It’s an age-old question; to wear protective gym gloves or go bare skin when working out. We’re here to help you answer it so read on to find out which wins in the gloves vs no gloves for calisthenics debate.
The case for gloves
Some people swear by their gloves, most commonly for the reasons outlined below. Take a look and see whether any of them ring true with you.
Gym gloves, especially those that are padded, will offer protection to your palms and fingers. In particular, they will prevent callouses from forming or ripping during your workout.
This is really the only indisputable benefit of wearing gloves but it is not impossible to achieve this without them as we will soon see.
Many people will tell you that they are able to lift more thanks to the added grip provided by gloves. In a sense this can be true as they may, for example, prevent your hands from slipping off a bar mid-rep.
Generally speaking, though, it is very debatable as to whether gloves are actually helping or hindering your grip.
Some gloves offer support straps around the wrists or even to be wrapped around a bar to assist with lifting.
Again, this can technically be true but the question has to be asked as to whether you are effectively making yourself weaker in other areas by using external support.
The case against gloves
If you’re wearing gloves currently or are completely unsure then consider the below before putting them on for your next workout.
Calisthenics is all about building strength that is transferable into the real world and that means keeping everything as natural as possible.
If you wear gloves you are placing an artificial layer between you and whatever object you are gripping. This may keep your hands nice and soft for a while but it means that when you try to perform an exercise without the gloves you may find it difficult or painful.
Not wearing gloves in the first place will enable you to condition your hands to cope with these strains. Sure, callouses will form but if you treat them properly you should not tear them open or cause any long-term damage.
Just as a guitarist’s fingertips become numb to the strings your hands too will become accustomed to your equipment if you just allow them to get to know it without interference.
Consider yourself wearing one glove and reaching up to grasp a pull-up bar with both hands. The gloved hand ‘sticks’ to the bar while the bare hand simply wraps around it and grips tight.
As you perform the exercise you notice both hands slipping off the bar, but the gloved hand hangs on a little longer because of the grippy texture.
At first you may consider this a victory for the gloves, but when you really think about it, this is not a good thing at all.
You are working out to build your own body strength so you should not be celebrating the fact that you have been saved from failing by the addition of artificial grip. What happens when you take the gloves off? You find out how strong you REALLY are.
You will never create a vice-like grip if you rely on synthetic materials. Get rid of it and you will activate your fingers, thumb and wrists, just the way nature intended.
If you suffer from calluses and pain, try placing the bar further up your hand, instead of in the middle. This way, your fingers will wrap around it and take a lot of the strain, instead of squashing all your skin together and pinching it to the point of explosion!
We recommend you go without gloves and interact directly with whatever piece of equipment you are using. By creating a true connection you will develop your personal grip strength which, ultimately, will enable you to perform more reps.
Gloves may give you an immediate advantage but cutting corners is not going to help you in the long run. If you want bone-crushing strength throughout your entire body then get used to working your entire body, including your hands.
Be sure to take good care of your hands, especially when getting into calisthenics for the first time. If you notice any cracks or bleeding you are pushing too hard. Simply rest until they are ready to go again, otherwise you will only put yourself out for longer.
For a little added grip in the absence of gloves, a dab of liquid chalk will do the trick. Just be sure to wash it off properly afterwards and moisturise your hands to prevent them drying out.