If you’re an experienced lifter or a regular at the gym, then you’ve likely seen people using those big black weight lifting belts, velcro wrist wraps, athletic tape, chalk, and smelling salts. People who use these aids are typically experienced lifters, hopefully, but even they may not understand what this equipment does, and the long-term effects it may have on their body.
Weight Lifting Belt
This belt is usually used by those who want to squat or deadlift heavy weight. The belt is fastened tightly around the lower back, above the hips. The purpose of the belt is to relieve pressure off of the lower back muscles by keeping it straight with little effort. This allows one to lift heavier weight than they are able to normally. However, it can become a crutch if used regularly over a long period of time. The problem with not needing to use your back and core muscles is that you don’t use them, so they become weaker.
The purpose of these aids is similar to that of the belt. However, athletic tape is often used to protect a pre-existing injury or joints. The similar purpose comes with similar problems. The wrists or other join that has been wrapped will become weaker and dependent on the extra support.
Chalk, in the simplest terms, strengthens your grip. When one is lifting weight over 200 lbs, keeping a firm grip is difficult. Chalk increases the friction between the hands and the weight, allowing for greater control. There aren’t any long term effects of using chalk, just remember to wash your hands.
Smelling salts are a method of temporarily increasing alertness and respiratory function, which can improve one’s ability to lift heavier weights. Essentially smelling salts are small capsules of ammonia and other chemicals that irritate the membranes in your nose and lungs. They can come at a price, especially for younger athletes and inexperienced lifters. The ammonia can impair your motor skills and hand-eye coordination, which can result in serious injuries.
Overall, none of these aids are necessary to be a strong or have a good workout (Aids protecting pre-existing injury excluded of course). They increase performance, but it’s important to be judicious of what and when you use them. It’s also about preference and what works for you. Most people don’t want to inhale ammonia to be able to complete a heavy workout, but whatever works for you works for you.