

You have probably heard the term “most bang for your buck” mentioned when people talk about the best exercises to do in the gym. I think the deadlift probably wins that argument and, in my opinion, beats the squat for the title of the king of lifts.

For a more in depth look at individual muscle involvement, check out this very helpful deadlift muscles article from

Video guide for the proper way to do deadlifts

Much like most of the exercise guides I post, this is a general guide on how to perform the deadlift properly and safely.

I understand, and you should too, that everybody is built different and has individual strengths and weaknesses that will change how the deadlift looks from person to person.

There is not one set-in-stone way to deadlift and this guide isn't trying to portray that. This is a guide for you to learn a solid, safe technique that you can tweak and optimize for yourself over time.

Having said that, there are a small set of universal guidelines that all deadlifts should follow. This guide will cover those.

Once your deadlift technique adheres to the main guidelines, you can then go on to more advanced methods and tweak your form to get more out of it.

I have embedded a video version of the guide below to accommodate the more visual learners. It was originally made for my online coaching website, Online Strength Academy.

Step-by-step guide to proper deadlift form

1. Foot position and stance width.

Stance width is one of those things that can vary quite a bit from person to person. I suggest beginning with your feet around hip-width apart and then adjusting based on your own preferences from there.

One good little test to try and find a naturally powerful position for you is to perform a few standing vertical jumps and see how far apart you naturally position your feet before you jump. That width will likely be a nice starting point.

Once you have your stance width, you then need to approach the bar with it. Position your feet in your chosen stance width underneath the bar. As look down on your feet, the bar should be cutting straight across your mid-foot.

2. The start position of the pull.

Take your grip right outside your legs. You should aim to grip as narrow as you can without your arms getting in the way of your legs.

You can then focus on getting your torso set by bending your knees until your shins come into contact with the bar.

proper way to do deadlifts start position

The bar should be positioned directly below your shoulder blades.

Common mistakes people make here are getting their shoulder too far in front of the bar or sitting down too low and starting with their shoulder way behind the bar. Both of these will have negative effects on your lift.

2 things MUST happen in a truly heavy deadlift if the bar is to rise: The bar must be over mid-foot and the shoulder blades must be over the bar.

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3. Get you upper back set and tight!

This one is commonly ignored or not thought about. Before you pull the weight from the floor, you need to get your upper back in a solid and tight position by engaging your lats properly.

A good cue to get your lats and to pack your shoulders pack and down is to imagine you are trying to bend the bar around your body during the lift.

Keeping this cue in mind throughout the whole lift will go a long way to preventing your upper back from rounding during the lift.

A rounded upper back is used on purpose by some lifters as it can help them produce a bit more power during the initial part of the lift.

However, this does tend to make the final stage of the lift (known as the lockout) harder. You also don’t want your back to round at all during the lift for safety reasons.

4. Pulling the slack out.

“Slack” in the bar, is that little bit of wiggle room and play that you have between the barbell and the plates. If you shake the bar when it’s loaded on the ground, you will feel and hear what I mean.

Before you lift, you should already be pulling against the bar and removing that little bit of play or “slack”. If you are yanking on the bar and hearing that little clanging noise as you lift, you haven’t pulled the slack out properly.

5. Start the pull, keep the bar close.

The very last step before pulling is to take a big breath into your belly and tense your abs hard. Just like in the squat guide.

You can then initiate the pull by driving your legs hard into the ground. Focus on keeping the bar extremely close to your body during the lift.

As the bar starts to pass your knees, you can then begin the lockout by engaging your glutes forcing your hips forward to finish the lift.

There’s no need to overextend your lower back or lean backwards at the top of the lift. Stand dead straight with your shoulders back and your glutes squeezed hard.

Deadlift Drills and Variations

Block pulls

Dan green deadlift from blocks

If you lack the mobility to lift with good technique from the floor, you can start with the weights elevated on some blocks.

Lifting the weight up means that there is less of a demand on your flexibility. You can work on your mobility limitations outside of the block pulls. Over time, the idea would be to gradually lower the blocks so that you get used to deadlifting from closer to the floor. Eventually, the block will be removed and you can deadlift with a full range of motion.

Snatch-grip deadlifts

These are an excellent tool for helping you to maintain a flat back position when deadlifting.

It does require a bit of extra mobility but the idea is simple. Take a grip that resembles an Olympic lifter performing the snatch instead of your usual grip.

You will be taking a much wider grip than normal, which forces you to engage your upper back. In turn, you will find it more difficult to round your back as you lift.

Sumo deadlifts

Jonnie Candito sumo deadlift

Perhaps the most common deadlift variation outside of the conventional lift. Sumo deadlifts are sometimes used by competitors that benefit from the extra demand on the quads and the shorter range of motion for the lift.

Of course, if you are a competitor then you want to use the style of lift that allows you to lift the most. You can only really find that out through trialing them both.

I do think there is a place for training both types of deadlift since they do work different muscles in different ways. If you want to be a well-rounded lifter or athlete, then there is a case for training both styles.

I actually used sumo deadlifts recently in an effort to help increase the mobility and strength of my hips. They definitely did the trick, in turn helping my squat technique quite a bit.

Closing Thoughts and Summary

Go and deadlift. A lot!

Oh, and have a look at these other articles to help your deadlift training:

Find the best shoes to deadlift in​.

Improve your grip strength.

How to squat Properly – Guide to good squat form

You found your way to this article, which means you want to know how to squat properly. So, I’m guessing you are thinking the squat could be a pretty good exercise to add into your program.

Well, you would be wrong! The squat is an AWESOME exercise to add into your training program.

I honestly feel like anybody who has the goal of getting stronger, building more muscle, being healthier, increasing athleticism or basically any other gym-related goal, should be performing some type of squat.

This article will teach you exactly why the squat is such a great exercise as well as teaching you how to perform the squat with good technique.

You may want to bookmark this post if you don't have much time to read right now. I wanted to create something super in-depth and at​ over 4000 words, I think I did it.

The benefits of squatting

Of course, you have to learn how to squat properly in order to get all of the benefits. That will come later. For now, here is a quick run-down of just some of the reasons that many refer to the squat as the king of exercises.

Squatting uses a heck of a lot of muscles

The squat is a compound movement in the truest form. If you haven’t heard of a compound movement before, it is an exercise that requires movement at more than one joint in your body.

Exercises that require movement at more than one joint, require multiple muscles to be activating. Working multiple muscles at the same time can only be a good thing.

More muscles worked means more calories burnt, greater overall muscle building stimulus and usually, more weight lifted in a given exercise.

Full range squats increase mobility

Lately, it seems that everybody wants to be more mobile or more flexible. There's all kinds of crazy stretching routines around and massage devices that look like they belong in the 50 shades of grey books.

In all seriousness, some of those mobility routines and tools are brilliant and really can help increase your flexibility.

Squatting should certainly help to improve mobility in those areas over time. I mean, look at the stretch the guy below is getting!

ATG squat

Of course, if you lack the mobility to reach a full-depth squat with good technique, you may need to look into those other tools first.

Squats are “functional”

I’m not overly keen on the term “functional training” or “functional strength”. I mean, surely all training and building any type of strength is functional at some point.

It can all be transferred over to daily life in one way or another.

However, I do understand what is most people mean by the term functional and squats fit right in there.

Squatting is a very natural movement pattern.

It is the way we would defecate if the toilet hadn’t been around.

It is also the default position a baby or toddler takes up when they pick anything up from the ground.

Deep squat baby

What I wouldn't give to be able to squat like this little guy! Dresses better than me too 🙁

Modern day-to-day life has rather robbed us of our ability to maintain such immaculate squat form as we grow older. Since we sit in chairs so much, our muscles adapt to that seated position, which makes the deep squat harder.

Damn you comfy but un-natural, mobility ruining sofa!

Getting your body back into the routine of being able to squat properly and getting strong will help to stay flexible and injury-free throughout your daily tasks.

Heavy squats build mental fortitude

Putting a heavy weight on your back, sinking down into a nice, low squat and the driving yourself back to standing is damn hard!

The bottom position of a heavy squat is not the most comfortable position to be in and the thought of getting stuck down there under such weight can be daunting.

All of that sounds awful and might make you think twice about squatting, but those things provide all the more reason to squat.

If you can overcome all of that in your mind on a regular basis, I feel like it can be transferred to your everyday thinking.

Now, I don’t want to get too deep or wishy-washy here. But, I do feel that lifting has many parallels to your life in general.

One of which is the fact that to progress, you are going to need to push and be uncomfortable. You are going to need to overcome and do some stuff that scares you, in both lifting and in life.

I think pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is a learnable skill. A skill that you can begin to learn in the gym.

There is no better exercise to teach you that skill than squatting. It is probably the most uncomfortable and difficult exercise to perform. Therefore, requires real mental toughness to push through your limits and get stronger.

What Muscles do Squats Work?

I just mentioned above that squats are awesome because they work sooo many muscles in your body. But, which ones are actually being used?

There really are so many. Obviously, the entire leg is involved in some way or another during a squat. So, that covers your quads, hamstrings, adductors, abductors, I will throw the glutes in this part too, your calves, anterior tibialis (front of shin muscle) all the way down to the small muscles of your feet.

Your entire hip musculature gets involved too, so that all of your hip flexors and extensor muscles.

Pretty much your whole back is being worked, especially if you are performing a barbell back squat and need to lock the bar in place.

Your abs and the other muscles all around your trunk are being worked to keep you stable and your spine safe.

Basically, the squat works quite a few muscles.

For you visual learners, here is a little video I found that shows each muscle involved with a squat and how it serves the body during the exercise.

It’s a bit weird, I didn’t really know what was going on at first but then I worked it out.

The skeleton is trying to perform a squat but doesn’t have the muscles to do so. So, the little guy attaches the muscles one-by-one so you can see exactly how each muscle affects the squat.

It’s a pretty cool way of giving a visual for how the muscles are working during squatting movements:

How to squat properly

If you have actually read all of the text thus far, well done to you. You are now a relative expert on the theory behind squatting. Now, you will finally learn how perform a squat with the proper technique.

I will say, that this is a generalised guide that will provide a solid starting point for the majority of people to get squatting.

It is impoirtant to understand that everybody is built differently, has different mobility levels and has varied areas of strength.

That means everybody’s squat will look slightly different. Everybody’s optimal squat technique will probably also be a bit different. This is all stuff that you will have to play around with and learn over time.

This squat guide will teach you the main principles of a good squat, most of which remain true no matter what style of squat you eventually end up doing.

If you are a beginner or haven’t squatted much, then following the steps in this guide will give you a solid technique that you can build upon. So, let’s get to it.

To make the guide easier on myself and on you, I have inserted a video that I created for my online coaching company,

My co-coach for Online Strength Academy, Brandon, is the one squatting in the video. He has a naturally great looking squat. It’s a pretty detailed video and I will post the written steps below it.

I hope you enjoyed the vid and learned a lot from it. Just to recap, the general steps are:

1. Bar position.

Create a shelf for the bar on the muscles of your upper back. Squeeze your shoulder blades tight and keep them back and down. The upper back needs to remain tight throughout the whole lift.

Don’t worry too much about high bar or low bar for now, just get in in a comfortable and stable position on you back.

2. Walking the bar out of the rack.

squat walk out

Think about what you are doing when you walk the bar out of the rack. Get tight under the bar before you un-rack it and walk out with it.

