I am a strength training enthusiast that loves discovering new ways to get stronger. As a certified trainer and powerlifting competitor, I'm always looking for different training methods and advice. I hope to pass some of what I learn on to my fellow lifters.
You've heard it all before, and the fact that sleep is good for your health is well-known. Yet, too many of us don't get enough sleep. Even worse, many of us treat sleep as time wasting.
Although, to some people, eight hours of lying in your bed each day might seem like you are wasting 1/3 of your life away, it is entirely the opposite. Making sure you get proper rest in that third will make your other two-thirds of life so much better.
In this article, you will discover just why sleep could be the key to unlocking your strength and muscle gains. You will why it is so essential for your health and fitness and you'll also learn signs of sleep deprivation to make sure you don't sacrifice your hard work by sleeping too little.
How Does Sleep Affect Muscle Building?
It is a common misconception that muscles grow in the gym; you may already know that isn't the case. They develop during your rest periods and when are you more at rest than when sleeping?
When you lift weights, you create "damage" to your muscles and connective tissues. Your body immediately begins the repair process, which usually lasts around 48 hours.. The repair process involves elevating protein synthesis levels to rebuild your muscle tissues and allow them to gradually start growing.
Sleep is essential for maximising this recovery period since it is the only real time that you are almost completely at rest and your body is allowed to go through the recovery process without interruption.
The following sections will outline some areas where sleeping more can have some profound effects on your muscle size and strength.
Sleep Improves Performance
One of the crucial factors for building muscle is progressive overload, which is very much performance based. You increase the weight/volume, and you continue doing that over and over again. Our body is adapting very quickly, and if you want to keep adding more muscles, you need to give it new challenges. In other words, you need to challenge your body to work harder over time
That is something that is never going to happen if you are sleep deprived. If you are always tired, tit becomes very difficult to consistently work harder and improve your performance.
Yes, you could supplement with pre-workouts to give you that needed kick. Although, the caffeine in them could present further sleep problems if you train in the late afternoon or evening. Considering the fact that you took pre-workout because you are not sleeping enough in the first place, all this becomes a vicious circle that will lead you to sleep deprivation and caffeine reliance. It certainly won't lead you to gains and a healthy lifestyle.
Now, I'm not totally against certain forms of pre-workouts, but they should never be relied on as a substitute for areas of your lifestyle that could simply be improved.
Lower Injury Risk When Well-Rested
When you are sleep deprived, your concentration and reaction times will significantly decrease. That will make you prone to mistakes, and if you are less concentrated, you are more likely to exercise with poor form, which can cause injuries. And of course, if you are injured, you will not be able to work out, and your progress will start to suffer.
I have always preached that the individuals who make the most gains are the ones that are able to stay injury-free for the longest. I feel this is even more true for strength sports where it becomes much harder to work around an injury and still make progress.
Increased Hormone Production During Sleep
Testosterone, the king of all anabolic hormones is released in higher amounts during sleep. We all know how important it is for muscle building as it is the number one reason why men are more muscular than women, and unfortunately, it is the favorite steroid among bodybuilders.
Besides testosterone, our body also releases IGF-1, which is another hormone that helps muscles grow.
Another hormone that is often misused by athletes is released during deep sleep - HGH (human growth hormone). It helps reproduction and growth of our cells.
Furthermore, if we don't get enough sleep, two hormones that are tied to the appetite get disrupted. Leptin, which is responsible for reducing appetite falls, while the levels of ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, significantly rise. This will cause increased food cravings, and it might cause unwanted weight gain.
Moreover, sleep reduces production of bad, catabolic, hormones such as cortisol. Catabolic hormones are the opposite of anabolic, and they basically break down your muscles, which is something you want to avoid as much as possible.
Signs of Sleep Deprivation
If you are sleep deprived, you will notice some apparent symptoms such as yawning and tiredness but, not getting enough sleep can cause other more troubling problems such as the inability to concentrate and perform deep, focused work.
It can also cause irritability, memory issues, mood swings and even suicidal thoughts and depression in severe cases.
The issue is that when chronically not getting enough sleep, you will not notice your lower energy levels, because you will think of them as normal. But just try to get recommended amounts of sleep for a single week and you will rapidly start noticing some major improvements.
How Much Sleep is Enough for Strength and Muscle Building?
First, it is not only about how much, but it is also about when. Nothing can replace night sleep. Our bodies are designed to be active during the day, and if you are a night owl, the chances are that your cortisol levels are going to be higher, even if you get 9 hours of sleep during daytime. And we have already explained how cortisol destroys your muscles.
Now, as for the amount, you have heard a million times how you should get eight hours of quality sleep per night. This is still the recommended amount for most people although, there are some variances depending on your age.
Note: even if you can't get full eight hours in a single sleep session, try to reach it in total, through afternoon naps. Even sleeping longer on weekends can help your health but nothing can replace those eight hours per night, so do your best to get that whenever possible.
Final Thoughts on Sleeping to Build Muscle and Strength
Sleep has numerous positive effects on the human organism, and muscle growth is one of them. No matter how hard you work out, your results will start lagging if you don't get enough sleep.
The good news is that physical activity is one of the best things you can do to improve your sleep quality, which means you are already on the right track. The second thing that affects sleep quality is nutrition but if you are following a healthy diet, which is also crucial for your results, you are going to sleep just fine.
The important thing is that you don't neglect sleep. Recovery is an often-overlooked part of the muscle building triangle that involves exercising and nutrition.
