Gloves and Tape for CrossFit?

gloved hands gripping a dumbbell

You are welcome to wear gloves or gratuitously tape your hands while working out in our box. But as a general rule, I strongly recommend against both. Here’s why.

In many of our days gone by at the Globo-Gym, gloves were as integral to the experience as bench press on Mondays and the yes/no machine for inner and outer thigh work. We work with barbells and pullup bars in CrossFit, and we want to grip them as best we can, so it makes sense to wear gloves, right? Is there such a thing as CrossFit gloves? Not exactly.

The problem is two-fold. First, unless you wear gloves throughout your daily life, at some point you will have to rely on the pure, unadulterated gripping power of your bare-skinned hands to perform work. This requirement is best trained in the gym before you are faced with it in the outside world. Many gloves or glove-like systems also transfer some of your weight more directly onto your wrists rather than through the skin of your palm and fingers.

While these tools are not without their uses, I recommend developing that capability into your own hands as much as possible. Unfortunately, the only way to develop hard hands from soft hands is to work them to the point of breaking…over and over again. Much like CrossFit and the rest of life, there are no easy results. Sorry.

The second problem is that anything between your hands and the object you are gripping reduces your proprioception—your ability to know where the object is in space relative to your body. For a slow movement like back squat this isn’t a big deal. For a fast, coordinated movement like a clean it becomes a much bigger deal. Admittedly, this isn’t going to cause drastic differences in your abilities. However, if you are trying to refine your technique or achieve your absolute 1RM, then you need every advantage on your side…and you definitely don’t want the disadvantage of gloves.

My opinion on using tape is similar, but in practice tape is often used in a slightly better way. Most athletes use tape to cover a portion of their hands that is already torn or will likely be torn by the upcoming workout. Not always a bad idea.

“CrossFit Gloves” by NewGrip

Finally, when should you wear gloves or tape?

Gloves: almost never. Only wear gloves if you would be completely unwilling or incapable of performing the workout otherwise. If your hands are so trashed from a previous WOD that you need full gloves to workout today, then by all means, put on the gloves and let’s keep going. If your hands are not torn then gloves are not warranted—sorry. You can absolutely still wear them if you wish, but I think your long-term fitness would be best served by removing them, and I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t tell you that. Oh, and don’t even think about wearing gloves while climbing a rope. Your grip will just plain suck. If you don’t believe me, try it.

Tape: wear it to protect an existing wound from becoming worse. It’s difficult to keep training and advancing our fitness when our hands are shredded. Use tape to cover specific wounds that would be made worse from your upcoming workout. You want a continuous cycle of adaptation: microinjury followed by repair and supercompensation. Continuously damaging without pausing for repair is counterproductive, so if your mind and muscles are ready to train but your hands are not then use some tape to protect them. However, creating a virtual glove out of tape is no different than wearing gloves, so be judicious.

In conclusion, you want your hands to experience stress when you exercise. The skin on your hand can benefit from adaptation just like your muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems. Your hands can’t experience stress and adaptation if you don’t expose them to harsh conditions. So take off the gloves and tape and start getting your hands dirty.

29 thoughts on “Gloves and Tape for CrossFit?

  1. Great article. I enjoy reading these posts which contain this type of information, but explained in a much better manner than I can articulate. I only wore gloves to lift weights a few times in high school, and I felt like while they prevented my hands from getting ripped up, they also prevented me from maintaining a good grip on whatever I was trying to hold. It almost doesn’t make sense, but gloves always made it more difficult for me to get a “strong hold” on the bar/weight. It’s nice to have a reference for when someone sees my hands, or listens to me talk about a particular workout and that person says, “well you were wearing gloves, right?” Now I will have a better response than my defauult of “gloves are for sissies.” And that strap around the wrist with the “cup” that fits in your palms (pictured above)…that’s just cheating, and even sissies usually don’t cheat.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Andrew. As I mentioned, I don’t want anyone to think they can’t wear tape or gloves in our box if they wish. However, I want everyone to keep in mind the reasons behind everything we do.

  3. For some reason my Facebook connect login is not working. Hmm. Anyway. Great article. I have also found that both gloves and tape either pinch or give my hands something else to rub against. Either way, the “protection” is really providing me anything.

    Side note: Sorry I haven’t been in much, between work and life I’ve been unable to make it to any classes. I hope to start back up next week.

  4. Another great article Jeff. Now would you be willing to do the cost benefit analysis of wearing a size medium shirt when you are anything but? It seems that fingerless gloves and my son’s shirts go hand in hand over at GLOBO.