You should aim to take as few steps backwards as possible to conserve energy for the actual squat. I like a three-step walk out, some people prefer to do it in two.

Toes will probably be pointed out slightly. Commonly around a 30-degree angle. Again, this is something you can play around with.

3. Proper breathing.

Proper breathing is key to keeping your torso rigid and in a good position throughout the squat. It will also help to keep your spine safe.

Take a big breath into your stomach when you are ready to squat. The breathing into your stomach is key.

As you breathe in, your stomach should expand. Whilst pushing your stomach out, you need to then brace your abs and squeeze your glutes.

Valsalva maneuver for squats

Diagram of a good breathing and bracing pattern for squats. Known as a valsalva maneuver.

To brace your abs, tense them as if something is about to hit you in your stomach and hold that tensed up feeling for the duration of the rep.

Bracing your abs and squeezing your glutes, will bring your rib-cage down slightly and will tilt your hips forward a little. All of this creates a neutral spine from the beginning of the lift.

A good lifting belt can be used to as a tool for increasing the intra-abdominal pressure and helping you to lift heavier weights. To choose the right belt, check out my weightlifting belt guide.

4. The descent.

As you drop down into the squat, you should aim to break at the hips and knees simultaneously.

Some people will bend their knees first, others will tend to bend at the hips and shoot their butts back behind them. Doing either of these often shifts the bar-path backwards or forwards on the way down.

By breaking the knees and hips at the same time, you should have an easier time keeping the bar in a straight line as you squat down.

5. Reaching proper depth.

A good squat should aim to reach below “parallel” in depth. Parallel, in squat terms, is when the top of your knee-cap is in line with your hip crease as you look at it from the side at the very bottom of your squat.

Parallel squat diagram

A below "parallel" squat.

Below parallel, which is what you should ultimately be aiming for, is when your hip crease is below the top of your knee at the lowest point of your squat.

You should be able to reach at least a parallel squat without your technique breaking down or your back rounding.

If you are unable to reach that level, you may need to work on your mobility (I will cover a bit of that later on) or you could have certain weaknesses that need to be addressed.

If your mobility is ok, a weakness in the core or upper back could be causing your technique to falter as you reach good squat depth. 

I have written a complete tutorial on how to squat lower, click here to read it.

6. Open your hips, knees in line with toes.

In order to hit proper depth and keep as upright as you can, you need to create some space between your legs for your trunk.

To do this, you have to open your hips as you reach the bottom of your squat. Opening your hips, is achieved by actively pushing your feet outwards against the ground.

The mental cue for this is to imagine you are pulling the ground apart with your feet by driving them outwards. Or, if you were standing on top of a sheet of paper and wanted to rip it in two with your feet.

You must keep those glutted engaged the whole time. If you relax them at the bottom or on the way up, your knees will probably cave inwards.

Knees caving, or valgus as it is known, is not good for your knees at all. Your knee caps should be kept in alignment with your toes for the entire squat.

7. Stand up.

Ray Williams powerlifting competition squat

Now that you have reached proper depth safely and with good technique, all that left is to stand back up.

It isn’t quite as simple as that, though. There are way more teaching points for the start and descent of the squat, but there are still a few things to be mindful of on the way back up.

The first one would be to keep your abs braced and maintain that pressure that you created at the start in your trunk. This will serve to keep your spine position constant.

Aim for the position of your back to be the same on the way up as it was when you came down.

Many people just think about pushing up with their legs, which can make their hips move up and backwards before the bar actually starts rising.

Think about driving your back into the barbell. This cue can help you to make sure that the bar starts rising at the same time as your hips.

If you are competing and they are allowed in your federation, a pair of knee sleeves can make the initial drive out of the bottom easier. Have a browse through my knee sleeves guide to find the best pair.​

There you have it. The step-by-step guide to performing a proper squat. The only thing you can do now is practice, practice and practice some more. You should treat squatting just like any other skill, perfect it over time by performing it frequently and you will do just fine.

Common Squat Mistakes

This inforgraphic shows 3 common squat errors with a few tips on how to fix them. I go into more detail on each, plus an extra one, below. Feel free to share use the infographic for your own website by copying the code below it!

3 Squat Mistakes Infographic

Common squat mistakes infographic

Click image to view full size. Feel free to use this on your own site by copying and pasting the code below.

Shooting the hips back way too far

This is usually caused by breaking at the hips way before you bend your knees. It's primarily done by people that want to get their back and posterior chain involved in the movement more.

Often times, people feel more comfortable leaning forwards and throwing their hips backwards at the start of a squat, as opposed to bending the knees at the same time and staying more upright.

Squatting this way makes it more difficult to achieve a good depth squat and increases the likelihood of your squat resembling a "good morning" on the way back up.

Hips shooting back in the squat diagram

It also causes the bar to get out in front of your mid-line (if you were watching from a side angle), which puts the weight over your toes and can pitch your body forwards at the bottom.

You can remedy this by focusing on bending your knees much earlier during your descent. Remember, you should be aiming to break at the hips and kneed together.

Incorrect bracing

It is quite common for people to be confused by how to brace or tense the abs properly. A cue I sometime here is to “draw the abs in”. I hate this cue.

While technically, the abs will be drawn in and your rib cage will be set downwards when you brace, this cue usually makes people suck their stomach in like they are trying to squeeze into an old pair of jeans.

Bracing correctly involves drawing a big breath into your stomach, pushing your stomach out to increase pressure around your trunk (think about creating a belly like a Buddha) and then tensing your abs hard as if something is about to hit you in the stomach.

Proper bracing is so important for keeping your spine in a safe, stable position during your squats.

Heels rising

Sometimes, people’s heels may rise as a result of breaking with only their knees and trying to stay ultra-upright by not bending at the hips at all.

Heel lifting in the squat

Impressive physique. Not sure about the trousers. Very disappointed with the heels!

If you squat this way, you will normally find that your heels lift up as you get lower into the squat. You can fix this in the opposite way as the first mistake, by trying to break at your hips earlier in the movement.

Again, knees and hips should break at pretty much the same time.

Another cause of heels lifting off the ground is a lack of ankle mobility.

It happens If you lack range of motion in your ankle, more specifically dorsiflexion (the ability to bend your ankle upwards by bringing your toes towards your shin). Tight calf muscles will very likely be the cause of this one.

If you know you have tight calves, take a look at this detailed and very useful article on how to fix them:

Alongside improving your ankle mobility, you may also find that a pair of weightlifting shoes could help you out. Here’s my complete guide on buying weightlifting shoes and reviews of the best ones.

Knees caving in or collapsing

This is the final common mistake that I wanted to cover, it is actually extremely common.

Like the squat guide and the video above explained, you must aim to keep your knees in line with your toes during your squats. What you certainly do not want is for them to cave inwards as you rise up from the bottom.

The main cause of knees collapsing inwards is relaxing the glute muscles at the bottom of the movement or barely using them at all.

I already mentioned it earlier, but you should be imagining that your feet are pulling the floor apart while you are squatting. Using that cue should help you to keep your knees driven out and your glutes turned on.

A good little warmup drill is to place a mini resistance band around your knees and do a few reps with it there.

The band will be forcing your knees inwards and you will be forced to use your glutes to keep them out. It’s a nice drill to do if you have trouble feeling or engaging your glute muscles in a squat.

Knee valgus band drill

Mobility legend, Kelly Starrett of Mobility Wod ( demonstrating a banded drill to combat knee valgus during a squat

One other fairly common cause of the knees caving inwards is the collapse of your foot arches. If your arches collapse, your feet will angle inwards and your knees will follow them.

The arches usually collapse because your body is trying to find for a stable position under a heavy load.

Your body is very clever and does this kind of thing automatically. It flattens your feet by collapsing the arches because a flat foot equals greater ground contact and a more stable base.

Good in theory, but it causes problem further up the chain, at the knees.

If you find your arches collapsing, you can combat the problem by using the “spread the floor” cue and strengthening your feet arches.

A good exercise for that is to stand on a towel that has been laid flat on the ground, then use your feet to scrunch the towel up by grabbing it with your toes and bringing it towards you.

Helpful Squat Variations

Goblet squats

goblet squat

As you can see from the picture, a goblet squat is performed by holding a weight in front of you at your chest.

Having the weight in front of you means that you are forced to engage your abs quite strongly. If you don’t use them, the weight will pull your forward and you will be off balance.

Any squat where the weight is in front of your body is also going to put a bit more emphasis on your quads. So, if you need to strengthen your quads, try a front-loaded squat variation like this.

I personally like using the goblet squat as a teaching tool or a corrective exercise for the squat. Having an easy to hold weight like a kettlebell or dumbbell in front of you acts as a bit of a counterbalance. The counterbalance is great for getting into a nice deep and upright squat position.

I use goblet squats in my own training as a warmup exercise for every squat workout. I like to use a weight as that counterbalance and just hang-out for a while in a very deep squat. It’s great for getting stretching out the hips and increasing comfort in the bottom position under a little bit of load.

Box squats

Box squats are very much as they sound. You squat on top of a box.

box squat image

Box squats are great for learning a squat pattern if you don’t yet feel comfortable in the bottom position. You could also use them to improve your squat depth over time if you have trouble reaching below parallel.

You would start by squatting to a box that is at the height of the deepest squat you can perform with good technique. Over time, you can then lower that box height bit by bit until you are squatting to a box that is below parallel.

Another great use for box squat is for athletes or sports people. Box squats tend to be more hip dominant and strong hips are super important to an athlete.

Squatting to a higher box also mimics the action an athlete would take if they were jumping. You wouldn’t squat all the way down and then jump, you perform a much faster and shallower squat before you launch yourself into the air.

Squatting to mimic that kind of athletic movement pattern is probably the only reason for somebody not to hit below parallel in a squat on purpose.

Front squats

I love and hate front squats. I love the benefits but hate how much they make me feel sick when I do them.

Girl performing a front squat

Front squats are hard.

They are especially hard for lifter like myself, who naturally squat with a bit more forward lean due to my build and tendency to try and the stronger muscles of my back involved in the squat.

Front squats work in pretty much the same way as the goblet squats, they are both front-loaded. Being front-loaded means that you will be forced to maintain a much more upright torso position.

Maintaining that upright torso position puts a huge demand on the muscles of your core. Heavier weights can be handled with a front squat than with a goblet squat.

Heavy weight held in front of your body during a squat really does demand a lot of your core and your upper back strength. That’s why I love them so much.

Whenever I focus more on front squats in my program, my back-squat technique improves almost right away.

Give them a try if you need some extra core work or if you want to shift a bit of extra focus on to your quads.

Get to squattin’

I think that was a pretty in-depth article on squats. I’m not one to brag but I feel like it covered a s**t-ton of useful information, feel free to disagree in the comments and I will do my best to include anything I might have missed.

Also, feel free to hit one of the share buttons below to spread the squat love with your pals.

After you have commented and shared it, get yourself in the squat-rack and put it to good use!

Best Knee Sleeves for Squatting – Guide and knee sleeve reviews

Knee sleeves are becoming a staple accessory in the gym bag of many lifters. Primarily used for squats, lunges and sometimes deadlifts, a good pair of knee sleeves could enhance your training and take your performance to new levels. Finding the best knee sleeves for squatting and lifting is a task not to be taken lightly.

It requires research and reviews. Luckily, I have done all of it for you and written it all down below.

This article contains the complete guide to buying the right pair knee sleeves for lifting and reviews the very best sleeves around.

Featured Knee Sleeves - Quick view​

Do knee sleeves prevent injury?