Get your eight hours of sleep per night, and you will start noticing better muscle gains.
Assessing your body composition, and more precisely, how much fat you have is a key piece of information. Finding the best way to measure body fat and doing so regularly can tell you a lot about your overall health and can be used as a tracking measure for your fitness programs.
Obesity is an epidemic of modern Western people, responsible for all sorts of conditions, from diabetes, hypertension, and sexual dysfunction all the way to cancer and heart diseases. Of course, physical appearance and confidence are factors for many people as well.
As you can see, there are many reasons why you would want to know your body fat percentage. Yet, measuring it accurately is not that simple. In this article, you'll discover which methods are most accurate and suitable for tracking your own body fat.
Body Fat vs Body Mass Index
Firstly, I want to clear up some regular confusion about the differences between BMI and body fat measurements. BMI, short from Body Mass Index tells a lot about your health, but it is not an adequate measurement of body fat percentage, although these terms are often confused.
You calculate BMI by dividing your body mass with the square of your height. You need to use kilograms and centimeters. BMI calculation will put you in one of the four categories - underweight, normal, overweight or obese.
However, putting the whole population into four groups isn't accurate in all cases? There is more to it.
While it will work for most people, individuals who are "extreme" in one way or another, sometimes will end up in the wrong category. This is the case for many professional athletes, NFL players and bodybuilders especially. Because muscle tissue is more dense than fat, people who are muscular will often end up in overweight, or even the obese category. One look at them will tell you something completely different. And that is our next point on the list.
Estimating Body Fat with the Mirror
The mirror never lies. Strip to your underwear, stand in front of it and take a picture. Then go online, and compare how you look to a body fat estimation chart containing people with different levels of fat.
You will get the idea where you belong. Also, this method will motivate you, giving you a clear picture of how your body will transform if you try a little bit harder.
This is certainly the most simple method you could use to assess your body composition. Of course, it is not going to be accurate but it can be used to see progress over time. Although, taking regular pictures would be a better way of judging progress if you want to do it by eye.
The Best Way to Measure Body Fat - 3 common methods
This method is very convenient, you just need to buy an electronic body composition scale, enter your basic information like height and age, and step on it.
Bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) will measure the resistance of your body to electric current (don't worry, you won't feel it). Because different body parts conduct electricity in different ways, as they contain different percentages of water, these scales are able to tell you your muscle mass, bone density, and of course body fat percentage. All this happens in a few seconds, making these scales very handy.
But, all that convenience comes at a price - accuracy. Electric current will always try to travel the shortest distance. So, if the electrodes are only touching your feet, the current will move from one foot to another, totally neglecting your upper body.
On the other hand, if you have a handheld model, the current will not go through your legs at all. That doesn't mean these scales are worthless, it just means that you should take the readings with a grain of salt.
The best way to use electronic scales is to assess general trends in your body fat over time instead of relying on them to give you an accurate reading.
Body Fat Calipers
This is a very budget-friendly method, as it doesn't require anything high-tech, just a pair of calipers that will measure the thickness of your fat stored at different locations on your body.
Once measured, you take all your readings and put them into an equation, that will tell you how much fat your body contains. Different formulas will require you to pinch the skin from various body parts. Usually, three are required, but some formulas will need measurements from 8-9 spots; more measurements leads to a better reading but is more difficult to do.
Accuracy with skin fold calipers is determined by the skill level of the person taking the measurements. Ideally, the same person should take the measurements each time to allow for consistent readings, which brings us to another problem.
The second issue is that you need to pinch and read the caliper at the same time, which is difficult to do by yourself, especially if you have to read it from nine different locations of your body. This means you'll need a partner to help out every time you want to measure your body fat.
All in all, if you can find a competent partner to take your readings, body fat calipers can be a useful and cheap way to track your body fat. However, as before, accuracy isn't going to be great.
Clearly, a key issue for the methods mentioned so far is the accuracy. Therefore, more advanced techniques need to be considered if you want a truer reading.
There are various other high-tech ways to measure body fat like hydrostatic weighing and BodPods but our choice will be the DEXA scan, often considered the gold standard of all body fat percentage tests.
DEXA (or DXA) is short from Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry. An X-Ray machine is used to determine the absorption properties of your body. Bones deflect more rays than muscle, which deflect more rays than fat. A medical technician will take the readings, precisely calculating your body composition.
Because your entire body is being scanned, you will get an accurate reading for each body part, telling you if there are any imbalances, for example, one leg has more muscles than the other.
DEXA scan is an extremely accurate method, unlike any other we mentioned above. If you need to measure your body fat percentage precisely, and overall body composition, this is the method you should go with.
Of course, this is a method you can't do in your own home. Unless you have an X-ray in your garage, you will have to travel to a dedicated facility to perform a DEXA scan. Here's a list of DEXA scan locations.
As long as you can afford the cost of DEXA scanning, which usually falls around $150, I would suggest this as your go-to method for a combination of accuracy and accessibility.
Body Fat Measuring - Be Consistent!
This is very important: always measure your body compositions under the same circumstances and with the same method for regular measurements. For example, every Monday morning, right upon waking up if you choose one of the home versions.
Even if calipers and scales are not pinpoint accurate, they will give you numbers that you can compare. Take your measurements at your chosen intervals, on the same day, and make a chart (measuring it every day is too much but weekly or even monthly is fine). That will give you the motivation to lose fat long term, which is the most important thing.
