When you're starting to lift weights, it can feel like everyone knows you're the newbie in the weight room. In truth, most people are just worried about themselves, but it can still be temporarily nerve-wracking. You might want to "look the part," and get special lifting shoes, plus one of those intense belts that Olympic lifters wear, and a pair of fingerless gloves.
For a beginner, wearing gloves makes a ton of sense: your hands get sore, and your skin gets raw, so gloves are there to protect you. But some weightlifters actually are anti-gloves, and the reason why has nothing to do with the way you look.
Personally, Morit Summers, a NCSA-certified personal trainer and owner of Form Fitness in Brooklyn, doesn't use lifting gloves. The reason? "It's very important during certain lifts to feel the weights in your hands, no matter how heavy it is," she says. With a cushy pair of gloves between your hand and the bar, you can lose the sensation of the weight in your hand, which affects your form.
The other thing to think about is how gloves impact your grip strength. Grabbing a bar with a glove on will make the bar feel thicker, and the weight feels easier to lift — but that's not always a good thing, because you need grip strength to lift. "If you're trying to get stronger, improving your grip strength will help," Summers says. "So, I don't recommend gloves to start."
And finally, there's always the worry about developing calluses and blisters on your hands from lifting weights. While some people are proud of their well-worn palms, others are meticulous about manicures and moisturizing. For lifting, calluses aren't really a bad thing, although they can be uncomfortable at first, Summers says. "I recommend sucking it up a bit, so that the nerve endings in your hands can help build that strength," she says.
So, at the end of the day, it truly depends on what your goals are, Summers says. "Once things start to get heavy it's ok to use [gloves], but I wouldn't use them all the time," she says. If you want to wear gloves because you're more comfortable that way (because your hands sweat excessively, you have poor grip strength, or you deal with eczema), go for it, but try lifting without every now and then. And if you're looking for an alternative to gloves, some weightlifters prefer chalking their hands to reduce friction.
Whether or not you choose to wear gloves, just remember that nobody in the gym — even those bare-handing weights — is judging you for how you look or what you wear.