Knee sleeves are an elasticated material used to compress the knee joint during physical activity. For this article, I am focusing mainly on squatting in knee sleeves so I will primarily be using squats as a measure for my recommendations.

The idea for compressing the knee joint comes mainly down to injury prevention. The knee sleeves are designed to keep the knee “in place” and keep the joint warmer through the compression. However, the effectiveness of knee sleeves when it comes to actual injury prevention is a bit of a grey area.

I could find no studies on the injury prevention from knee sleeves themselves but this study looked at the effects of knee braces (the bulkier looking knee-wear) on athletes. Interestingly, it showed fewer injuries in the non-braced participants.

So, knee sleeves have limited solid proof of preventing injuries. Of course, that can be hard to study. It’s very hard to tell if a knee sleeve would have prevented an injury once it’s actually happened or not.

What has been looked at and seems to favour the use of knee sleeves is the effects they have on reducing pain in already injured knees. This study showed a decrease in pain in subjects diagnosed with osteoarthritis.

Knee pain from squats graphic

The study stated that the reduced pain probably came as a result of the increased warmth around the joint provided by the knee sleeve. Increased warmth around a joint usually causes people to feel more comfortable and less pain.

Do knee sleeves help squats?

So far, I have spoken about the medical reasons for knee sleeves. I’m sure what you’re really interested in is the boost they will give your squatting.

You really can’t argue the fact that knee sleeves can improve your squat performance by a decent amount. More or less every competitor at the IPF world championships last year was wearing them.

Heck, you would struggle to find many local-level competitors not wearing them if their federation allows them to be worn.

It is important to note that you should not rely on knee sleeves to help your squat if you have bad technique. Perfecting your form always comes first. You can make sure you're technique is on point by viewing my squat form guide.​

Back to the sleeves. The increase in squat weight comes as a result of the elasticated sleeves being stretched over the quad then bunched up and compressed behind the knee at the bottom of a squat. These factors create a slingshot effect out of the bottom position, which is the most difficult part of the squat.

Some lifters report an increase of up to 25lbs/11.3kgs from their knee sleeves. It does depend on sizing; tighter knee sleeves have a bigger effect but are going to be less comfortable and may restrict mobility.

A note on sleeve tightness for competitive lifters: you have to be able to pull on your sleeves by yourself if you wear them in certain competitions. You won’t be able to do that if they are super tight. No more of this technique, despite it's genius:

Another factor that can help with performance is the proprioceptive aids that the sleeves can offer. I find this myself, they offer feedback that makes it really easy to know when you have reached the depth you are aiming for.

Yes, you should be able to learn this without any sleeves, it just becomes much easier and repeatable when you do wear them.

Especially under heavy loads, I have found that there is more chance for me to sink the squat way too deep as the load is pushing me further down. Wearing my sleeves definitely helps me to hit a more consistent depth every time.

Who should wear knee sleeves?

I don’t think anybody really needs knee sleeves. They should be used as another training tool just like wrist wraps, weightlifting straps, belts and lifting shoes.

If you are able to lift heavier when wearing a pair of knee sleeves, then wearing them at certain times during your training can really help you push past your current limits and progress in your squat.

As mentioned earlier, if you are already suffering from a slight injury then knee sleeves could help you to train around it while you recover.

However, you need to make sure that you are recovering and rehabbing the injury as well. If squatting in the sleeves impedes recovery, don’t use them.

If you are a competitive lifter and your federation allows the use of knee sleeves, use them. Be sure to use them in your training leading up to the competition as well.

Similar to using a belt, you have to get a feel for them first. It isn’t wise to just throw a pair of sleeves on and expect an immediate increase in your one rep max.

I think the bottom line for the use of knee sleeves is very similar to most other training aids and equipment. They can be an excellent tool and will improve your squat numbers.

Use them to supplement your training but don’t become reliant on them. I once became so reliant on my knee sleeves that if I forgot to bring them, I wouldn’t even bother squatting.

I don’t know what I thought I would achieve by skipping my squats completely, it was entirely down to my ego not letting me go a touch lighter for the day. Ridiculous! Don’t fall into that trap.

Best knee sleeves for squatting – Top pick reviews

All of the sleeves I am picking here, with the exception of one brand, have been made by manufacturers that specialise in powerlifting equipment. These are the guys that you want to be buying knee sleeves from, they will have researched and worked with the strongest squatters around to come up with these products.

All of the brands I have picked are also worn by some of the strongest guys in the world so that should tell you all you need to know.

I also believe all the featured sleeves are approved by the IPF, which is vital for competitors in that federation.

Each sleeve does have a few little differences that might sway your decision. I will get into those for each product below.

SBD knee sleeves

Probably the most popular brand of knee sleeves among lifters today. They have been around for a few years now and still remain the cream of the crop, in my opinion.


- 7mm thick

- High-grade neoprene

- 30cm in length

- Very durable

Best knee sleeves for squatting, the SBDs

These sleeves will definitely give your squat a boost. A big plus for the SBDs is their length, this means greater coverage and support over more of your leg.

They should also last a very long time. Mine have done thousands of reps, worn for competitions, washed numerous times (an absolute necessity that you will soon understand once you have worn knee sleeves for a few workouts) and they still look and perform like new.

The only downsides I could think of would be that they only come in a single colour variation.

I really don’t think you can go wrong with the SBD knee sleeves, to be honest.

Rehband RX 7mm knee sleeves

The only company on the list that doesn’t just specialize in powerlifting gear but that doesn’t mean they don’t know what they are doing when it comes to knee sleeves. The wild popularity of their original knee sleeves, the Rehband 7051, shows that Rehband knows exactly how to make a great pair of sleeves.


- 7mm thick, as you may have guessed

- Anatomically shaped for the knee

- 27mm long

- Colour options available

The original sleeves were the go-to squat sleeves for many before the powerlifting brands came along with their purpose-built knee sleeves.

Now, Rehband has a pair of knee sleeves that were made for the purpose of heavier, single or low rep lifts in mind. The RX 7mm sleeves.

Rehband has been specialising in knee equipment for over 60 years, they probably know the knee better than any manufacturer on this list.

The anatomically shaped design has been introduced to provide a more natural and comfortable joint motion while wearing the sleeves. One of the disadvantages of most heavy-duty knee sleeves is that they can be uncomfortable and a bit restrictive so this could be a huge benefit to some lifters.

One downside/annoyance of the Rehbands is the fact that they are sold in singles so be careful for that and make sure to order two.

I would be a little hesitant to suggest these for very heavy squats over the other brands on the list.

But, if you have tried and liked the original Rehband sleeves but are looking for something a bit heavier and geared towards increasing squat numbers, I have no doubt that you will like these sleeves.

Mark Bell’s Strong Sleeves

In my mind, these are the closest thing to a competitor for the all-conquering SBD sleeves.


- Seams on the side of the knee

- 7mm thick neoprene​

- Available in a range of colours and designs

The Strong sleeves are produced by Mark Bell of Slingshot and This guy obviously knows his powerlifting and hangs around a huge circle of other guys that know more than a thing or two about it as well.

The fact that mark has so many knowledgeable influences to call upon when it comes to designing and testing products, makes it no surprise that he keeps producing such quality gear.

The Strong sleeves are made of the same material, thickness and length of the SBD sleeves but they do have a couple of differences.

The seams being along the sides of the knee on these sleeves is really the main difference that I can tell. They are said to be there in order to reduce irritation around the knee during your workouts. I can definitely see this to be a good point.

The SBD sleeves have a seam that wraps around the knee and it can become fairly itchy once you begin to get a sweat on in the gym. It isn’t much but it can be annoying.

The wider choice of colours will be a huge plus to many. I know a lot of lifters that like to show a bit of personality or “flare” in the gym and on the platform so this will go down a treat with those guys.

I will admit, it’s always nice to have some design options to differentiate yourself.

In terms of performance, I don’t think there is going to be too much to separate these and the SBD sleeves.

I would say if you are worried about getting itchy legs from the SDB seems or you want to coordinate your knee sleeves with your shoes then go for the Strong sleeves.

Titan Yellow Jacket Sleeves

I will admit that I have never worn or even seen these sleeves in person. They are not as popular as the other brands but they still look like an interesting and solid knee sleeve.


- 7mm thick neoprene

- 30cm long

- Unique X-seem construction

- 11 sizing options

I have included them here since, despite my lack of personal experience with them, I see these sleeves as a very viable alternative to the others on this list.

Again, this is going to be fairly similar to all of the other sleeves. Just some very minor differences. These are made of the same material as the others and are the same 7mm thickness, which is the thickest allowable by the IPF.

The obvious difference here is the seam design. This time they are sewn around the knee cap in an X-shape.

Like with the SBDs, the company claims that their seam pattern adds support to your knee joint. The X-shape does make some sense to me, your ligaments run over the patella in a kind of X shape already so I can see their thinking.

I must say that I have seen a couple of reviews that have complained about the Yellow Jacket sleeves not being the most durable. Some saying they have fallen apart after a while.​

The yellow jackets only come in one colour, black with quite a striking yellow accent.

Final thoughts and recommendations

I love the SBD sleeves, you will find them in any list of the best knee sleeves for squatting and I cannot recommend them enough.

The only other sleeves I would think about are the Strong sleeves. They are pretty much the same as the SBDs but the colour options might be enough to sway some people.

So, I say pick one of those two and be happy with the confidence of knowing you picked a great knee sleeve to squat in.

Let me know your favourite knee sleeves for lifting in the comments and be sure to share this guide around with your lifting buddies by clicking the "share" buttons below​.

Best Weight Lifting Belt

The hunt to find the best weight lifting belt is inevitable at some point in the quest for strength. Often times, a belt will be one of the first purchases made when you decide you are getting serious about getting strong.

This article will offer guidance and recommendations to help you choose the right belt from the very start.

No messing around with flimsy, vinyl belts that do nothing but cut into your wallet and the flesh below your rib cage. You want to get the real deal from day one and keep it for years to come.

Featured Belts - quick table

The purpose of a weight lifting belt

The main purpose of wearing a belt for weight lifting, powerlifting, strongman or any other type of strength training is two-fold.

The first element is of course safety. The belt is there to provide extra stability around your trunk and lower back.

However, the belt doesn’t just “prop” your lower back up and support it that way. It works alongside your breathing and bracing techniques, which I will cover later, to increase the amount of pressure around your mid-section.

That extra pressure is what actually stabilizes your spine, not just the belt itself.

The second purpose for wearing a belt is the boost in performance that you can gain out of it. Due to the increase in pressure around your trunk, also known as intra-abdominal pressure, your core is essentially stronger when wearing a belt. Since the belt is artificially making your core stronger, it should allow you to lift more weight than usual when you are wearing it.

Who should wear a weight lifting belt?

A tough question to answer indefinitely. There are quite a few individual nuances that come into play, so all I can give are some factors to take into account and my own suggestions.

Firstly, I will tackle the easy part. The easy part is giving advice to individuals that compete in a strength sport that allows the use of a weight lifting or powerlifting belt.

To these guys, I say you should certainly be using a belt on competition day if it increases the amount of weight you can lift.

In training, it’s a slightly different matter. I don’t think it’s a good idea to become dependent on the belt all of the time.

You will need to wear it and practice using it but I feel that training belt-less for periods of time is a good idea. You can still be insanely strong without the belt, just ask Clarence Kennedy:

Ditching the belt for a while and training belt-less is hard work but if you can get stronger without it, when you put it back on you are likely to even stronger than before.

