Belts, Wraps, & Sleeves, oh my!

As a coach, I always tell my athletes to know their why.

Why are you here? Why are you hell-bent on doing “Fran” at Rx? Why are you doing a Vegan diet? Why is your shoulder still painful after all these months? Why are you wearing those shoes? Why, why, why…

As a athlete myself, before I do or say anything, I always ask myself questions.

Too often, we don’t ask questions, we just take something and run with it. Take for instance the use of weight belts, wrist wraps, knee sleeves, etc. They are common household items in a CrossFit gym. And, admittedly, they look bad ass and make us feel stronger.

I get it - I used to own 5 pairs of super cute wrist wraps, all different colors and designs. I loved the routine of getting all of my gear on before I battled the workout. I had it all - Weight belt, wrist wraps, hand protectors, knee sleeves, arm sleeves, elbow sleeves, calf sleeves… Yeah, I had it all, baby! I looked like I was wearing a super suit!

Then, one day, I forgot my gym bag at home, and I had to do the workout without all of my gear. Mentally, I was a wreak. Physically, my wrists and knees felt vulnerable and weak. I felt exposed, and even naked. It was at that moment I realized I had a gear-addiction, as well as an unhealthy reliance on them. So, I scaled back the weights and reps for a while, and didn’t wear any of my gear for months.

Then came a big day - An Olympic Weightlifting competition. I still did not use my gear as I warmed up, and I even refrained in my first and second attempts. But, when my third and final attempt came up, I put it all on, and I nailed that lift like a rockstar! It felt amazing. It actually felt too easy. I can’t even describe it in words. It’s just something you have to feel for yourself.

Bottom line, because I stopped using all of my gear, I actually strengthened my wrists, back, core, and knees. And, when I really needed it at a max lift, they worked like magic, the way they are supposed to.

It also forced me to think more about my movement patterns and how to brace myself correctly in lifts.

You see, those pieces of gear are not really meant for daily use. Nor are they meant to do the work for us. Think of them more as your “ace in the hole.” They are “enhancers” to our already awesome abilities and strength. It’s the equivalent to how our mothers used to tell us when we were teenagers to wear less make up day to day, and save the done up face for special occasions. Much more special then, and much more stares. ;-)

The issue we see as coaches is that athletes unintentionally rely too heavily on the gear, and are not learning to move effectively or efficiently. Many athletes even move more poorly due to wearing the gear because they think that the gear will “fix it.”

Think about why you are using the gear. In some exceptions, there are athletes who legitimately need to use them for medical reasons. But, let’s be honest, most of us are using them because we THINK we need them. We think we’re old, we think they’ll help compensate, we think they will prevent injury, we think they look awesome, etc.

Most commonly, I’ll have athletes tell me they have weak wrists, and that’s why they wear the wraps, to which I respond with, “Why do you think you have weak wrists? And, how do you think you can strengthen them?” Yep, you have weak wrists because you wear the wraps for everything, and the only way to strengthen them is to not wear the wraps all the time.

I like to challenge popular thinking. CrossFit gear is popular. Very popular.

Ask yourself why you are using it, and give some honest answers. And then, consider using them in moderation. I would suggest saving them for anything over about 80% of your 1 RM.

Everything has it’s time and place. All that I ask is that you ask more questions, and really think about your usage.

Now, regardless of what you choose to do, just make sure you’re moving well. Whether you have the gear on or not, you should be moving with intention, great form, and attention to technique. Your Snatch should look the same with or without that belt on. Your Split Jerk should be just as fast with or without the wrist wraps. Your back squat should be just as deep with or without the knee sleeves. ;-)

Two words - OWN IT! Own your fitness. Own your movements. Own your why’s. Own yourself.

WOD for TUESDAY 120418:


Strict Press



2 RFT:

150 DU’s (2 minutes of double under practice)

50/40 Calories Row

50 Wall Balls

50 DB One-Arm Snatch

(16 min cap)

WOD for FRIDAY 113018


“G.I. Jane”
For Time:
100 Burpee Pull ups

Post WOD Mobility:
Work with your coaches and spend 20 minutes working on what ails you most from the week

Kara PurvesComment