Fitness has a lot of “extras” and accessories for training. Many times, people can get easily overwhelmed by the abundance of equipment and even opinions of how and when to use them.
Two of the more popular items people use in the gym are lifting belts and sleeves. When looking at belts and sleeves, understanding what they do and how to use them is important. A big misconception is that they will are simply for protection. This is true to an extent, as belts and sleeves also help out with performance as well.
Many people out there think by simply wearing a belt they can squat and deadlift a bunch of weight. Making sure that you properly wear a belt is important for any lift, but also knowing that simply wearing a belt does not make you super human in strength. Belts from a performance aspect can give you a few extra pounds (maybe 5-10), but they also serve as a compressor for the stomach wall and spine. When wearing a belt, you want to make sure you can let a full “belly breath” out without feeling restricted. If you cannot, you have the belt too tight. If you let a fully breath out and there is room between your stomach and belt, then the belt is too loose. The belt keeps that compression between the stomach and spine so the muscles in the trunk are strong and stable during the lift. Also, wearing a belt for a stronger lift will help increasing your beltless lift as well. A big misconception is a belt makes the core weaker, which yes if you always were to wear one and do no core training your strength would be limited. Core training makes your core stronger, not beltless squats or deadlifts.
Sleeves can be worn on the elbow joints and the knee joints. When it comes to getting older or dealing with pain in the joints, the main variables that sleeves provide are warmth and compression of the joint. By having warmth and compression the joint is able to move easier without as much pain involved. Some elbow sleeves go up onto the bicep, helping out as well with keeping the muscle warm during lifts. Biceps are a weak spot for powerlifters so long sleeves are usually recommended. Sleeves are supposed to be very tight fitting and come in all different kinds of material and thickness. Sleeves can assist in performance as well by providing some material behind the joint and giving the lifter some extra spring in their lift. Do not expect much, but a few pounds are a typical addition to someone’s lift when wearing a sleeve on the knees or elbows.