I don’t recommend too much belt-less training leading into a competition, though. You need to get used to wearing the belt and learning how to get the very most out of it.

For the non-competitive trainee, I think the belt is a very useful tool to push yourself past your limits in training at time. Obviously, it has its safety benefits too so you may want to throw a belt on for your very heaviest sets.

However, the guidelines are similar to the above. Be sure to train belt-less and get stronger without one for periods as well.

Becoming over-reliant on any training tool is not good. You never know when you might forget it or not have access to it for whatever reason.

You should also demonstrate solid technique before using training aids, like a belt, to increase your numbers. To make sure your squat is up to par, you can brush up on your technique by reading my squat guide.​

My suggestions​

For my own training, if anybody even cares, I tend to treat belted work almost like a variation of a movement. I feel that using the belt is a skill in itself.

Wearing a belt, for me, changes the lift and the amount of weight I can handle enough to warrant treating it separately from the belt-less variations of a lift.

So, I will have training phases of belted squats, for example, and then phases of non-belted squats.

It's the same kind of principle people use for working with variations for phases of training, such as box squats or pause squats. That's how I see it in my mind anyway, feel free to disagree.

How to use a belt properly for lifting

I already alluded to this earlier, it isn’t enough to just chuck a belt on and expect it to magically support your back and increase your lifts. You need to know how to use one correctly.

Here are the quick steps to using a weight lifting belt correctly:

  • Take a deep breath into your stomach. Your stomach should expand as you inhale and create a firm “belly”
  • Force your belly out hard against the belt.
  • Tense your abs as if something is about to hit you in the stomach.
  • Hold this pushing out and tensing of your stomach throughout the rep.
  • Exhale and reset at the start of each new rep. Do not hold your breath for more than a single rep.

To illustrate these points further, here is a video that explains it by squat university. 

Types of lifting belts

I’m just going to cover what I feel are best variations of weight lifting belt for you to consider. Anything that I don’t cover here probably isn’t worth your while, unless there is an awesome type of belt that I haven’t even heard of yet.

Firstly, avoid Velcro belts. In my opinion, it’s just too easy for them to rip open and come undone or loosen under the pressure you should be exerting into the belt.

I used to use a Velcro belt and the little tearing noises I could here as I descended into a squat paranoid the heck out of me. I was too worried about the belt coming on to concentrate on a proper squat.

velcro weight lifting belt

If your belt resembles this one, it's time to throw it away and get a proper one.

Some strongmen competitors may wear Velcro belts underneath their main belts just for some added support. But they still feel the need to wear a stronger belt on top.

Now that's out of the way, on to the types of belts that you can consider.

Powerlifting belts

Powerlifter wearing singlet and belt

Proper powerlifting belts follow pretty much the same styling throughout. They should be the same width all the way around, that will normally be 4 inches as that is the thickest allowable by most powerlifting federations. Have a thickness of either 10mm or 13mm and made from very stiff/rugged materials. Usually leather or suede coated leather.

Powerlifting belts, in general are going to be the go-to belt style if you are looking the get the very most out of squats, deadlift, bench presses and overhead presses. If you want a belt for Olympic weightlifting, they are probably going to be too thick, uncomfortable and restrictive for you.

There are then three main sub-sets of powerlifting belts.

1. Single prong belts

These are the standard kind of belt you are likely used to seeing. They feature a single prong, just like a regular dress belt, that you can use to tighten or loosen as you see fit.

The single prong makes the fairly quick to take on and off. The only downside for some lifter is the fear that the single prong may break. This shouldn’t happen if you buy a quality belt but the worry is enough to steer people towards the next type of powerlifting belt.

2. Double prong belts

Exactly the same as the single prong in design. However, as you may have guessed, they have two prongs that slot into a double row of adjustment holes on the belt.

The two prongs can be an absolute pain to get in and out of those holes properly. Especially if the belt is tight.

I don’t really like using ta double-prong, I trust the strength of the single-prong enough to go with that instead.

3. Lever belts

Lever belts have no prongs for tightening and loosening the belt. Instead, they have a quick-release leaver. The lever does make them very quick and easy to get on and off.

The lever is also fixed in the same place each time so you can set it to whatever level of tightness you want and have no trouble getting it on very quickly.

There are some drawbacks to the lever belt design. firstly, is that there is always going to be a higher chance of something breaking when more individual parts are involved. I have seen a couple of videos of levers breaking during lifts but this isn’t a common occurrence.

The second drawback is that you have to unscrew and move the entire lever if you want to adjust the size of the belt. Very annoying for individuals that use different levels of tightness for different lifts.

SBD has recently released a very nice looking lever belt that combats that problem by allowing quick adjustment whenever you like. It looks like an awesome belt but is certainly at the higher end of the pricing spectrum.

Olympic weightlifting belts

Obviously, these belts are geared more towards those that compete or practice the Olympic lifts regularly.

Oly lifter in a belt

Original Picture source:

The difference with these belts is that they feature a tapered design to allow for the extra mobility that the clean and jerk and snatch demands.

These belts will also be made of a thinner and softer material. Again, in an effort to allow for higher degrees of mobility while still providing extra support for the lifts.

There is a bit of a divide among lifter on whether a belt should be worn for Olympic weightlifting or not. Many will wear it for the clean and jerk but find that wearing a belt for the snatch inhibits their mobility and limits the amount of weight they can lift.

You will have to find that out for yourself.

In my opinion, the powerlifting and Olympic lifting belts are pretty much the only types of belt you should consider.

Powerlifting belts should be looked at by everybody that isn’t performing Olympic lifts. Olympic lifting belts should be the go-to for individuals that are completing the Olympic lifts regularly.

As a side note, crossfitters that wish to wear a belt will probably be better off looking at the Olympic weightlifting style belts. They provide much better and more reliable support than Velcro belts, which seem to be popular in crossfit, but they still allow for extra mobility that is usually required in crossfit workouts.

What makes a good weight lifting belt?

A good belt must be suited for the purpose you intend to use it for. You can use the information above to decide which kind of belt best suits your needs.

You must then ensure that whatever belt you choose is allowable in any competition you may currently or wish to compete in down the line.

For example, the IPF only allows belts up to 10mm thick in their classic powerlifting divisions. Check the rules of your federation.

Weight lifting belt thickness

10mm IPF approved thickness belt

A belt should last you a very long time if you go for quality. High quality belts are going to cost you more but, like I said, they will last a very long time so the investment value is actually pretty good.

All of the belts I have included in this article are of high quality and should certainly be with you for many workouts to come.

The best weight lifting belt - Belt reviews

I have decided to choose my favourite two belts from each of the categories. Two weightlifting style belts and two powerlifting ones. Out of my suggestions, pick the belt that you think looks best or fits better in your budget and you will be more than happy with it.

Best powerlifting belt picks

Texas Belts Longhorn and Toro Bravo Powerlifting belts

The Longhorn is a 10mm belt that is available as either single prong, double prong or lever.

Lever version

Single prong version

The leather on the Texas Belts does seem to be a bit more pliable but still just as supportive as other belts on the market.

This is a bonus as it means that it shouldn’t take quite as long to break the belt in. So, you should be getting the most out of it a bit quicker than some of the stiffer belts.

I would highly recommend the Longhorn belt if you have the budget for it. It is a very good belt and comes with a lifetime guarantee.

If you do not quite have the budget for the Longhorn, Texas Belts cheaper alternative is the Toro Bravo belt. This is not quite as high quality as the Longhorn, as reflected in the lower price, but it still is an excellent belt.

Toro bravo powerlifting belt

In fact, the vast majority of people won’t notice the minor drop in overall quality. The Toro Bravo does only come with a year’s warranty but should still last many years.

I feel the Longhorn is the best belt in terms of quality.

But, due to the lower price yet still high quality, I have actually chosen the Toro Bravo for my top pick. Casual lifters and competitors that aren’t at the elite level will do just fine with this one.

Inzer Advanced Designs Forever Belt

A super popular belt from an extremely well-respected manufacturer. These belts also all come with lifetime guarantees, hence the “forever” in the name.

red inzer belt

You can buy the same belt in either a single prong or lever variations and in 10mm or 13mm. As with many lifting belts, they come very stiff and will require some time to “break in”.

The 13mm versions will always take longer to break in than the 10mm but that’s all part of buying a thicker and more supportive belt. I would say that the majority of people should be going for a 10mm belt anyway.

A 13mm should only be considered by competitive lifters in geared lifting federations for the most part.

The Inzer belts are available from Inzer's website, click here to view Inzer's power belts.

A huge choice of colours is available from Inzer. Although, certain colours can take a while to arrive.

Which brings me on to my next point. I have heard that delivery times can be very long from Inzer and that their customer service isn’t always the best.

Not something I have experienced but I thought it would be worthwhile to relay what I have heard from a few separate people.

If you get the belt from Amazon, delivery should be fast but you don't have all of the colour options.

Best Olympic weightlifting belts top picks

Eleiko Weightlifting Belt

Eleiko are a huge name in weightlifting. They know how to construct equipment of the very highest quality. Usually Eleiko gear comes at a highly premium price point so I was surprised to see how cheap this belt is.

The belt is made from leather and only comes in a white colour with the large Eleiko lettering on the back. There is a suede version available in blue but it is pretty much double the price. The suede version is padded in the back for some extra comfort during your lifts.

Both versions are IWF approved so you have no worries for competition.

These belts feature a double prong design. Great if you want some extra strength in the buckle but can be a slight pain to get on and off.

The one thing that I think lets the white version of this belt down a bit is the thickness. It isn’t as thick and therefore not quite as supportive as it could be.

If you want a perfectly good weight lifting belt at a very good price, then grab this one. If you want a bit more support and aren’t worried about paying for it, continue below.

Rogue Olympic Ohio Belt

Rogue are a giant in lifting equipment and have been cranking out some quality products in all areas of strength training over recent years. This belt is no exception.

Rogue Oly lifting belt

10mm thick, it is super supportive and durable.

Made from vegetable-tanned leather and, this makes the leather firmer and, in my opinion, makes looks pretty nice too.

The front of the belt tapers down to just 2 inches so there isn’t as much material for the bar to get caught on during the Olympic lifts. I also like the addition of the buckle guard, which is just an extra piece of leather that slides in front of the buckle to stop anything from hitting that.

These extra features do make for a superb lifting belt. On the downside, you will have to pay for that quality. This one is more than double the price of the leather Eleiko belt.

I have to say that this is my top pick for Olympic lifting belts if you have the budget.

If you don’t have that kind of money to spend, then the choice is clearly to go for the Eleiko weightlifting belt.

I know there are a bunch of good belts that probably could have been included on this list. I feel that the ones included really are the best to serve the vast majority of this site’s audience.

There is a chance that I may have just completely missed an absolutely perfect belt, though.

If you do feel that one of my picks could reasonably be replaced by a better belt, let me know in the comments and I will take a look at it.

I want to keep all of my articles up to date with the latest and greatest training gear, so I’m always open to suggestions.

Grip Strength Equipment Reviews – Best tools to build a stronger grip

Grip strength and training to increase it should be a priority for lifters. If you want to know exactly why it’s important and how you can increase it, check out my in-depth guide to grip training. Knowing how to build your grip is one thing, finding the best grip strength equipment is another.

Luckily, this article will guide you through the very best tools you can buy to build superhero grip strength.