For convenience and the sake of your budget, combining some of the methods discussed is also an option; the mirror will guide you day-to-day; calipers and/or scales will do the job once a week to assess progress; the high-tech DEXA scan will give you a more accurate reading on a monthly or even bi-monthly basis.
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.
There are a few different types of grip strength and each requires a different tool to train it. Throughout this article, you will learn the different categories of grip strength, how they work and how to make them stronger.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 multiple winner of 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 Reviews
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.
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.
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!
Rogue have recently put a lot of focus into their grip training equipment and now have an entire range of different devices.
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!
The hunt to find the best weight lifting belt is inevitable at some point in a lifter's quest for strength. Often, a belt will be one of the first purchases made when you decide you are getting serious about getting strong.
However, finding the right type from the start can be tricky. It certainly pays to get a quality belt that's right for you and made to last.
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. I want to make sure you get the real deal from day one and keep it for years to come.
Best Lifting Belts 2018 - Quick View
For more information on how to choose the right bet for you, as well as reviews on other belts, read the full article. If you just came here for a strong recommendation on the best belt for powerlifting or weightlifting, here are my choices:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Original Picture source: http://www.roguefitness.com/rogue-oly-ohio-lifting-belt
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.
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
Winner(s): 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.
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.
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 overall quality.
But, due to the lower price yet still high quality, I have actually chosen the Toro Bravo as my overall top pick.
Casual lifters and competitors that aren’t at the elite level will do just fine with this one.
A super popular belt from an extremely well-respected manufacturer. These belts also all come with lifetime guarantees, hence the “forever” in the name.
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.
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.
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.
If you don't mind spending a bit extra for the quality and longevity you will get out of this belt, this is the one to go for.
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.
Nowadays, it seems like there is a different kind of bar for almost every exercise or style of lifting. The training benefits behind using different barbells are often debated and this is very much the case with the deadlift bar, which can make it difficult to know if you should even use a deadlift bar before you even get to trying to find the best deadlift bar for your training.
This article will outline exactly what a deadlift bar is, why or why it shouldn’t be used as well as helping you to buy the best deadlift bar by comparing to of the most popular deadlift barbells available: The Rogue Ohio deadlift bar and the Texas deadlift bar. Feel free to use the table of contents to skip ahead if you just came for the deadlift bar recommendations.
What is a Deadlift Bar and How is it Different from a Standard Barbell?
As you may have guessed, or at least I would hope you have, a deadlift bar is a barbell that has the sole purpose of being used for deadlifts. The question is what makes it better for deadlifts than a standard Olympic barbell?
The main performance difference is the amount of “whip” you get when deadlifting with a deadlift bar. By “whip”, I’m referring to how much the barbell bends as you lift it off the ground. By having a barbell that bends more as you pull up on it, you essentially decrease the distance that you must lift the weight from the ground.
Often, with a deadlift bar, the bar will bend enough to allow your hands to be a good couple of inches higher before the weights break the ground. This reduction in range of motion is likely to lead to slightly heavier weights being lifted by most people.
The video below shows this difference:
Physical Differences Between Deadlift Bars and Standard Bars
The last section explained the main performance difference between a deadlift bar and regular barbell, but what physical changes cause the deadlift bars to bend more?
There are a few key differences you will usually see between the two types of bar.
Firstly, a deadlift bar is going to be thinner than regular bars. The majority of deadlift bars are 27mm thick, which is 1-2mm thicker than powerlifting bars.
Deadlift bars also rely on shifting the weight plates further away from the middle of the bar to further increase “whip”. This is done by increasing both the distance between the sleeves as well as increasing the length of the bar as a whole.
As you can see, all the changes made to a deadlift bar are done so in an effort to make the bar bend more at the start of a deadlift.
Rogue Ohio Power Bar vs Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar
Just to give you a rough guide to the differences between standard power bars and deadlift bars, I have taken our favourite powerlifting bar, the Rogue Ohio Bar and compared the specifications to the deadlift version of the same bar.
Finally, Rogue mentions the knurling on their Ohio deadlift bar is slightly more aggressive than their power bars. This makes sense as having a better grip on the bar is going to improve deadlift performance, which is the main aim of the bar.
As you can see from the image above, the main differences between the two bars is in the various lengths. The deadlift bar also doesn’t feature a centre knurling as it has no need for one due to the fact it shouldn’t be used for squats.
Who Should Use a Deadlift Bar?
This is a big question that is quite often the topic of many forum and video comment section debates. To me, the initial answer doesn’t need to be complicated:
If your sole aim is to lift more weight from the ground, then you will likely benefit from using a deadlift bar.
The complexity and nuances come into play when you examine a lifter’s reasons behind wanting to deadlift more.
For example, a lifter who wants to lift more weight in order to increase lower body strength and muscular development could be inhibited by using a deadlift bar. Sure, the weight will be heavier, but the reduced range of motion could detract from the recruitment of lower body muscles.
On the other hand, somebody that would like to get used to locking out heavier weights without adding bands, chains or changing the mechanics of the deadlift movement too much could benefit from the use of a deadlift bar.
Like a lot of other tools, I think the deadlift bar can have its’ place in a lifter’s program as another variation that can be used alongside your other lifts to build a more well-rounded athlete.
The one group of people that most certainly should make regular use of a deadlift bar are powerlifters or strongman competitors where a deadlift bar is use during their competition days. If your federation uses a deadlift bar on meet day, you must get used to using one in the gym.
