2014: When Training Equipment Suddenly Becomes A Must

Over the past few years there has been a resurgence in barbell popularity. Maybe I'm just naive and bias, but I don't remember olympic lifting and powerlifting being so cool when I was growing up. By no means are these sports on par with football, baseball, volleyball, etc. but they're climbing again. [1], [2]

More people in the barbell sports is a great thing. This is what I love! Getting people, bigger, faster, stronger - and at any cost.

As the popularity of barbell sports has increased so has the supportive equipment we all love. When I began lifting after college basketball, I used no equipment besides my normal clothing and compression shorts/tights. Today, I own Olympic shoes, knee sleeves, wrist wraps, a belt, gym chalk and not to mention a pre-workout cocktail. These are what I use nearly every day in training. 

While the benefits of all of this equipment is obvious, there are also drawbacks. 

I find it comical to scroll YouTube or Instagram and see individuals with AdiPowers, Rehbands, Virus tights, Gangsta wrist wraps and jamming with their Dre Beats in preparation for their 225 lb back squat. Really? You need all that to squat 225?  Not to mention you had to have "your rack" and perfect song on during the set. Pre-workout drink too huh?

It's hilarious to see a 20-year-old squatting 225 with more equipment than Klokov (an Olympic silver medalist) pause front squatting 500.  

Don't get it twisted. I'm all about improving performance! And that's exactly why this is an issue.

If that describes you. You aren't 365 strong. 

365 Strong is a mindset I heard from Brandon Lilly about a year ago (highly recommend his book.) [3] I don't want to bucher Brandons words, so instead I'll tell you what 365 strong means to me. 

You're able to walk into any gym, any time of the day with or without your special sleeves and pre-workout and favorite barbell and simply perform. Perform at a high level. 

You forgot to pack your pre-workout? It's ok. Train

Someone is using "your rack". It's ok. Find another and train. 

This point really hit home for me while speaking with one of my current clients, Harry. In this video you'll hear him say that he forgot his belt at home, but instead of freaking out he trained without it and actually hit his heaviest squat in months...and it was beltless. He didn't NEED his belt to perform. It wasn't a crutch. He still performed at a high level.  

The Longer the Wait the Bigger the Payoff

During lunch yesterday I spoke with a good friend of mine who is a college S&C coach. One of the many topics we discussed was training equipment. 

He noted that during his non-training days he likes to do some light cardio then move on to back squats with 45-95 lbs and do light work with no equipment. No olympic shoes, no sleeves, just squatting. 

He spoke about how hard it was at the beginning, but now as he's improving, squats are feeling smooth ass he adds the equipment back in on heavy days - and this is the point many are missing. Improving without this equipment, makes it even more effective when you add it. 

No doubt that equipment like olympic shoes, belts, wraps, etc. will add weight to the bar, but at what expense?

Are you willing to train hard for 1-2 years beltless and build a large foundation that way when you add a belt you'll get a huge boost? I squatted 380 and deadlifted 385 before I ever touched a belt. 

The result? I squatted and deadlifted 405 within a few months of training. Adding the belt felt analogous to steroids, but only because I built a good foundation. 

It Isn't Practical

We would all love our training to be "optimal."

Have a meal exactly 2 hour prior to training. Take our pre-workout 30 minutes before we touch the bar. Have our playlist going on in the gym. No one walking in front of me when I'm attempting a PR squat. 

Unless you're a professional athlete (and even if you are) these situations are rare. Even when we try to control for them barriers can get in the way.

The person who NEEDS the perfect setup to perform at a high-level will forever be handicapped by their equipment and various psychological limitations.

I'll venture to say that majority of your training sessions are not under perfect conditions - and that's perfectly fine.  

We All Do It

I can talk about this trend not only because I see it, but because I've felt it. 

I've forgotten my pre-workout drink and went into workouts mentally weak. 

I've allowed not having "my bar" during a training session get into my head. 

I allowed all of my little performance enhancers to rule my training. As oppose to aid it.

Once I realized how this was actually negatively affecting me I actually became a better lifter. Being able to lift without music was a big barrier for me, but now I have the confidence I can smash a PR while listening to Miley Cyrus. 

What Happens If You Don't

Are there any negative consequences of not having the latest and greatest training equipment?

Well...

Chad Wesley Smith - the American record holder for the back squat has a YouTube video of him squatting something like 800 lbs in a pair of Nike Frees. (wish I could find the video.)

Runners in Kenya continue to dominate long-distance running without expensive shoes or Kinesio tape to fix their injuries. 

Walk into most high-school weight rooms and you're bound to find many athletes squating 405+ and benching 225+ with no wraps, sleeves, belts, Olympic shoes, etc. 

The obvious answer is no. 

Again, this is by no means bashing any supportive equipment (I use nearly all of it), but too many people are chasing the wrong rabbit, losing focus of real strength. 

Majority of the lifters I see using a large amount of equipment, have a cupboard full of supplements, but also have shitty diets and train with the intensity of a Coldplay song.

Maybe drop the inzer belt on the 175 lb bench press. Focus on training hard, eating right and sleeping. 

I can guarantee you the best athletes in the world share a lot in common, none of which include their weight lifting belt or knee sleeves.