Since you wound up viewing this post, I’m guessing you are aware of the benefits increasing your hand and grip strength. Now, you just need to find the best tools to build a strong grip.

This article will take you through what you need to know about each type of grip strength and which pieces of equipment are best for training the different grip types.

I have included my top grip training equipment picks for each type. Below, is a quick list of my favourite grip building tools.

Captains of Crush Grippers

Rogue Pinch Blocks

Fat Gripz

Rogue pinch grip blocks
Fat grip around a bar

View on Amazon

View in store

View on Amazon

Types of grip Strength

This will be a bit of a recap if you have read my grip training guide article that I linked to earlier.

Nevertheless, it’s good to refresh your mind. So, here are the three different types of grip strength and their functions:

1. Crush: The grip between your palm and fingers is known as a crush grip. It’s like crushing something inside your hand depending on the strength you are applying. It is the most common type of grip and often used while you are handshaking with someone. Breaking a beer can in your hand; a bone-crushing handshake, etc. are some examples of strong crush gripping.

2. Pinch: The grip using the just your fingers and thumb is known as pinch gripping. It’s like pinching the skin while crushing it between your fingers and your thumb. The basic use of pinch grip is to pick a piece of paper in between your fingers and thumb. While using this grip one must be careful about muscle cramping so make sure to use it carefully and with adequate pressure.

3. Support: The combined use of your thumb, palm and fingers give rise to support grip. Holding a shopping bag in a fisted hand is a good example.

Pull-ups, rows and farmer’s walks are some of the activities that use support grip inside the gym. This grip is sometimes called carrying grip with the basic function of holding something in your hand.

Support grip will be stronger, when maximum force is applied, and engages more muscles than the other two types.

strongman grip strength event

Grip Training Considerations

This will likely be a rather brief section. But, I do feel it’s important to touch upon a couple of things to consider for your grip training endeavours.

Firstly, just like with any exercise you include in your program, you need to decide the specific purpose of your grip exercises. Don’t go buying all the latest grip strength equipment and throwing in any old exercise just because you heard it makes your hands strong.

You need to think about the overall goal of your training program and then decide exactly how grip strength falls into that. This will mean looking at the specific types of grip strength and putting the most focus on whichever type has the greatest impact on your goals.

For example, a powerlifter would want to put a lot of effort into improving support grip strength for deadlifts.

This isn’t to say that you should ignore the other variations of grip strength. Just that you should prioritise based on your individual program goals.

The second thing to consider is how to plug it into your training plan. Grip training usually becomes a bit of an after-thought and gets thrown in anywhere or tagged on to the end of a workout.

Here are a few suggestions from the world's strongest man, Brian Shaw:

Training your grip is just the same as training any other movement or muscle. You should be treating it the same and planning your program accordingly.

One final note here is to be mindful of how often you implement grip training exercises. You will be training your grip to a certain extent almost every time you lift weights.

Therefore, overdoing the dedicated grip training could cause some injuries or inflammation of your forearms or elbows. Start slow and listen to your body.

Your muscles still need to recover from the grip training, they can become sore and tight if your programming is inefficient. for more info on muscle soreness, I have written a guide on DOMS.

Best Grip Strength Equipment

Finally, this is what you came here for. Below I will be listing my top picks for equipment in each of the three grip-type categories. I am only going be choosing my favourite piece of grip strength equipment from each category, I don’t feel you need to buy dozens of gadgets in order to build your grip.

Note that this list includes my favourite specialised grip strengthening gear. Barbells, dumbbells and the like can obviously be grip training tools but I won’t be mentioning them here.

Best Crush Grip Training Tool

crush grip competition picture

The Captains of Crush grippers. These aren’t the flimsy grippers you see on infomercials that are designed to be pumped in one hand while you watch T.V with a beer in the other.

These grippers, made by IronMind, are a serious piece of grip strength equipment. High quality and hard work.

I love the fact that there is a whole series of different difficulties. This means that there is room for proper progression, which is key in a good training program.

My recommendation is for people to buy both a lighter gripper and one that is a stage or two heavier.

For example, when I first started, I bought the Trainer and level 1 grippers. Back then I think my deadlift was only around 160kg and I would say that my grip strength is naturally pretty average, just to give you a rough idea of my starting strength levels for you to compare.

If you were to follow what I did or something similar, you can then practice with the trainer and use it for rep work when you get strong enough. While you are using the trainer gripper for reps, you can implement lower rep work and some assisted closes, where you use your other hand to help you fully close the gripper, with the level 1 tool.

There could be better ways to use them but that’s just how I went about it and my grip certainly improved. I have never once had an issue with grip strength on deadlifts. I attribute that partly to using the captains of crush early in my lifting journey.

Best Pinch Grip Training Tool

Pinching heavy blocks or the ends of dumbbells is a tried and tested method for building jaw-like fingers.

In my opinion, this is the most difficult style of grip training. I have endured many cramping fingers and thumbs while pinching blocks so beware of that.

I like the Rogue pinch blocks because you can add different amounts of weight to them. This takes out the need to buy different blocks as you progress over time. You can even attach them to a pull-up bar for a serious challenge.

Props to you if you can do a set of pull-ups while clinging on to these, vice hands!

Best Support Grip Training Tool

Fat gripz deadlift

I really like farmer’s walks, barbell holds and bar hangs for building support grip. In fact, farmer’s walks are one of my favourite all round exercises.

Those exercises alone are great for grip building but you can take them to the next level by using thick bars or handles.

A thicker bar means you will have a harder time holding on to it since your thumb is unable to lock around your fingers properly. You have to squeeze your hands even harder and recruit more muscles in your forearms in order to hang on.

Unfortunately, buying thicker bars is not the most convenient option. That’s where Fat Gripz come in, you can throw them in your gym bag and attach them to pretty much any bar or handle that you want to turn into a “fat bar”.

They can turn farmer’s carries, deadlifts, barbell or dumbbell rows and pullups into extreme grip training exercises very easily.

You can get them in a couple of sizes. The original blue ones, that are about 2 inches thick, have always been enough of a challenge for me. They should be fine for you as well unless you have extraordinarily large hands.

That’s it. Three pieces of inexpensive and easy to use grip strength equipment for building an all round super-human grip.

Implement some of the tools and techniques here and feel your grip strength levels and forearms explode. Just be careful when shaking hands, you may cause harm!

Best Weight Lifting Straps Guide – When and how to use weight lifting straps.

Should you use weight lifting straps? When should you use them? What are the best weight lifting straps?

For some reason, the use of lifting straps is a topic of a fair bit of some controversy among lifters.

I’m not sure why people get so worked up over a couple of little pieces of material, to be honest.

Anyway, the bottom line is that the use of straps is an often-argued point and with this article, I hope to settle that argument for you.

I have put together the definitive guide on the best weight lifting straps, why you should or shouldn’t use them how to use them and which ones I recommend you buy. Enjoy!

Featured Straps

Straps for Olympic weightlifting

The use of straps in Olympic weightlifting is a very common practice and is generally much less controversial than in powerlifting or general gym training. This article is aimed towards clearing some of the confusion for the latter two training approaches.

There are still some guidelines that should be followed for the Olympic lifter, though.

If you wish to find out how you should be using straps for the Oly lifts, you can read this article on the topic from IronMind: Straps – what, why, how and when to use them.

As mentioned, that one focuses only on Olympic weightlifting. For everything else, read on.

What are weight lifting straps used for?

As you know, lifting requires you to grip different objects of different weights for varying lengths of time or reps.

Sometimes, your own grip on those object, mainly barbells or dumbbells, becomes weakened or loose. Usually, fatigue, sweat, lack of strength or the object being too big for your hands causes issues with your grip.

Enter the weight lifting strap.

Lifting straps are very tough and durable (at least they should be!) lengths of material. One end loops around your wrist, the rest of the strap is then wrapped tightly around a barbell or dumbbell handle.

Weight lifting strap around a barbell image

Doing this means that much of the weight is actually being supported by the strap, which is wrapped around your wrist. Obviously, this decreases the need for you to actually be holding and gripping the bar as hard.

As a result, you should now be able to lift more weight for longer without worrying about dropping it. Your grip strength is no longer the limiting factor.

Sounds great, right?

Well, it can be in certain situations and not so great in others. I will come to that later.

What exercises are weight lifting straps suitable for?

To cover it broadly, you can use straps for any exercise that starts to really tax your grip strength.

For the most part, these exercises will be the ones where gravity is pulling the weight away from your body. So, think of a dumbbell row, where the weight is actively being pulled away from you by gravity.

An example of the opposite is on the bench press. Gravity is pulling the weight towards your body. Please don’t let me catch you using straps for benching, I may well laugh at you!

Some good examples of exercises where lifting straps can help you out are:

· Dumbbell or barbell rows

· Deadlifts

· Rack pulls

· Farmers walks

· Cable rows

· Pull ups or chin ups

· Cable lat-pulldowns

· Barbell or dumbbell shrugs

There are probably more that I can’t think of right now, but those should give you a good idea. I have seen people use straps for curls and dumbbell raises. They do fall in the category of gravity pulling the weight away from you, but you really shouldn’t need them for those exercises in my opinion.

Advantages of using weightlifting straps

They take most of the emphasis away from your grip strength, meaning that you don’t have to worry as much about dropping the bar.

Knowing that your grip is secure is one less thing to think about. So, you are able to focus more on the exercise you are performing and how you are performing it. Quite often, removing grip strength as a limiting factor can help to improve technique on most exercises.

Straps can allow you to use a slightly heavier weight or do more reps with the same weight. In many exercises, your grip will give out way before the much bigger and stronger muscles that are involved.

Using your bare hands, you may not get the very most out of the main muscle you are trying to work because your grip will give out first.

Weight lifting straps will let you do those extra reps without tiring your grip. You may even be able to use a bit of extra weight in some cases.

You can also continue to train through torn calluses or other minor hand injuries. Constantly lifting weights can leave your hands pretty beat up from time to time.

If you have already been lifting a while, you will probably be more than familiar with torn calluses. Minor injuries like this, while not serious, are very annoying and can hinder your usual training.

weight lifting calluses meme

Instead of skipping lifts that irritate the injury, throwing on a pair of straps will usually allow you to work around it until it heals.

Disadvantages of using straps

You can get too used to them. This is something that I definitely find myself.

When using straps for a period of time on certain exercise, most notably the deadlift, I find that going back to training without them feels a bit foreign.

Using straps exclusively for a period of time causes me to almost “forget” what it feels like to have the full weight of the bar in your hands. This can make lifts seem much heavier to you than they should do.

Your grip could get weaker over time. If you do rely too heavily on straps and pay no attention to training your grip strength, you will start to lose grip strength. It is the exact same principle as if you were to stop training any other muscle. If you don’t use it, you lose it.

To make sure you keep on top of grip training, read my grip strength training guide.

Straps can alter your technique. The way you lift with straps is always going to be slightly different to how you lift without them. The main difference will, of course, be how you grip the bar.

Such a small change at the hands can impact how your body moves further up the chain. For example, gripping the bar differently on a pulldown can alter the angle of your elbows as you perform the exercise.

It might not be a huge deal for most exercises. However, if you use straps for an exercise that you perform in a competition, and straps aren’t allowed for the exercise on competition day then you could be in trouble.

When to use lifting straps. My recommendations.

I myself own some straps, I have actually only ever owned one pair of iron mind straps. They are so tough and strong that they’ve lasted years.

