Weight Room Debate: Should You Wear Lifting Gloves?

STACK asks strength and conditioning experts whether the use of lifting gloves helps or hurts an athlete's training.

If you see callouses not just as rough patches of skin, but as badges of honor, you probably wouldn't even consider wearing lifting gloves in the weight room. But for those who don't enjoy the feeling of a coarse metal bar digging into their palms, gloves seem like a sensible option that can protect the skin.

The use of lifting gloves is controversial within the strength and conditioning community. STACK recently spoke with five expert trainers about whether the palm protectors are OK. Opinions varied and were surprisingly passionate. While some said lifting gloves help you lift more weight, others called that nonsense, asserting that gloves rob you of precious grip strength. Below are the cases trainers made for and against wearing mitts when you hit the iron.

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Don't Love the Glove; It'll Mess Up Your Form

Stan Dutton, co-owner of Training for Warriors Boston, said, "Ninety-nine percent of the time, I advise against the use of gloves."

Brad Potts, Director of Sports Performance at Lafayette College (Easton, Pennsylvania), agreed, adding that gloves are, in a sense, a performance enhancer. Because gloves make it easier to hold a weight, they prevent athletes from getting the max benefit from their training. Potts said, "If you rely on things like gloves, wraps, belts and/or anything of an assisted nature, the athlete doesn't get the full benefit of training that movement."

Gloves can make lifting more comfortable, but Alex Rosencutter, owner of Rosencutter Ultra Fitness & Performance II, thinks they can interfere with your form. He said, "[Gloves] make it much more difficult to perform Deadlifts, rowing variations and pressing variations."

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Dutton agrees. "We use both internal and external cues to increase an athlete's performance," he says. "If I tell an athlete to 'crush the bar,' I want him to feel the surface of the bar in his hands. The last thing I want is for there to be some squishy padding between his hands and the bar."

What's the Problem Here? Wear Whatever You Want

Tony Bonvechio, owner of Bonvec Strength, said, "For athletes, I'd say it doesn't matter. I sometimes poke fun at my athletes if they wear gloves, but it's all in good fun. And honestly, I prefer that they wear gloves if that keeps them from ripping open calluses that might impair their ability to play their sport."

Stephen Gamma, CSCS, agreed, adding, "In the end, if it is more of a placebo but helps the athlete train 'harder' or handle greater loads, and doesn't negatively impact their sport-specific outcome, I say go for it."

Do Gloves Affect Grip Strength?

Trainers expressed conflicting opinions on this.

Gamma said many athletes feel gloves help them keep a better hold on the weight as they lift, allowing them to use heavier weights. But he thinks those athletes miss out on grip strength due to the aid the gloves provide.

Rosencutter said, "gloves add extra width to the bar, which can increase the neuromuscular activation of the hand and forearm muscles." Essentially, gloves make your grip around the bar wider. But although the topic has been much debated, no authoritative study indicates whether gloves positively or negatively affect grip strength. So it's a mixed bag.

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The Verdict

The majority of coaches STACK spoke with were opposed to using lifting gloves. But many added the caveat that if gloves help an athlete perform more work or avoid injury, then he or she should wear them.

Really, the answer is up to you. If you use gloves but worry about missing out on grip strength, use chalk instead. If you feel your gloves help you work around or prevent an injury, go for it. You still need to develop thick skin, even with the protection, since your buddies will probably let you have it the first time they see you wearing gloves in the weight room.

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