    This article comes at a tough time for me since “Randy” just trashed my left hand a bit. But I held my hand out the window the whole way back to work to dry out the tore up part. Seems to have worked. It is not looking too bad now. Thanks once again.

  5. Yeah, I believe you did a good job of providing that guidance in your article, and appreciate that approach to fitness. I prefer it much more than the “you do it this way because we said so” approach. And, I didn’t mean for my comment to be condescending or “stuck up”. I say “sissies” in a joking manner. I understand that some people prefer to wear gloves and may have good reason for it. But I agree with your reasoning for not wearing gloves, and have found that to be the case from my experience with lifting weights.

  6. Awesome article Jeff. I have always disliked gloves for the very same reasons as stated above but haven’t really been able to put to words the real reasons behind not wearing them. I personally still have problems with tearing. It seems to only be on long high rep pullup wods now though.

    By the way Greg’s comments about the kid’s shirts in the globo gym always crack me up.

  7. I don’t know why everyone hates on gloves and baby Gap shirts during a workout. Globo is where its at!

  8. Yeah, uh, Patches…are you sure not wearing gloves is completely necessary?

  9. Necessary? Is it necessary for me to drink my own urine? No, but I do it anyway because it’s sterile and I like the taste. : )

  10. Agree on the better grip without gloves. However, I rather have a wife with soft hands than manly rough ones. So she’ll probably continue to wear them :).

  11. On the flip side of things tape can prevent rips which can hinder future training. Example. Eva comes up and you KNOW she is going to shred your hands no matter how well cared for they are….wouldn’t taping to mitigate the damage be a good thing? I personally view bloody destroyed hands like shown in the picture as a training failure. Failure to protect hands that results in 5-7 days of missing wods or only going half speed due to pain and lost proprioception is a training failure plain and simple.

    I get the point that your article is probably directed towards those that are new and still have soft hands that need work them but proper taping when needed has its place in the world of cf.

    Be sure to follow this article with a handcare article. You’ll be surprised about how many people that don’t realize that large calluses are a “bad” thing.

    1. Thanks – I agree. And I have a skin condition on my hand – eczema – so constantly ripping my hands is not good and exposes me to possible infection. I’m still searching for the right gloves…and will wear them! Bloody hands are not a good thing.

  12. Kevin, good points, and I agree with you 90%. But as you suspected, my article wasn’t really targeting guys like you. The intended audience is the beginner who may have never ripped his hand before and may freak out when it occurs. Then he may decide to mummify his hand with tape for every WOD thereafter, including 5k runs.

    On the flip side, I think there is training advantage to be gained by ripping hands from time to time. It’s a source of adversity and it directly affects your ability to continue. I think there something to be gained from finishing Eva with a bloody hand–something between the ears.

    I advise our athletes to shave down their callouses, and I probably should follow up with an article on hand care (it’s been over a year since this was written) to better explain that. Thanks for the comments, man!

  13. I am a beginner in crossfit. I agree with many of the above points. I have begun crossfit for the challenge. I am concerned with the hand/glove issue. I am a chiropractor. Having bloodied, recently blister torn hands might not be a very good thing and may negatively affect my livelihood. Any thoughts for my situation?

    1. Aaron, we’ve all got to make choices that make sense for us. If I was a hand model for Oil of Olay (which surprisingly, I am not) then I would take care of my hands much differently. You may need to choose a more conservative route and place a lot of emphasis on hand care (shaving down callouses and keeping them filed smooth). You also may need to just simply stop if you notice you’re ripping too badly. If you explain your concerns to your trainer then he/she will certainly be able to accomodate and recommend alternate movements if this happens. Best of luck!

  14. Great article! Just like when I was in Gymnastics…coach said the only way my hands would get stronger was to destroy them first.

  15. There is Training Smart, Training Hard, and Training Stupid. Keeping “Training Stupid” out of the Venn diagram is important. Ripping the skin off of the palmar aspect of your MCPs on round two of a five round workout is Training Stupid. I wear gloves every day I work and I believe in the maxim: train the way you fight, fight the way you train. So not taping my palms before a workout and then going to work wearing gloves and washing my hands some 90 times a day is Training Stupid.

    I am often reminded of a jerk of a Gunny who told Marines attached to my unit to move two pallets of gear from one end of an empty parking lot to another. He thought we would move it by hand, but being the senior enlisted, I ordered the pallets loaded up on the ambulance, drove to the other side and unloaded.

    Like I said, Smart/Hard/Stupid, try to keep Stupid out of the diagram.

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