If you want to get yourself some, here they are on Amazon. Be warned if you buy them, they are strong as hell but they are not comfortable so prepare to man up!

I use those straps regularly in my own training and have only ever seen them be of benefit to me.

Here are a few guidelines for how I use weight lifting straps and my suggestions for how you may want to use them in your programs.

Firstly, I believe you should use them sparingly on competition lifts. I'm talking about powerlifting here, strongman competitions allow straps.

Eddie hall using weight lifting straps for deadlift

Since most of my training is centered around powerlifting, I really try not to use them much for deadlifts due to the reasons I mentioned earlier.

If I do use them for deadlifts, I will use them for a variation like a stiff-leg deadlift or rack-pull. My reasoning for that is because those variations are in my program to target areas other than my grip strength.

That leads me on to this point, use them on exercises that you have included in your program for reasons outside of grip strength.

If you are doing an exercise for your back and not your grip, by all means, you can use straps.

If you are worried about your grip strength getting weak, train it in other ways. Have a read of this article to learn how to train your grip effectively.

A better spin on this approach would be to train the exercise without straps until your grip starts to give out and then throw your straps on for an extra set or two to get more work out of the primary muscle group.

I have bolded those last few lines as I think that is generally the best way to go about it. Don’t overthink the use of straps too much. They are an accessory, a tool to compliment your training and should be used as such.

How to use weightlifting straps

I really wanted to make this a pretty in-depth and complete guide on the use of straps for lifting. So, I had to include a section on how to use them properly. They are pretty simple things but can cause some confusion if you have never used them before.

Instead of me trying to write out how to use them properly, I thought it would be 100 times easier for us both if I just linked a perfectly good video tutorial. And, here it is…

What are the best weight lifting straps to buy? - Individual reviews

Firstly, there are a few different styles of straps that you can get, I’ll give you a quick list of the most common ones with a bit of info about each so you can decide which would suit your training needs best.

Standard lifting straps

These are usually made of a single piece of material that has a loop sewn in one end. You wrap the strap around your wrist and then pass the end through the loop to secure it.

The left-over piece of the strap should then be long enough for you to wrap it around the bar a few times. Wrapping the strap around the bar is how you secure it inside the strap.

These are often the cheapest style of strap and I really like them. They are simple, they don’t have much sewing on them or a bunch of different pieces so breaking them is quite hard, as long as you get the right brand.

The main draw-back of these straps is that they will dig into your wrists as you lift. Like I said earlier, man up!

If you want to grab a pair of these, I would go for these Iron Mind ones. They’re used by pro strongmen so they should be good enough for us!

Figure of 8 straps

As the name suggests, these are made in a figure of eight design with too bigger loops sewn together. The idea is that you pass your wrist through the first loop, pass the other loop under the barbell and then put your hand through that loop.

These straps are less awkward to get into place around the bar. However, I do find that there is a little bit more movement between the strap and the bar since you don’t actually wrap it round tightly like you would with a standard strap.

This isn’t really a problem; the bar won’t come out of the strap but I just like it the feel super tight around both my wrist and the barbell.

You can grab yourself a pair of these on Amazon too by clicking below. There are a few different brands available, the ones below seem to be the best reviewed on Amazon.

Versa grips

Versa grips are actually the brand name for a new style of strap the company invented.

As always, I will be honest and state that I have personally not tried these straps out.

I wanted to include them because I know they are very popular. I remember a period when it seemed like everybody on Youtube was using them, paid advertising no doubt, but it did its job and made them a popular choice.

These straps are secured to your wrists via a separate wrist-strap. They feature a plastic kind of hook that is wrapped around the bar in a similar fashion to a normal lifting strap.

Personally, I would be cautious of this kind of strap because it just looks like there are too many bits that could break. As I said, I haven’t tried it so I can’t say for certain.

What I can say is that a bunch of people seem to like it on Amazon, over 1000 reviews and great feedback. You may want check them out over there and hunt through the reviews before you decide.

In conclusion...

I think weightlifting straps should probably be a tool in most lifter’s gym bags. Just don’t rely too heavily on them if you care about your grip strength.

Oh, and my top pick for straps is to keep is simple with the Iron Mind Strong-Enough straps.

Benefits of Strength Training – 7 strength training benefits and reasons to pick up a barbell now

Getting stronger isn't all about looking better and boosting your ego. The benefits of strength training go way beyond improving your physique.

Before your read the full article below, be sure to share the info-graphic. Feel free to embed it on your own site​ as well to let everybody strength training is the best!

Benefits of Strength Training Graphic​

Benefits of strength training infographic

 Feel free to use this graphic. Copy and paste the code below to add it to your own site if you love strength training.

Here is the detailed list of 7 awesome reasons to make strength training a part of your life.

1. More muscle mass.

Here, is one of the more obvious benefits of strength training. So, I will get it out of the way.

Your body is excellent at adapting to the demands you put on it. Its capability to adapt is the reason that training works in the first place. Getting stronger is not just lifting more weight on the bar.

Increasing amount or reps you do, the total number of sets and the speed that you perform a rep all indicate that you have got stronger. Your body will adapt to these demands by increasing the size and amount of muscle you have on your body over time.

2. Stronger bones and connective tissue

Your body will, not only adapt to the demands of strength training by increasing muscle size, it can also adapt by increasing the strength of your bones as well [1].

it's very important for keeping you strong and reducing fracture risks, especially as you age. As an extra benefit, strength training can help improve your balance and connective tissue strength as well.

3. Life becomes easier

Almost everything is easier when you are stronger. Carrying shopping bags, climbing stairs, moving furniture and even just getting up out of a chair. Everybody would like an easier life so why not train for one.

4. Keeps you leaner.

As mentioned in number 1, strength training increases the muscle mass on your body. Not only does the muscle itself improve your physique, it can improve it even further by making it easier to burn fat.

You may have heard that muscle will rev up your metabolism and burn more calories while you rest. This is true but it is often overhyped and may not make as much of a difference as some people say [3].

What probably has more of an effect on calorie burn, is that those with increased muscle mass have been shown to burn more calories after their workouts [4]. Making for more effective workouts all round.

5. Reduces risks of disease and illnesses.

Increased bone density, as covered in number 2, can help prevent and improve symptoms of osteoporosis.

Other Illnesses and diseases, such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and diabetes have all been shown to be improved by physical activity that includes a form of resistance training [5] [6].

There has also been some talk that it could cut risk of certain cancers by up to 40% [7]

6. Benefits your mental state and energy level

Anxiety, depression, brain function, memory, chronic fatigue and sleep quality. All have had evidence to show that they can be improved upon with regular resistance and strength training [8].

7. Sense of achievement

Getting to the gym regularly is hard work, it’s made even harder when you aren’t progressing. With strength training, you will be constantly progressing and the numbers will be right there in front of you to see.

This really one of the less though of benefits of strength training. But, a very important one.

Heading to the gym becomes exciting and much more motivating when you can physically see your progress from week to week.

It also feels damn good to hit a new deadlift or squat P.R!

I'm sure after reading this, you're now itching to get yourself in the gym and picking up some barbells. If you are new to the gym, check out my article on how to conquer your first day in the gym.


[1] The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review. -

[2] Wang, Z., Heshka, S., Zhang, K., Boozer, C.N., & Heymsfield, S.B. (2001). Resting energy expenditure: systematic organization and critique of prediction methods -

[3] Smith, J., & McNaughton, L. (1993). The effects of intensity of exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption and energy expenditure in moderately trained men and women. -

[4] A systematic review and meta-analysis of strength training in individuals with multiple sclerosis or Parkinson disease. -

[5] Exercise and Type 2 Diabetes. The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: joint position statement -

[6] Men with big muscles cut cancer risk by 40 per cent -

[7] Resistance Training Improves Mental Health, Amenda Ramirez and Len Kravitz, Ph.D. -

What to do on your first day in the gym? – 13 tips to crush your first day at the gym

Worrying about what to do on your first day in the gym? Fear not, everybody does. This guide has you covered, though. Read it and you will be crushing it in the gym from day one!

Your first gym session can be a daunting and unnerving experience. The gym can feel like a rather foreign, mysterious place to those that have never ventured inside.

This quick-fire tips guide has you covered.

The truth is, the gym is an awesome place to get stronger, fitter and improve your quality of life.

Sure, you can do that in a home gym but training around like-minded individuals is excellent for motivation.

The first day at the gym, however, needs to be conquered if you are ever going to enjoy the benefits of training in a gym. Here are some quick-fire tips and advice to help your first gym workout go smoothly.

What to do on your first day in the gym. Gym noob success tips:​

1. Check you have everything you need. Check again.

There’s nothing worse than getting to the gym and realizing you have forgotten something. Even for more experienced gym-goers, it can ruin a workout. It’s even more important to make sure you have everything packed in your gym bag if it’s your first day at the gym.

Forgetting something important puts you on the back foot and creates a negative experience before you even begin. Ensure you’ve got it all beforehand.

You might not need all the items, but here’s a quick list of common gym gear to take:

Towel, water bottle, lock, hair ties, earphones, membership card, toiletries, workout clothes, a change of clothes, workout trainers.

2. Have a plan.

Knowing what you’re supposed to do before getting to the gym is key for everybody.

first day at the gym plan ahead image

Making up a workout on the spot isn’t an effective way to train. Wandering aimlessly around the gym as a newbie is also a very awkward and helpless feeling. I’ve been there.

Do a bit of research on good routines and exercise technique before you head in for your first session.

3. Warm up on the bike or elliptical machine.

This isn’t because those are the best machines to warm up on, it’s actually a tactical choice.

The bike and the elliptical require less concentration than the treadmill or rowing machine, making them an excellent choice for scoping the gym out before your workout.

Try and pick a machine that has a good view of the gym if you can. Spend a few minutes looking around and spotting the pieces of equipment you want to use for your workout. Take a look at how other people are using them so you have a rough idea of how they work.

I used to do this all the time and still do if I’m heading into a completely new gym. It’s a really good way to get comfortable.

4. Work with a trainer.

Many gyms will offer induction sessions for new members. Take advantage of them and gain as much relevant information from the trainer as you can.

It is an easy way to get around the confusion of What to do on your first day in the gym. Let a professional take care of that for you.

Walking around with a trainer on your first visit will take away the feeling of vulnerability that sometimes comes with being alone. The trainer will also be able to show you exactly how to set up the equipment so you won’t need to fumble around by yourself.

5. Train with a friend.

Following on from my last point, being with a friend gives that “safety in numbers” effect. It doesn’t really matter if your friend is experienced in the gym, although that can help, the main thing is that you have somebody familiar with you.

Arnold and Franco training together

6. Wear comfortable and suitable clothing.

Sounds obvious but a lot of people either don’t think about it or don’t fully realise what type of clothing is suitable. Do a little research.

Pick clothing that isn’t going to get caught up in machinery or inhibit your movements but that you feel confident wearing. You will probably feel conscious enough so go for clothes that make you feel good to wear.

7. Forget about what others think.

Easier said than done, I know.

But, Honestly, they probably aren’t thinking anything. Most people are either there to train and don’t pay attention to what others are doing, or they are feeling just as self-conscious as you.

In the gym and life in general, people are way too focused on themselves to worry too much about what you’re doing so don’t even sweat it.

8. Hold back a bit.

You do need to push outside of your comfort zone at some point to get results. Your first session probably isn’t the time to do that.

You need to be learning exercise technique and getting your body used to the movements first. Pick weights that you are comfortable handling and build up from there.