On the other side of that coin, lifters in federations like the IPF, where very stiff bars are used, will want to limit their use of deadlift bars. This is especially true as you get closer to competition.
Remember, specificity is key.
What is the Best Deadlift Bar?
There are a few popular choices on the market for deadlift bars. For this article, I have taken what I believe to be the two best deadlift bar choices when considering build quality, value and bar performance. They also happen to be the bars I have most experience with so the comparison between the two is much fairer.
Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar vs Texas Deadlift Bar
Before offering a comparison and suggestion on the best bar, I have included a short individual review and some specifications on each bar individually:
Rogue has become a firm favorite of mine for lifting equipment and they should certainly have the knowledge available to build a superb deadlift bar. After all, they put a lot of effort into researching and creating their showpiece competition bar, the elephant bar, which has become a big part of the Arnold Classic Strongman event every year.
Using what they learned from building the elephant bar, which can’t be purchased, Rogue has come up with a strong competitor in the deadlift bar market with their Rogue Ohio deadlift bar. The bar has been modelled after their popular, and Barbell pursuit’s best barbell winner, the Ohio power bar.
As with most Rogue barbells, there is a choice of finishes for their deadlift bar: raw steel, zinc plated and now colored cerakote finishes. The zinc plated and cerakote are slightly more expensive, but it does offer protection from oxidation and the cerakote can be ordered in four colors. However, raw steel feels much better in the hands, but it requires more bar maintenance. The choice here is yours.
The materials used in the deadlift bar are very similar to those used in the power bar. The shaft is built to a tensile strength of 190k psi and the same bronze bushings are used inside the sleeves.
The bar does feature an aggressive knurling, which I definitely prefer for deadlifts, but it isn’t too sharp since the points of the knurls are concaved like a volcano. This pattern allows the knurling to be aggressive and grippy without tearing into your hands.
Finally, the deadlift bar comes without a center knurling, as I mentioned earlier. There is simply no need for a center knurled section on a deadlift bar because a center knurl is there to provide grip on your back during squats. You should not be squatting with a deadlift bar.
Manufactured by Buddy Capps, the maker of the ever-popular Texas power bar, the Texas deadlift bar is another excellent option for this speciality bar. As was the case with the original power bar, the build-quality on the Texas deadlift bar is great: the finish on the steel bar is zinc oxide as standard and the knurling is very deep cut. The bar also features bronze bushes inside of the collars, which are constructed from one piece of material.
Unlike the Texas power bar, there is no centre knurling on the bar, which is pretty much standard practice with deadlift barbells.
Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar vs Texas Deadlift Bar Comparison – Which is Best?
We have discussed each bar individually and can say with certainty that both would be an excellent choice for your deadlift bar. However, there has to be a winner here, so we have taken the main features of each bar and presented them in the table below:
As you can see from the table, in terms of specs, the bars are quite similar on paper. However, I lean towards the Ohio bar as my favorite for a couple of reasons:
It can usually be had for a cheaper price than the Texas bar.
I prefer the concave style knurling, which is aggressive and grips very well without ripping into the hand’s skin.
With that in mind, the Barbell Pursuit’s recommendation for the best deadlift bar currently available is the Rogue Ohio Deadlift Bar. You can click the link below to view and purchase the bar directly on Rogue’s website.
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.
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.
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
· 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.
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.
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, Until very recently I had 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! For a more comfortable pair on the wrists, you can go for these ones from Rip Toned, which I now also use.
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.
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.
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 on using lifting straps. 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.
Up until recently, I would always recommend these IronMind straps. After all, they are crazy strong, I used one pair of them for about 6 years and they are used in professional strongman competitions. They are great straps for seriously heavy lifts and strongman events.
However, I have since come across a very popular pair of lifting straps by a brand called Rip Toned. They are slightly thicker, softer and longer than the IronMind ones and feature a strip of neoprene padding.
The Rip Toned straps are certainly more comfortable to wear as the material doesn't dig into the wrists.
After using them for the past few months, I now recommend the Rip Toned straps below for the majority of gym-goers since they are much more comfortable and remove that added annoyance of the strap cutting into your wrists.
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 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 used to be cautious of straps that seem to have a lot of elements attached since there's more stuff that could break. However, I have now seen these used by enough top lifters to have changed my view. Cailer Woolam, for example:
Are you looking for ways to increase your deadlift quickly? Usually, I would say there are no shortcuts and it takes time and consistency. However, finding the right pair of deadlift shoes is something that can have an almost instant benefit.
Wearing a shoe that feels comfortable, stable and allows you to get in a good position for deadlifting can make a real difference.
This article will give you an overview of the best shoes for deadlifting available and provide you with all the info to help you choose the right ones.
Just like running, football, basketball and squatting, there is a whole range of footwear options. There are some great and not so great ones.
Here is a quick list of my top picks for deadlift shoes, click on the links to be taken to their purchase pages. You can read an in-depth review on each further down the page.
Here are, in my opinion, the key elements your deadlifting shoes should include:
1. Flat and solid soles
A completely flat sole means that you will have more surface area in contact with the ground, which allows you to feel more stable and in control during the lift. It should lead to greater force output against the resistance.
2. Thin soles
Ideally, you want to be as close to the ground as possible for a deadlift. The closer you are to the ground, the higher the bar will start on your shins.
