By: Shaun Pang, SSC
If you’re new to lifting weights and deadlifts are part of your training (as it should be), you’ll probably notice calluses forming on your palm just below the junction of your palm and fingers a few weeks into deadlifting with incrementally heavier weights. At this point, you might wonder if wearing gloves can help to prevent said calluses from forming, to which we’ll vehemently advise against. Wearing gloves while lifting barbells is a bad idea and here’s why.

A callus is an area of thickened skin that forms as an adaptation to repeated friction or pressure. When deadlifting, you’ll most likely place the bar somewhere in the middle of your palm, grip the bar and proceed with your set. When you start to pull the bar off the floor, gravity will pull the bar from the palm of your hands to the location in your hand which is closest to the ground – your fingers. On its way down to that position, the bar will compress the folded skin and the skin adapts to the repeated exposure to the incrementally higher compressive stress by forming calluses to protect itself.

Since these calluses are formed as an adaptation to compressive stress, not by friction, the gloves won’t make a difference to prevent them since the bar doesn’t rotate in your hands during the deadlift.

Another reason why we don’t recommend gloves is that it makes a heavy barbell even harder to hold on to. All good 20kg barbells have a shaft diameter of between 28-29mm, which makes the circumference of the shaft between 87mm and 91mm.

Fig.1
Fig.2

A quick search online will yield a whole bunch of gloves marketed for lifting weights. These gloves come in a variety of thickness but for the sake of our argument, we’ll use the thinnest pair we could find – 2mm. The barbells at our gym have a 29mm shaft diameter, which translates into a 91mm circumference (fig. 1). Even if you were to use the thinnest pair of gloves with the barbells at our gym, you’re effectively increasing the shaft diameter to 33mm, which translates to a circumference of 104mm (fig. 2). That’s about a 14% increase in circumference, which might not sound like much but ask anyone who has deadlifted heavy weights with an axle bar and they’ll tell you that the thickness of the bar matters. By unnecessarily increasing the circumference of the bar by wearing gloves to deadlift, you’re making the bar harder to hold on to when it gets heavy, which will hinder your progress.

Fig.3
Fig.4

Now knowing that gloves don’t help prevent calluses and that it makes holding on to the bar during heavy deadlifts harder, what should you do if you’d like your hands to remain soft, supple and callus free? Since the bar will end up in your fingers when you deadlift regardless of where it starts, placing the bar where it’ll end up eventually is a good idea. The next time you deadlift, place the bar somewhere between the middle and proximal digital crease of your fingers (fig. 3, 4), grip the bar tightly and you’re good to go.

Bio

My interest in fitness started when I was around 19 years old. Being overweight for most of my growing up years, I decided to do something about it. After months of not being able to achieve the desired results, I began poring through books and articles about training and nutrition. The more I read, the more interested I became in this field, and got better results when the the newly discovered knowledge was applied. After 1 year of persistence and hard work, I lost 24kg and felt fantastic. The sense of achievement motivated me to pursue a career in working with people to help them achieve their own fitness goals.

After achieving my weight loss goal, I tried a variety of training programs for a few years, looking for a new goal to train towards. After aimlessly moving around from program to program, I chanced upon a book called Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, written by renowned strength and conditioning expert, Mark Rippetoe. Little did I know that this book was about to change my life and coaching career.

At that point, I had experience training with barbells and was relatively familiar with it but never have I come across any material that gave such explicitly detailed explanations of how to perform the barbell lifts. I devoured the book and modified my lifting technique and program. In just a few months, I was pleasantly surprised by how much stronger he had become. I now had a new goal to work towards – getting strong.

With full confidence in the efficacy of the Starting Strength methodology, I began coaching my clients using this program and got them stronger than they ever thought was possible. The consistent success my clients achieved through the program cemented my confidence in Mark Rippetoe’s teachings. I then decided to pursue the credential of being a Starting Strength Coach and I’m currently the first and only certified coach in Singapore and South-East Asia

In my 9 years of experience, I have given talks and ran programs at numerous companies and worked with a diverse group clientele of all ages with a variety of goals. Today, I specialise in coaching people in their 40s, 50s and beyond because it brings me a great sense of satisfaction to be part of the process of improving this demographics’ health and quality of life by getting them stronger.

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