Another point is that you are probably going to quite sore for a day or two after. Everything will be new to your body so it’s going to create a bit of soreness. Take a look at this post to find out what you need to know about muscle soreness.

9. Clean the equipment after use.

Self-explanatory, you don’t want to be laying or sitting in anybody else’s sweat puddle and they don’t want to sit in yours.

10. Don’t tip the barbell.

This would be a most scarring thing to experience on your first day in the gym.

I have never done it myself but, many times, I have heard the almighty crash and turned around to see the red-faced, horrified victim looking helpless in the aftermath.

Not to mention it could also be very dangerous.

What I’m talking about is balancing the barbell on the rack, bench press or stands. Loading too much weight on one side has a see-saw effect that sends the opposite end flipping into the air.

It depends how far apart the uprights on the rack are, but to be safe, I never have more than a 45lbs/20kg difference between each side.

11. Ask for help.

bench press spotter

Don’t struggle by yourself or do anything you are unsure of. There should be plenty of staff around to lend a hand.

If not, ask a member that looks like they know what they are doing. Most people will be willing to help you out.

If they’re not willing to help, then good news, you discovered the gym a$$-hole on your first day. You can now avoid him/her from the get-go.

12. Do not answer a call in the gym.

A quick text is fine, just don’t spend ages sitting on the bench press staring at your screen. However, full-blown phone conversations in the gym should be illegal.

I might be sounding like some grumpy old man here but it winds me up so much. I’m pretty good at letting people do their own thing, not much bothers me but it’s quite hard to ignore somebody wandering around, shouting over the music with their phone stuck to the side of their face. It’s quite off-putting to word it lightly.

I know you can’t ignore calls, it could be an emergency. Answer it and walk away to the changing room or the exit to take the call.

13. Put back everything you use.

A sure-fire way to make yourself an enemy to members and staff alike, is to leave equipment lying everywhere.

Be courteous and anything you use back where it should go. Don’t be lazy.

My view has always been that returning the equipment and weights is just another part of the exercise. You get some extra work for your muscles when you are carrying plates and bars across the gym anyway, so why not do it?

What do Sore Muscles Mean – Does soreness indicate a good workout?

“No pain, no gain.” You have probably heard that before. Is that really the case when it comes strength gains? What do sore muscles mean for muscle growth? You’re about to find out.

The pain and soreness I’m talking about here is the feeling of tender, stiff and aching muscles after exercising or training. This phenomenon is called ‘delayed onset muscle soreness’ (DOMS).

DOMS could be an indicator of how good a workout was.

But, probably not in the way you or most people think.

What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Your muscles repeatedly expand and contract during exercise, your probably know this. When you work hard you create small tears in the micro-structures of your muscle tissue, the fascia around the muscle tissue and your connective tissue.

The micro-trauma to the muscles is part of the reason for decreased performance in the gym as your workout goes on.

The burning pain you sometimes feel during exercise is normally ascribed to lactic acid build up and is not the same as DOMS.

To alleviate that kind of pain, you need to stop, breathe, maybe hydrate a bit. That is not the type of pain I'm talking about here.

DOMS doesn’t set in until a while after a training session.

Lactic acid build-up is not the cause of post-workout muscle soreness.

What does DOMS feel like?

Here’s how DOMS usually hits you.

After you complete your workout, the endorphins are rushing and you feel great. You head home, make a big meal, and move on to the next thing in your day.

The next morning is usually when you get to know DOMS. In very bad cases, you feel like you can’t get out of bed. Your muscles barely respond and when they do, all you feel is pain.

sore back image for what do sore muscles mean article

You probably start regretting your last workout the same way you regret a night out at the club, the next morning.

This pain is expected and should be welcomed to a certain degree. It tells you that your muscles were worked hard or in a way they aren’t used to being worked.

Nobody ever made their gains without feeling these exact same pains.

However, it isn’t essential to be sore. In fact, soreness should decrease as you become better adapted to recovering from your workouts. Less soreness over time is a good thing.

Who Gets DOMS?

-People lifting for the first time. Muscles that aren’t used to working hard will respond strongly to the first couple days of exercise.

-Experienced athletes who increase their intensity or change their routine. This creates new levels of muscle stress and targets new muscle groups.

Delayed onset muscle soreness doesn’t necessarily occur every time you work out. Imagine you do the same fifty push ups every day for two weeks.

By the end of the first week your muscles have grown to accommodate that stress and can recover from it pretty well, you probably no longer feel sore the next day.

If you double it to 100 push ups, you probably don’t need me to tell you that the next morning might be a sore one again.

The really interesting thing is if you just slightly change the way you do a push-up, you could bring on DOMS again.

Even small changes in hand or foot position will engage different muscle groups.

You may feel it during your sets, or the difference may be so slight that 50 push ups still feels easy.

The next day, however, your muscles will probably a bit sore again, as a result of changing the way you worked them by altering your body positions.

The topic of post-exercise muscle soreness is pretty interesting and full of confusion.

In all honesty, scientists aren’t entirely clear yet on all the factors that contribute to maximised muscle growth or on what exactly causes DOMS, much of it is theoretical.

Your body is an incredibly complicated set of systems all working together.

What do sore muscles mean for your gains? - Facts about DOMS

skeletal muscle structure diagram

One theory suggests that muscle soreness is a results of micro-traumas to the muscular structure caused by training. View source.

-DOMS normally sets in between 12 and 24 hours after a workout and can last up to 72 hours! This varies widely for different people and exercises.

DOMS is normally far more intense for people who do not frequently exercise.

So, if you are getting DOMS for very long periods of time, you can probably take that as an indicator that you need to increase the training frequency of the muscle/exercise that caused the soreness.

-After a workout, your body undergoes a state of elevated protein synthesis. This is basically, the repair and rebuilding process of the muscles you just broke down.

Protein synthesis is a complicated process and is essential to creating new muscle mass. It is extremely important to building strength. I will go into it in more detail later.

-Getting adequate protein during this window of protein synthesis is essential for the repair of your muscles. The window of elevated protein synthesis is sometimes what is known as the “anabolic window”.

You may have heard that term thrown around. Often, you will hear that your window is very short so you must rush to your protein shake straight after a workout or you could miss it.

In reality, this window of muscle repair and growth can last up to 48 hours in complete novices.

What this means is that the absolute maximum amount of growth time, the “anabolic window”, for your muscles from a given workout is 48 hours.

If you’re interested in the science, here’s an in-depth review of the anabolic window.So, the fact that some people can be sore for up to a week after a given workout shows us that DOMS does not equal muscle growth. Muscle growth stops at the very most 48 hours after you train.

This brings me back to the point I made earlier:

DOMS could be an indicator of how good a workout was. But probably not in the way you or most people think.

What I actually meant was that being sore for days on end after a workout is probably an indicator that your workout really wasn’t that good.

You probably did too much overall volume (sets, reps and exercises).

-Stretching is very good for your body. It helps you warm up and helps reduce the risk of injury during exercise.

However, it has been shown to have little to no effect on DOMS.

On the other hand, massage and foam rolling is a good way to increase blood flow to the sore muscles. Increased blood flow could help with recovery​.

Some old-school Elliot Hulse, going through a bit of foam rolling for recovery.

What Do Athletes Do About Muscle Soreness?

They manage their training volume so that they are not sore for long and are ready to train again as soon as their anabolic window is “closed”.

Athletes will usually train full body workouts with just enough rest days in between to allow for protein synthesis to run its course. Also, by splitting up their overall volume for each muscle group into multiple days, soreness from workouts is much lower.

Thinking like this, suggests that full body workouts are the way to go for most people.

There’s a lot of wisdom that will point you in different directions on recovery times and workout intensity.

Each perspective usually has some pros and cons. But the bottom line is that everyone is different.

How to Manage and Get Rid of DOMS?

What is muscles soreness and how can you get rid of it? Here's the quick DOMS defeating checklist:

Muscle Soreness Cheat Sheet

The soreness you experience the day after an intense workout is called DOMS.

DOMS indicates that you have broken down your muscle and connective tissue during a workout. But does not necessarily mean your muscles are growing just because they are hurting.

The worst DOMS is usually felt by completely new gym-goers or a change in the routine of more experienced individuals.

The best way to combat DOMS is to train your entire body frequently so that you adapt to the recovery demands and get less sore.

Icing and moving the muscles that are sore can help to relieve the soreness when you do get DOMS.

DOMS is not an indicator of muscles growing or of a good workout.

The actual process of muscle repair and growth is called muscle protein synthesis. This can last for up to 48 hours after a training session.

If you are too sore to train after that period of elevated protein synthesis, then you went too hard in the gym and your recovery is hindering your potential growth.

You need to be able to train again once muscle protein synthesis returns to baseline in order to elevate it again.

It’s basically impossible to get that timing exact, but for most people, a good guide is to train the same muscle groups 36-48 hours apart.

I feel like this article is super important for your training as a whole. Not understanding the concept of DOMS and muscle recovery is the reason so many people don’t make the gains they could be making in the gym. Usually killing themselves and working much harder for fewer results.

So, do everybody you know a favour and save them by sharing this on whichever social media you like to hang out on.

No pain, no gain! Or should it be TOO much pain, much fewer gains?

Best Weightlifting Shoes for Squatting and Lifting

This the only page you need to visit in your search for the best weightlifting shoes.

If you have seen any of my other articles, you know I'm all about making my stuff as in-depth as possible.

I'm making no exceptions here. After you have read this, you will know exactly what lifting shoes to buy and why you have bought them.

I'm going to provide a list of the very best weightlifting shoes around, a write-up of each one and my own top picks.

I also want to make sure you can make a really well-informed decision for yourself. I don't believe you should ever just take somebody's recommendation. 

You need to understand what shoes will meet your needs, as an individual,

So, I have written a full guide that explains the ins and outs of deciding upon the best weightlifting shoes.

Best weightlifting Shoes Side-by-Side Table

​The table below shows each of the shoes, which I will be reviewing for this article. I have chosen the seven shoes that I feel are the best available.


Product image

Store Link

Adidas Adipower

Adidas Adipower weightlifting shoes

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Nike Romaleo 2.0

Nike Olympic lifting shoes

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Adidas Power perfect ii

power perfect Adidas weightlifting shoes

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Reebok Legacy Lifter

reebok legacy lifter shoes

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Pendlay Do-win shoes

do-win weightlifting shoes

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VS Athletics WL shoe 2

VS athletics weightlifting shoe image

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Position U.S.A P2.1

best weightlifting shoes from Position

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Do I need weightlifting shoes? - Who should buy them.

I understand that lifting shoes are specialty shoes. Most types of specialty sports shoes are a fairly big investment.

So, that being said, I will go through some of the things you may wish to consider for you as an individual.

Firstly, I will get the Olympic lifters out of the way. If you want to Olympic lift, buy the shoes.

I’m not an expert on Oly lifting by any means but I haven’t seen a serious Olympic lifter that doesn’t wear lifting shoes. I could well be wrong and I’m sure there are a couple of exceptions but those are the outliers.

On to powerlifters, an area where I have much more expertise.

I will cover squat style a bit more later. But, If you squat with a more high-bar, Olympic style squat that requires you to be very upright, then weightlifting shoes will help.

If you purposefully squat with more forward lean in an effort to use your posterior chain and hips more, elevated heels may hinder you.

I will say that there are so many individual nuances in this, it’s almost impossible to make a set-in-stone rule for everybody. All you can do is test it out.