You won’t have to lift the bar as far, which should make things a lot easier. It's the reason many people like to lift barefoot or in just socks.
However, some gyms might not like this and if you ever plan to compete in powerlifting, you will be forced to wear something on your feet.
3. Traction and grip
Your soles must offer you enough traction on the platform. Having your feet slip when you are half-way through a heavy lift is something that you certainly don’t want to experience.
This one is especially true for cheaters. I mean sumo deadlifters (Only kidding! Can you tell I pull conventional?)
Seriously though, sumo pullers will be pushing out with their feet so need to make sure there is sufficient grip to prevent a very painful attempt at doing the splits.
4. Snug-fitting and supportive
Finally, your shoes should feel nice and compact around your foot with very little movement inside them.
Ankle support is also quite important, you don’t want your foot to be shifting from side to side inside of the shoe as you lift. High top shoes are quite a popular option for that very reason.
A word of advice for wearing high tops. You need to make sure you still have enough mobility and range of motion at your ankles. If your shoe starts to limit ankle dorsiflexion (the ability to point your toes towards the ceiling), it could alter your leverages and technique.
A powerlifter lifting in a pair of SABO deadlift shoes.
3 Signs of a bad deadlift shoe
1. Spongey, air or gel-filled soles
This pretty much disqualifies all running shoes. These types of soles are great for absorbing the impact from pounding the pavements on a run but they will not make for a good deadlifting trainer.
As I stated earlier, you need maximum stability throughout your foot. The spongey soles of running shoes compress very easily, they are supposed to. Under a heavy load, more compression can cause uneven foot to ground contact and possibly lead to injury.
2. Thick soled shoes
Your shoes could tick the box of a flat, sturdy sole but if they too thick then you probably want to look elsewhere.
Again, a thicker sole will mean you need to pull the bar further. You will essentially be doing a deficit deadlift all the time.
Converse chuck Taylors are a popular deadlifting shoe and they have a 4mm thick sole. This is about the maximum thickness I would go for.
3. Poor lateral support
When you are performing the lift, especially in sumo again, there will be a lot of pressure on the outside of your shoes. The pressure should be there if you're using your glutes properly to prevent your knees from caving in.
If your shoes aren’t strong enough or supportive enough to hold up to the constant pressure on their sidewall, they won’t be lasting long at all.
Olympic weightlifting shoes for deadlifts?
In case you aren’t sure what Olympic lifting shoes are, they look like this:
One of my Adidas Adipower weightlifting shoes. Slightly scuffed but they've held up well for 4 years worth of squatting
They are a heeled shoe that artificially increase your range of motion at the ankles to help users stay upright at the bottom of a deep squat. Keeping very upright is important for Olympic weightlifters since they usually catch the bar in an extremely deep squat position.
As far as using Olympic lifting shoes for deadlifts goes, I don’t like them and most people probably would do better with a completely flat shoe.
However, there are a select few that may find they benefit from a bit of extra quad activation at the start of the lift due to slightly greater knee bend forced upon you by wearing the raised heel.
All you can do to be certain, is to try deadlifting in Olympic shoes for yourself and see how you feel.
You should be squatting regularly anyway. Since I recommend that most people use an Olympic weightlifting shoe for squats, you should already own a pair that you can try.
In fact, I suggest sorting out your squat shoes before you think about deadlift shoes. I have a guide on the best lifting shoes for squats and oly lifting.
I feel footwear is likely to play a much bigger part in your squat than deadlift.
Best deadlift shoes reviews
Ok, if you didn't skip straight here and read the guide above, you should now be fairly certain on what to look for in a good pair of deadlift shoes.
In this section, I wanted to go through my picks for the best deadlift shoes in a bit more detail. To help you make a better informed decision, I have given a description and some reasons for and, in some cases, against each shoe.
Chuck Taylors (great for a budget)
Overall, these are kind of a “they will do” type of shoe. Meaning, if you are on a budget, “they will do”. If you already have a pair laying around, “they will do”. If you only other option is a running shoe, “they will do”.
These are very cheap and not a bad all round weight training shoe. Probably not the best if you plan on doing any type of running or plyometric work, but this is about deadlifting so I will judge them on that.
The sole is fairly solid and flat, although they can curl up a little at the toes over time. The canvas uppers on the shoe are flexible to allow good ankle mobility in the high-top versions.
However, they can come away from the soles on the side of the shoe over time.
These shoes really aren’t built to take the kind of wear and tear that weightlifting can cause to them.
Generally, they are pretty comfortable. The flexible canvas versions can be pulled very tight with the laces so your foot will be snug in the shoe.
As I already touched upon, the support of the canvas isn’t great though so your foot will still move from side to side, despite being tight inside the shoe itself.
These are very good deadlift shoes. You would expect them to be, it’s what they were made for. Many people use wrestling shoes for deadlifts and you can see some similarities here.
The soles are super thin at around 2.5mm, which is very close to deadlift slippers. These shoes are certainly going to be a better option than slippers for sumo pullers, due to the increased traction of the soles.
The SABO shoe is pretty supportive on foot, more so than a wrestling shoe, as they do offer some extra support to the arch.
The metatarsal strap across the forefoot of the shoe is an excellent addition. It means you can adjust the fit of the shoe to be as tight and snug as you like.
Obviously, these are a higher-top shoe so the ankle support on offer is also very good while still being comfortable.
