I gave up on weightlifting gloves long ago. The set I’d been using at the time had ever-growing holes in them, and I simply opted not to replace them. Maybe I was just unlucky, but rarely did any of the ones I’d ever owned last longer than a year before I found myself needing to replace them. I mean, if weightlifting gloves are so delicate and fragile, what’s the point of them anyway?
Besides, are such specialized gloves even necessary? Or would another sort of glove — winter, work, gardening, etc. — function just as well and effectively save me money by serving a dual purpose?
Yeah, are weightlifting gloves actually helpful to me?
The obvious benefit of weightlifting gloves is that they add a protective layer between your hands and whatever they make contact with. Because they tend to be somewhat textured and rigid, they can prevent your hands from slipping on surfaces while also providing additional support to your hands during heavy lifts. Speaking of which, weightlifting gloves with built-in wrist straps can add even more support to your wrists, which are often a failing point during barbell bench presses and deadlifts.
But whatever the type, weightlifting gloves are intended to alleviate some of the discomfort distributed by the weights throughout your hands and down along your forearms, thereby enabling you to lift more overall weight.
Can other gloves accomplish this, too?
Most of it, yes. In fact, you may be surprised by just how many types of gloves can perform some of these same basic functions.
Case in point: dishwashing gloves. Their rubberized surface is specifically designed to help you maintain a firm grip on dishes and glassware that’s been dipped in soapy water. Keep in mind, too, that several varieties of weightlifting gloves and lifting pads — no matter what the rest of them are constructed of — offer palms with silicone padding that’s functionally identical to the silicone surfaces of ordinary dishwashing gloves.
But I’ve also seen weightlifting gloves without silicon in their palms.
Right, and most of those gloves are made of neoprene, nylon, polyurethane, lycra, leather or a combination of those materials or similar ones. The same substances are present in full-fingered work gloves, utility gloves and even gardening gloves. That’s right — modern gardening gloves are usually nylon-coated for grip enhancement, with some of them even taking on a form that would make them almost indistinguishable from full-on work gloves.
Do I actually need any gloves at all when weightlifting, though?
I’m going to lean toward “no” for several reasons.
First of all, you’re probably going to generate calluses whether you wear gloves during your sets or not — they’re simply the price of doing business, especially if you’re working with heavier weights. Second, hand sweatiness and slipperiness tend not to be that much of a limiting factor unless you’re doing upright lifts at the edge of your one-rep maximum, or you’re flinging the bar around rapidly while doing something akin to an Olympic-style lift. If that’s the case, gloves are banned in competitive Olympic lifting, the competitors use chalk to eliminate bar slippage and you need to maintain the flexibility of the wrists in order to manipulate the bar properly.
Finally, if your grip strength — which is essentially a function of your forearm, wrist and finger strength — is a limiting factor in your lifts, attempting to use equipment to bolster things doesn’t really address the area of weakness. If anything, you’re setting yourself up for an injury if you generate strength in certain body parts that your wrists haven’t caught up to yet.
So no gloves then?
Look, wear whatever gloves make you comfortable, just be cognizant of whether you’re attempting to bypass your natural limits, or attempting to sidestep what might be helpful discomfort in the long run. Because when it comes to lifting weights, there are many other things you need to fit like a glove before actual gloves themselves.