Borrow a pair from a friend, buy a really cheap or second-hand pair or even see how a couple of plates under the heels during squats feels for you first.

As far as mobility goes, if you lack range of motion at the ankles then a raise heel will certainly help you out.

To reach good depth in a squat, your knees must travel forwards a bit. If your calves are too tight and limit the amount of forward travel at your knees, hitting depth in a squat will be much more difficult.

Tight calves were an issue for me and my weightlifting shoes were a god send.

I have since spent a lot of time and still do spend time on improving my ankle mobility.

I recommend you do even if you decide to invest in the heeled footwear.

Lastly, general gym-goers and people that don’t compete in a sport that tests some kind of squat.

You guys can take the advice I just gave for the Olympic lifters and powerlifters and apply it to your own training styles.

You may not be competitive in one of those sports but if you are serious about progressing in the same lifts, you may want to consider getting the right shoes.

Likewise, if you have the mobility issues covered above and still want to get the most out of squats, buy the shoes.

On the other hand, if you aren’t worried about performing squats to the best of your ability or at all, weightlifting shoes probably won’t be a justified expense.

It’s up to you to decide if or not they are worth purchasing at all.

To help you make think about their value, let's talk about the real advantages of using weightlifting shoes for squats and your other lifts.​

The advantages of weightlifting shoes

The obvious advantage of owning a pair of weightlifting shoes is that were made with the very purpose of lifting weights in mind. Hence, the manufacturers would have looked at and thought about all of the different demands that heavy lifting puts on a pair of shoes.

Those demands are not going to be met by a regular pair of shoes, especially once you start getting strong and lifting some heavier weights.

They are the tools purpose-built for the job. Just like I mentioned in my deadlift shoes article, you wear specific footwear for basketball, football and running, so why wouldn’t you wear shoes for weightlifting?

Getting into the more specific benefits of the shoes, the most stand-out feature is the raised heel. The heel is there to make reaching very deep squatting positions much easier.

A higher heel reduces the demand on ankle mobility and makes staying upright throughout a squat so much easier.

Staying upright in the squat is key for Olympic lifters but will also help powerlifters with their squat.

The only example of when a powerlifter may find heeled squat shoes a disadvantage is if they like to use a more hip-dominant squat.

In some cases, a lifter that squats wider and with a bit more forward lean in order to utilize their hips more, may find that a heeled shoe throws his or her weight forward.

For the majority of lifters and gym-goers, weightlifting shoes will make squatting movements a whole lot more comfortable.

As you can see, the elevated heel is really the main feature of a shoe designed for weightlifting.

Adipower weightlifting shoes

One of my Adidas Adipower weightlifting shoes. Slightly scuffed but they've held up well for 4 years worth of squatting

Here are some other features that can help your lifts. Note that some of these will vary from brand to brand, as I will discuss later.

- Almost perfectly flat soles to increase ground contact, which can help maximize power production as you lift.

- Solid soles. Having a sole that is firm and not spongey or compressible helps with stability and balance. You will notice this much more as you lift heavier.

- Reinforced and durable uppers. Due to the demands of lifting, most standard shoes or trainers would not last very long at all. A lot of force is put against the upper part of the shoe during the lifts, weightlifting shoes are strong enough to cope with this.

- Metatarsal straps. The straps across the foot are the to keep your foot snug and secure inside of the shoe. You do not want any lateral movement of your foot in your shoes while you are lifting.

What to look for in a good weightlifting shoe

There are some variances between the different brands and styles of lifting shoes, but there are some minimum standards that I think you should look out for.

I have taken the features from above and made a quick checklist. Go through it to make sure you're chosen shoes meet the minimum requirements.

  • Hard and non-compressible heel
  • This one may vary a little between shoes. Some shoes may feature heels that compress a bit under heavy loads so you need to consider your strength levels.

  • A metatarsal strap. Some have 2, which is cool but not vital
  • Tough-wearing materials that will stand up to the demands of lifting heavy weights. 

If the shoes you are looking at don’t match up to all of those three points, then you need to search elsewhere.

On the other hand, if you can check them all off then you are off to a good start.

To help you make your final decision, I have written up a more in-depth piece on each of my chosen products for the seven best weightlifting shoes.

Seven Best Weightlifting Shoes - Individual reviews

In no particular order

Adidas Adipower Weightlifting Shoe

Originally released for their 2012 Olympic range, these shoes became crazy popular and are still going strong in 2017.

They were originally only available in the bright red colourway but Adidas have now introduced a few more options. The latest option, the all-black look super sexy in my opinion.

The shoes have the now common heel height of 0.75inches. This height for heels is pretty much the norm now and should be perfect for most people.

I know some Olympic lifters may prefer a higher heel and those with seriously tight ankles might need more as well.

The material of the heel on these is a seriously hard plastic. It means, these heels will not compress to a noticeable degree, even under some seriously heavy weights. A definite plus.

I have owned a pair of these for the past 3 or 4 years and they are still in very good condition. They are a bit narrower on the foot than some of the competitor’s shoes but for me, that’s a good thing.

I like the feeling of a super tight fit around my foot but if you have wide feet, these may not be for you.

Overall, I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with these. The only reason to look elsewhere would be if you do have quite wide feet or if you really need a higher heel.

Adidas Power Perfect 2

These are kind of the step down from the Adipowers. Not quite as good but still a very good shoe.

The price reflects the slight drop in quality. These are a good alternative if you feel like the Adipowers are too expensive.

The power perfects only come in the one colour way, which is obviously annoying if you hate red and white.

The heel on these is around 0.6 inches, slightly lower than the other shoes in this guide. These heels are also made from a high-density foam material. It will compress very slightly.

Due to this compressive heel, I would rule these out for Olympic lifters. You guys really need a more solid sole.

For general gym use, these are a great option, the price is much lower and you will still get most of the benefits of a decent weightlifting shoe.

Many powerlifters might even consider these. Dan Green has used them to squat over 800lbs in the past, so they can't be too bad.​

I actually started with these and then upgraded to my Adipowers. I'm somewhat ashamed to say, the reason for the switch was mainly vanity.

I just preferred how the Adipower shoes looked. 

If you want a good pair of shoes for squatting at a reasonable price, these will do just fine.

Nike Romaleo 2

Nike have now released the Romaleo 3s so you can check those out if you wish.

I, however, am including the 2s because they are so popular and have been the direct rival to Adipowers over the years.

On another note, I actually hate the look of the Romaleo 3 and really like the look of these.

In many ways, these are very comparible to the adipowers. Same heel height of 0.75 inches, same kind of material and quite similar in overall performance.

These shoes do differ in a couple of big ways, though.

Firstly, they are a bit wider and have more room in the toe-box. If you were put off the Adipowers by my comments about them being narrow, then these could be the shoes for you.

Secondly, they include an extra metatarsal strap to keep the fit as tight as possible. I think this was a very wise move, it allows the shoe to cater for the wider foot but also provide a snug fit for people with narrower feet too.

You have a great range of colors to choose from here as well. I like the red and black. Just be warned, these shoes are getting harder to get hold of. Probably due to the release of the new version so get in quick if you want a pair.

Reebok Legacy Lifter

Reebok have been hitting the weightlifting community hard in recent year with all of their products.

Mostly under their crossfit brand. As a result, most of their products have tried to cater to crossfitters. Nothing wrong with that, but it has meant that they haven’t really released a proper pair of dedicated weightlifting shoes.

Until Now. The release of the Legacy Lifter, means that Reebok have a proper specialist lifting shoe.

I think the Legacy lifters can be grouped among the Adipowers and Romaleos.

All three feature the same heel height of 0.75 inches and are all made of quite similar materials.

Like the Nikes, these are a bit wider than Adipowers and feature the double foot straps. You certainly won’t get much lateral movement of your feet inside these shoes.

Honestly, if you are choosing between these and the Romaleos, you just need to go with what you prefer the look of. I do like the black and gold version of these.

You might want to stand out from the crowd a bit, since everybody seems to have the Nikes now. In that case, grab a pair of these.

Do-Win by Pendlay

The Do-wins have been very popular in the Oly lifting community. The Do-win weightlifting shoes by Pendlay has a more classic look to the upper than most on the list.

However, for all of the classic looks, this shoe gets away from traditional Olympic weightlifting shoes by opting for a hard-plastic heel instead of wood.

The height of the heel is 0.75 inches, the more common height nowadays.

The Do-Wins are very wide so will certainly be suitable if you have wide feet. The manufacturers actually recommend opting for half a size below your usual.

The double strap does mean you can tighten them up nicely around your forefoot.

I have seen some reviewers say that half a size down is even still too big. So, if you have narrow feet then you probably want to stay away from these ones to avoid sizing headaches.

They are some very sturdy and hard wearing shoes and should last you a good while. The pricing is reasonable too.

With a few colour options to choose from, you should be able to find a style that suits you. I actually quite like the classic-looking white version.

VS Athletics Weightlifting Shoe 2

VS lifting shoes front view
VS weightlifting shoe rear view

These are the cheapest shoes out of my picks. I have included them, for that reason but they still perform well.

I would call them a perfect entry-level shoe. Good features but falls slightly behind the top brands. Then again, for the price, they represent excellent overall value.

The heels on them are a little higher than most at 1 inch, a good thing if you need that extra height due to limited ankle mobility.

The only downside, as far as the heel is concerned, is that they are made of a very hard rubber on the bottom.

Obviously, rubber is going to compress more than the plastic or wooden heals available.

To tell the truth, for an entry-level lifter, it probably won’t be noticeable.

Looks-wise, I think they look alright. Nothing too flashy about them but not ugly either.

I have heard a couple of complaints about the material not being breathable so if your feet get rather hot when you train, comfort might be an issue at times.

If you are looking to "test the waters" of weightlifting and squat shoes, on a budget, these could be an option.​

Position USA P2.1

P2.1 side view shoe
Position oly lifting shoes image
p2.1 back view

I have to admit, I didn't know a huge deal about the technical side of these shoes.

I had heard some good things, seen them before and just really loved the look of them.

Instead of recommending them on looks alone, I did do a bit more research to help you out.

Position USA are an Olympic weightlifting brand so it stands to reason that these are my top choice for Oly lifters.

The wooden heel is a feature that I think the Olympic lifter will appreciate more than a powerlifter or general gym trainee.

The heels are also a little higher than most of the other shoes I have reviewed. They have an effective heel height of about 1 inch so they make staying upright in a squat quite a bit easier.

Vibram rubber soles and the tapered heel, provide grip and added stability​

I have been extremely tempted to get myself a pair of these for a long while now but my Adipowers are still in perfect working order and have served me well.

I have to say, writing this review has tempted me further towards these.​

If I got more into Oly lifting, I would certainly snatch a pair (ha! See what I did there?).

Seriously, they look stunning. That blue suede sitting on top of the hand-crafted and stained wooden heel. Beautiful!​

Final Recommendations

For the majority – Take your pick between the Adipowers and Romaleos based on how wide your foot is and which shoe you prefer the look of.

For Olympic lifters – Position USA P2.1 all day!

For the new lifters or the budget conscious – VS Athletic Weightlifting shoes 2 are the way to go.

If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment and I will do what I can to help you out.

Finally, if you do think this was a useful guide, help out your fellow-lifters by sharing it around social media!

For more equipment recommendations, click to take a look at my deadlift shoes guide, best belt guide or knee sleeves guide.​