For deadlifts, these are my winners. They beat the Metal deadlift shoes for me because they offer a bit more comfort and look better (I know that looks shouldn’t matter for deadlifting shoes, but it definitely does for many people).
You could use them for your other lifts but I like a heeled shoe for squats personally. If you squat better in flat shoes, then you could very well wear these for those too.
Pricing is actually really good on these. Much cheaper than you would normally expect to pay for a specialist kind of shoe.
Update: Sabo have recently released a new pair of all-round powerlifting shoes called the "Sabo Goodlift". In the Sabo goodlift vs deadlift argument, I would still choose the deadlifts since I don't feel the difference in price makes the goodlifts worth it.
Now these shoes are very similar to look at to the Converse shoes. They actually took some inspiration from the Chuck Taylors since so many people were already using them to lift weights in.
However, they have some serious design improvements over the converse shoes.
Don’t be fooled by the “crossfit” branding on them, these shoes were designed by very high level powerlifters.
Where the converse shoes fall short, the Reebok Lite TRs shine. They basically take all of the bad points I made about the Chucks and improve on them one by one.
The uppers of the shoes are much more sturdy, especially in the leather versions. They have a reinforced side wall that they call the “stability zone”. You can drive your feet out against the shoe without worrying about it breaking.
The grip on the bottom of the shoes is very different to the Chuck Taylors. The Chucks aren’t too bad for grip, but again, the Reebok TRs take it to the next level. With a kind of mini suction cup design, these bad-boys stick to the floor like glue. They feel very solid indeed.
The toe box on these is another differentiating feature. It is much wider than on the chucks.
I have heard a few different reviews on the toe box, though. I really like the extra space and the extra ground contact you get as a result of it. But, I have heard people complain that there is too much movement within the shoe. I guess if you have narrow feet, this may be a drawback for you.
Price-wise, I think these are pretty well priced. Especially when you consider that these can be used for pretty much all of your lifts if you wanted to.
At a recent strongman event I attended, there were a whole bunch of competitors wearing the high-top version of the reebok Lite TRs.
That shows you how versatile and rugged they can be, Strongmen go through so many different events and their shoes take almost as much of a beating as their bodies do.
For an overall lifting shoe, these would be my winner. Of course, this is a deadlift shoe article so the purpose built SABOs have to win.
Get the Reebok Lite TRs if you want a more versatile shoe.
These are your cheap and cheerful option. You can pick these up for around $15, so they could be worth testing out either way.
I think the very biggest advantage of the slippers, is that they are extremely thin soled. Around 1.5mm, which feels like you are pretty much barefoot. You will be very close to the ground in these.
Obviously, they provide no ankle support and there isn’t anything to push your foot out against on the sides. For sumo deadlifters, I say to forget about these. It just feels to unstable and there isn’t enough grip.
If you are a conventional puller and want to be very close to the ground, these could be an option.
Keep in mind that you clearly have to change out of them once you are done deadlifting, they aren’t really useful for anything else.
They also look a little silly in my personal opinion, not very stylish at all. But again, you don’t get any style points in lifting heavy weights.
If you can’t justify spending much money on dedicated deadlift shoes, these could do the job for you.
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.
One 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.
Above: My Adidas weightlifting shoes. A couple of scuffs but in great condition for 4 years worth of use.
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.
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.
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.
Since the adipowers, Adidas released a version called the Adidas Leistung, which I was not overly keen on. However, they have updated that with the Adidas Leistung 16.ii. This updated version may be worth a look but I am yet to review it properly.
Nike have now released the Romaleos 3 weightlifting shoes 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 Romaleos 3 and really like the look of these.
In many ways, these are very comparable 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 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.
Full body workouts vs split routines is a question that crops up very regularly among newer lifters.
What's the difference? Which is better for strength? Which will give you the best muscle gains? Which is the most sustainable? All very common questions.
Depending on where you get your information, you could end up getting some quite contrasting and confusing answers. This article aims to provide you with the truth on the topics above and leave you with a clearer vision of where to take your training.
Let’s take a look at both types of training, including how to perform them effectively and the pros and cons of each;
The concept behind a full body workout is straight-forward, you simply train your entire body, both upper and lower body muscle groups each time you head to the gym.
Training in this way brings about the need to look at certain variables in more detail to make sure you get the most out of each session.
Since lower and upper body are both trained, it leads us to the first variable you will need to consider: your exercise selection.
Some people will plan full body workouts that focus mainly on different exercises that target/isolate one particular muscle group, where others will focus on compound lifts in order to work multiple muscle groups at once.
The compound exercises route, which makes use multiple muscle groups per exercise is going to be more effective for the majority. This doesn't mean you can't use some isolation exercises but most of your time should be spent performing compound lifts.
Your main lifts during full body workouts will include things like presses, squats, deadlifts and chin-ups to name just a few exercises that effectively work several muscle groups on both lower and upper body.
Volume and intensity of a full body workout are also crucial. This includes the number of sets and reps (volume) you’re performing during the workout as well as the amount of weight you're using (intensity).
Your focus should not be on lifting a new PR every sessions, but on building strength by progressing within your target rep ranges.
It is important that you match the volume and intensity to your goal and recovery abilities if you want to make progress. Prilepin's table, below, gives a guide of the optimal volume per workout for a given intensity.
Training frequency should also be managed. How often you can and should train will differ very slightly for each individual but we can provide some general rules for the majority.
