GET THE RIGHT GEAR
These are your gym bag essentials – gloves not required
In a study of veteran squatters, researchers found that the lifters produced 25-40% more “intrabdominal pressure” - basically, the core stability you get from holding a deep breath – by wearing a belt, while the beltless lifters tended to lean forward more during reps. The implication? Belted lifting is safer for the spine, while also increasing quad and hamstring activation at heavy weights. Invest in quality: the Texas Longhorn (pullum-sports.co.uk) is expensive, but it works.
A stable base is the key. Chuck Taylor-style shoes like Converse are ideal for beginners, since they’re nice and flat with no “give” to reduce your power. As you improve, invest in some weightlifting shoes – a 2012 study found they reduce “trunk lean”, improving form and reducing injury risk.
You should rely on your hands alone for most moves – building a better grip will help with everything else – but for very heavy shrugs or extended deadlifting, straps will stop grip from becoming a limiting factor.
More weight means more muscle, and using chalk means more weight. “Chalking up to improve your grip can add 10kg to some exercises instantly,” says strength coach Sean McPhillips. If your gym doesn’t allow it, try the liquid variety – or change gyms.