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.