Chris Cooper examines belts, squat suits and knee wraps for CrossFit athletes.
This year at the CrossFit Games, athletes will bolster their courage with meditation, concentration, HTFU and sometimes prayer.
Some will also brace their backs with leather, their wrists with reinforced nylon or their asses with polyester briefs.
But should they?
Supportive gear—belts, wraps and physio tape—might help an athlete lift more weight, do more reps and fatigue more slowly. For example, a lifting belt can provide backup for the transverse abdominis, in theory allowing for more load to be moved before postural breakdown. Some athletes swear that physio tape, properly applied, can ease the eccentric portion of a cyclic exercise such as high-rep overhead presses, though science has not backed that claim. Supportive briefs may provide a little help with hip extension . And so on.
But do these “aids” actually provide an advantage? If so, is it an unfair advantage?