Other factors such as the intensity and volume you are training at have to be taken into the equation also. It is important to manage your full body splits as overworking your entire body could lead to under-recovery, which will affect your progression in the gym.
If you are repeating the same workout as the day previous, you may encounter some problems such as muscle fatigue and connective tissue damage, a great way to stop this is to have an alternating "A & B" workout, using each workout twice a week on alternate days.
Pros of Full Body Workout Programs
Full body training is a great method of training for beginners or newbies to the gym, it will elevate protein synthesis on a more regular basis for their whole body, allowing them to acquire faster results.
Better quality of training throughout the workout as you’re able to go from a lower body exercise to an upper body exercise, meaning you get more recovery time and are fresher to start your next exercise.
In general, you will burn more calories performing full body training. You are working your whole body and multiple muscle groups are under stress when lifting, leading to a greater number of calories being burned.
Increased physical preparedness. Due to the increase in frequency and total volume over the week, it will prepare your muscles for a greater workload and force your body to enhance recovery speed, great high-level athletes.
Less muscle soreness (DOMS) than a split body routine. As you are not focusing on hammering one or two muscles groups, you won’t shouldn't be doing enough volume to cause significant tissue damage.
Therefore, you shouldn't be as sore and will be able to train your muscles with the same intensity on your next workout.
You get to work more muscle groups, more often. Training with full body workouts multiple times per week will allow you to hit all muscle groups at least 2 times a week.
This video from Dr Mike Israetel explains the benefits of full body workouts against body-part split training:
Cons of Full Body Workout Programs
In my opinion, there really aren't too many downsides to full body workouts for the vast majority of people. But, there may be some disadvantages for some; more advanced bodybuilders are a group that might need to bear some of the following in mind:
More advanced bodybuilders might need to spend more time and increase their training volume for particular muscle groups, With full body workouts, it can sometimes be difficult to find enough time during a workout to dedicate to those individual muscle groups.
Getting the frequency and intensity wrong can make full body workouts harder to recover from. This would then hamper progress as you struggle more to recover from each workout over time.
Some muscle groups may not get enough recovery time. Again this is usually down to poor programming, which may lead to a lack of intensity in workouts later on in the week.
Full body workouts might lead to weak points. This is usually down to genetics; some people will find they need extra volume on certain muscles compared to others. This will only really become a worry as you reach a more advanced stage.
If you like the ‘pump’ you get from isolation exercises during a split workout, you may not get it to the same extent during a full body session, although you will most likely sweat more and work harder.
What are Split Training Routines?
Strictly speaking, split routines simply apply to any type of training program where you do not train the entire body during each workout.
Instead, you focus on a specific muscle or group of muscles. A common style of split training regimen used by bodybuilders is what’s called a “body-part split”. In the case of body-part splits, 1-2 muscles are normally focused on per workout. For example, you would have a leg day, arm day, chest day and so on.
For most trainees, particularly natural ones, body-part splits make it difficult to correctly balance training volume, frequency, intensity and recovery. Hammering one muscle group per workout often leads to a lot of soreness and makes it hard to train the same muscle group again within the next few days.
A slightly better type of split routine would be to split your upper and lower body into separate sessions or to use a push, pull, legs (PPL) split.
The push, pull, legs routine has grown in popularity over the past decade with trainers and fitness professionals adopting it as their go-to split routine to achieve their goals.
This training split typically consists of three working days, performed 1-2 times per week. The videos below outline a typical routine.
The push workout typically focuses on your upper body, performing pushing exercises and movements. The major muscle groups worked in this section of the split are typically Chest, Shoulders, and triceps.
When designing a PPL workout split, your workouts will generally revolve around barbell and dumbbell pressing – military, incline, flat, and decline presses, along with dips which will work your triceps and shoulders/chest. Isolation exercises tend to be used for extra triceps work and are typically performed at the end of workouts when your muscles are already fatigued.
The pull workout also focuses on your upper body, but instead of pushing, you are of course performing pulling motions/exercises. The major muscle groups worked on this day are typically your Back and Biceps.
When designing this section of your workout it will revolve around pulling motions from all different angles, to hit every section of your back. Popular exercises are deadlifts (although, these are a heavy lower body so could be placed on the leg day), pull-ups, chin-ups, pull-downs and rowing movements. As with Push workouts, people tend to focus on isolation exercises for biceps at the end of their workouts.
Lastly, your third day on the split will focus on your Leg workout. This focuses your training on your Hamstring, Quads, and Glute muscle groups… and calves… occasionally.
This section of your split is the most straight-forward. These workouts generally revolve around exercises such as squatting, lunging, and a few isolation exercises – extensions, curls, calf raises, hip thrusts.
Pros of Split Training Routines
Typically, split body training will allow for maximum focus and high volume on one muscle group. While not necessarily a plus in all cases, it does mean you shouldn't have many worries about not reaching enough total volume.
Repeated sets on one specific muscle group will build up your endurance for that area. For example, training legs, set after set, at a high intensity, will build up your endurance for that muscle group.
This approach to training will allow you to train more often than a full body program. You can easily rest one muscle group for up to two days a week with this approach, allowing adequate recovery for that muscle.
It will allow you to focus on your weak points and train them more often, leading to progression on certain lifts. For example, if you have a week bench press, focusing your chest sessions around pressing movements will lead to an improvement in that muscle group and strength in that lift.
This may be a Pro and a Con, but split training can lead to DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), which means the muscle group trained previously will be in pain for up to 48 hours post workout. Some love it, some hate it!
