I have a confession:
I wear grips.
It started with the kettlebell. I love swinging, snatching, and goblet-squatting a heavy kettlebell. I hate stopping to chalk. And once I started using heavier kettlebells, I started tearing up my hands.
If you’re going to wear gloves, make sure they match your purse.” — Mark Rippetoe proving even a god is capable of being an idiot
You don’t see a lot of grips or gloves at the box. There’s this stigma of weakness associated with hand protection that I don’t get. After a lot of consideration, I put these Gripper Gloves on last year’s Christmas list. They stayed tucked away in my gym bag for awhile…until I was in the middle of a high-volume kettlebell WOD and felt my hands starting to go. I sacrificed some time and threw on my grippers. No more chalk. No more hand damage. Just a lot more effective training because I wasn’t worried about my damn hands.
After this, wearing my grippers was no longer a covert operation. I embraced this new way to improve my performance and my training – even if I was a sissy.
Unfortunately, my nifty grippers didn’t work with pull ups or toes to bar. One of the complaints about using gloves in CrossFit is how it effects your proprioception. Proprioception is the body’s ability to sense its position in space and provide the appropriate feedback to what the situation calls for. We develop our proprioception in CrossFit quite a bit. You have to be aware of your body’s position at all times in order to execute proper technique and avoid injury. Eventually it becomes second nature, like muscle memory.
I just did 1000 swings unbroken.” — Brilliant Chucky who wears her grips proudly
If you use gloves or grips when doing pull ups, your tactile proprioception is reduced. Simply, if you can’t feel the bar, how can you maintain a good grip on it? When I first started CrossFit, I tried everything…gymnastics grips, tons of tape, even a taped bar (ouch). I got the best results with my pull ups using my bare hands and some chalk. But even with good hand care, my hands were a mess. And if you’re a professional in your life outside of CrossFit whose career involved a lot of hand-shaking – it’s better not to have nasty hands.
Not too long ago I came across the JAW Grips. Instead of hard leather, they’re made of a strong cloth that sort of fits to your hand. It took me about five seconds to add a pair to my cart…then another five seconds to remove them because the company – Just Another WOD – is located in Australia and shipping would cost more than my grips. With some help from Google, I found them at Box Freak and completed check out!
Chicks dig my callused, rough hands, so no gloves for me.” — some guy who probably doesn’t get many chicks
As a side note: the JAW Grips come in a lot of fun colors, which I like. I originally chose pink & purple, but a short time after ordering I was contacted by Box Freak – by phone and email – to let me know that the color I had chosen was going through customs and shipping would be delayed. However, the guys at Box Freak told me what was currently in stock. I decided to go with pink & blue, and the grips arrived a few days later. It was the type of customer service experience I appreciate – fast, without drama, and a solution that worked.
Sizing is interesting. The grips are supposed to fit tight. They stretch with your hand. I was right between Small and Medium and I sized down to Small. The holes for your fingers are also supposed to fit tight. In fact, you cut the holes to the correct size (they look like button holes). I have large fingers, and I cut the holes to the max and they were definitely snug. The first time I put on the grips, I wondered if I should have went with the Medium. But they soon stretched a bit…It took a little getting used to, but I wasn’t expecting them to feel like a cashmere mitten.
Honestly, I think Medium would have been fine too, so don’t stress too much over size if you decide to order a pair.
My first WOD with the grips involved running and pull ups. Running with wrapped hands always led to soggy, sweaty athletic tape that fell off before I got to my pull ups. These grips move with your hands, and even help soak up some sweat. In fact, the more sweat and chalk you build up, the better they work. (But if that grosses you out, you can wash them.)
Once the WOD started, I no longer thoughts about the grips. I didn’t even remember them until I got to my pull ups. The first few were a bit slick, but soon the chalk got into the cloth and I didn’t notice any more slippage. The cloth is thin but really durable. I could still feel the bar. In fact, calling these “grips” may be a bit misleading. These do not help me “stick” to the bar at all. Instead, they keep my hands from getting sore, which is my biggest problem with high-volume pull ups (other than tearing).
Also, the bottom of my index and pinky fingers are still exposed. If I was doing a WOD like Murph, I would probably add a layer of tape beneath my grips.
I’ve now completed several WODs with my JAW Grips. They’re incredibly functional for movement transitions. The cloth is thin enough that it doesn’t affect my barbell lifts, and I’ve even done handstand push ups while wearing them. If a WOD is kettlebell-intensive, I still prefer my other grippers, but these are my go-to for any WOD with pull ups or toes to bar.
I still get calluses, and I still have to file and moisturize my hands, but the general tenderness is gone.
Interested in trying out some JAW Grips? Or need something else? Box Freak is offering a 10% discount for True Barbellion readers! Use code 53E3B4CEA32D2F7 at check out.
Do you use gloves or grips?