In the world of weight lifting there are many tools we can use as accessories to make our training easier. That is generally the purpose of a “training accessory.” They take the load off, help out a weak link, or make our movements more efficient. These accessories fill gaps we might have.
Take from these what you wish. These accessories ARE training tools – meaning they are not inherently bad. This post is here to explain why and when you might use each one. You can then decide if they are ultimately worth your time, money and use.
You can achieve this through adding small changing plates under each heel, using some kind of wedge, or wearing shoes with an intentional heel lift – like olympic lifting shoes. The point of raising the heel is to allow the chest to stay more upright and the knees to drive further forward over the toe. This increases or makes up for a lack of ankle dorsiflexion. It can be amazing for biasing the quads, or just helping someone get deeper into a squat than they might be able to on their own.
My challenge to this is that if we’re using this to accommodate for a lack of ankle mobility, can we gain more ankle mobility? Is there room for improvement? If yes, let’s do both.
Lifting straps are specifically used for grip assistance. Any time the muscles and patterns being worked are stronger than your grip, lifting straps can be used. This is their primary purpose. Someone asked me the other day if they should use straps for RDL’s or just lower the weight and bring up their grip strength. Grip strength is a limiting factor at some point for most people. My answer is this:
If the goal of the RDL (or given exercise) is to build and challenge and progress grip strength, then don’t use straps. If the goal of the RDL (or given exercise) is to stress a certain muscle group or hone that movement pattern, then throw on the straps and give the muscles a proper stimulus!
Ahhhhh possibly the most ill used and abused lifting accessory of all time. It pains me to see people wearing a weight lifting belt to do high rep work or lat pull downs. The purpose of a weight lifting is to increase intra-abdominal pressure during a near maximal lift. The belt provides an external surface to press out against in the process of bracing. And it support breath + bracing in a 360 degree fashion – which I am all for. What it is not, is a back brace…and it should not be used as such.
To be clear this is not black and white. Seek better, stronger mobility + mechanics. You have have adequate ankle dorsiflexion AND use wedged or squatting shoes for MAX depth or movements like cyclist squats.
You can use a weight lifting belt daily and have phenomenal breathing and bracing mechanics. Always asking: Does the training tool make sense? Can we work to fill the gap the training tool was perhaps made for (and continue or not continue using the tool). What is your favorite tool? I LOVE lifting straps and wedges.
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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