Cons of Split Training Routines
It can be hard to keep up the same intensity and lift the same weight during the workout. As you work through different exercises you may notice you can’t lift as heavy or for as many reps, this is perfectly normal, but it is a con associated with this approach to training. It can also be known as progressive overload.
DOMS, as described above, if it is something that you hate and it prevents you from training that body part for days, even weeks, this will not lead to the results you want.
Fewer calories burned per workout compared to full body training. As you are not working the same amount of muscle groups at once, you won’t burn as many calories as you would during a full body exercise. For example, you won’t burn as many calories doing a bicep curl as you would with a pull-up.
This approach to training requires you to train more often if you want to reach an optimal training frequency, taking up more of your time.
It may suit people who just enjoy being in the gym but in order to hit every muscle group with enough frequency to progress, you probably have to train 4-5 times per week.
There are different pros and cons associated with both approaches to training.
At the end of the day, both methods can lead to great gains.
While, I strongly believe most people will see faster, more consistent progress from a full body workout program, it really does come down to choosing which one you are more likely to adhere to.
At some point in your lifting journey, progress is going to stall slightly, or you are going to find a certain weakness with one of your lifts. In such a situation, it is only natural to seek out some options to help you overcome this plateau.
When it comes to the bench press, one of the most popular variations is the board press. Many people swear by using board presses to increase their bench press strength and there can be little argument of their usefulness for equipped powerlifting but…
How effective are they?
Will board presses help a raw bench press?
This article will give you an idea of how useful board pressing is for raw lifter as well as some tips on how you may be able to use them for your own training.
Board presses found their popularity in equipped powerlifting initially. This is because the bench-shirts worn change the strength curve and make the lift harder towards the lockout when compared to a raw bench.
However, a lot of individuals that bench completely raw have taken to using board presses in their own training, which is why I’m writing this article.
Benefits of Board Presses
The benefits below are for raw lifters and you should keep in mine they are only potential benefits. What I mean by that is each benefit below may or may not be a benefit to you as an individual; it depends on your circumstances (I will cover that later on).
Prehab and rehab
Benching with a reduced range of motion reduces the stress around your shoulder joints. This can be useful in a couple of ways:
1. Getting extra total volume with heavy weights without putting excess strain on your shoulders.
2. Maintaining some form of bench press during a period of injury. Could you to continue benching while you are working through a shoulder injury.
Using a thicker board and reducing the range of motion can allow you to use a larger weight during the lockout portion of the lift. Since the lockout relies heavily on your triceps, this can be an effective way to build some extra triceps strength.
I am not convinced this is a great use of a raw lifter’s time since lockout strength is not commonly the issue for them.
However, if you are wanting to build bigger and stronger triceps, it is much more specific and likely to have better carry over to the bench than many other triceps exercises.
Handle heavier weights
Using board presses to overload a specific portion of the movement may help some people gain more confidence with heavier weights. The shock of feeling a heavy weight in your hands for the first time can be quite daunting so I could see why some people benefit from this.
From a personal perspective, the point of a lift where a new weight feels the “scariest” is just as it is about to hit my chest. In this situation overloading with board presses is not going to help.
Break through sticking points
This is probably the most common use for using board presses. As I mentioned earlier, it is much more prevalent in equipped lifting due to the use of bench shirts.
When it comes to raw lifting, sticking points tend to be in the lower portion of the lift and comes as a result of not having enough power or momentum off the chest.
If you do have a genuine sticking point that can’t be fixed by improving technique and speed in the bottom part of the lift, board presses could certainly be useful.
How to use the board press in your training
Firstly, you need to decide if board presses are even necessary for your situation. I believe them to be useful in the following situations:
You want to build bigger triceps with a bench-specific movement.
You have an injury that is currently preventing full range of motion presses.
You really do have a sticking point as you approach lockout that can’t be fixed by improving technique or bar speed off the chest.
For raw lifters, specificity is crucial, so I don’t ever really see a need to replace your bench press with a board press for extended periods of time.
Of course, you may have a training session where the focus is your board press, but you should still be spending a lot of time on the raw bench as it is done in competition.
If you are using board presses to enhance your lockout strength, be sure to select the right height board. You should work from a board slightly below your actual sticking point since this will be where you are actually losing your momentum.
For those of you who do wish to give board pressing a try, you may want to have a look at these BenchBlokz:
They eliminate the need for carrying large planks of wood in your gym bag and you don’t need a partner to hold the board.
The vast majority of new lifters have no business messing with board presses. The only time where there may be a case with them is for cutting range of motion during injury rehab.
Otherwise, beginners need to focus on performing their basic lifts with the correct frequency and mastering the technique in those. Newer lifters have so much room for all-round progression that just getting stronger in general needs to be the target.
Final Thoughts – Board Presses for Raw Lifters
To wrap this up quickly, I think most raw bench pressers will need to spend time on improving bar speed off their chest before deciding they have weak triceps.
This usually requires enhancing technique and maximising tightness as the bar reaches your chest. I may write longer articles on each of those subjects in the future but the advice in this bench press post from Mike Tuchscherer is golden.
If, after reading this, you do feel your in a situation where board presses could increase your bench press then simply give them a try. After all, that is the only way to know if they will benefit you for sure.
As with any new method or technique, give it long enough to see improvements (at least 3 months) and then reassess the effectiveness after that.