There are so many accessories to go with CrossFit. What started out as knee-high socks and chuck taylors has turned into a full get up of headbands, wrist wraps, belts, knee sleeves, and lifting shoes just to name a few. How do you know what if any accessories you need? I'll do my best to give you a breakdown of the most commonly used accessories, what they are for, and when to use them. Headbands: This one is pretty simple. It helps keep sweat out of your eyes and from rolling down your face. Headbands can be used by guys and girls. In my opinion the best headband is the bang buster from Lululemon.
Arm/Elbow Sleeves: This can help with "CF Elbow" a.k.a. tennis elbow. After all the pull ups, toes-to-bar, burpees, and barbell work the elbow meat can take a beating and get quite inflamed. An arm or elbow compression sleeve can help by applying pressure to increase circulation and support the muscles and tendons.
Wrist Wraps: Do your wrists hurt from front squats, overhead squats, hspu, and similar movements? If so wrist wraps may be the answer to all your problems. Wrist wraps offer joint support while still allowing you to have the flexibility to perform whatever else the wod throws your ways. There are two common types; the velcro and the twistable fabric. This is totally a preference thing. I like the twistable ones because they aren't as bulky and can easily be adjusted during the workout if I need to tighten or loosen them. Others prefer the velcro as they have a nice thumb loop and are typically a little stiffer, therefore may offer more support but a little less flexibility.
Gloves/Grips: Lots of pull ups and toes-to-bar means eventually your hands are going to rip. Ripping is no fun and makes it hard for you to workout for up to a week. I have seen so many different glove and grip type options to try to prevent hands from tearing. Most people will try something and decide there are other disadvantages to the gloves such as sweating inside of them, feeling like your grip isn't as strong, and even tearing inside of the glove. Gloves and grips can also make it hard to transition to the next movement like double unders, or power cleans. I only use hand protection if I've already ripped and can't really lay off my hands for a few days. You can make your own grips out of tape, and they can be reused until they breakdown. Tape grips are nice because they are very thin, so you can still grip the bar as normal. Rogue just came out with a version of a tape grip called the Natural Grip. I just ordered these and am excited to try them out on days when my hands aren't looking so hot.
Coban:Coban/Coflex is great for wrapping fingers and thumbs for oly lifting. It's flexible and only sticks to itself. And we sell it at the gym! This stuff is a must have!
Weight Belts:Weight belts are great for helping you brace your midline (back and abs) when doing max weights as well as really high reps at any weight. There are velcro belts as well as leather belts. Again this is preference typically power lifters (squat and deadlift) like leather belts and weightlifters (snatch and c&j) like velcro belts. The velcro is usually a little less bulky and can easily be adjusted say, during a CF wod or between sets. A weight belt should be used to help you brace and stay tight. It should not be what is bracing your midline.
Knee Sleeves: Knee sleeves help keep your knees warm and maximize blood flow and you'll hit the bottom of your squat a little easier. They also help reduce inflammation and can provide comfort for existing pain/injuries. The most loved brand on knee sleeves is the original Rehband. New on the market is the Workt brand, made by a CrossFitter.
Calf Compression Sleeves: Double unders and box jumps got your calves screaming at you? If so, you may need some calf compression. These are similar to the arm sleeve. They offer increased circulation and support the calf, shin, and achilles during activity. These might also be of benefit to you if you are on your feet all day for your job.
Lifting Shoes:Lifting shoes offer increased ankle flexibility due to the raised heel. This means you'll instantly be able to overhead squat better simply by getting them. Seriously though, you'll be surprised to find the bottom of your squat with lifters on versus regular shoes. They also offer a hard sole instead of a squishy shock absorbing sole. This means all the power you put into that clean and jerk will go up instead of being absorbed into the floor. I even like to wear mine for bench press as I feel I am able to push into the floor better. The only lift you do not want to wear them for is deadlifts. You want to be as close to the ground as possible on a deadlift therefore chuck taylor or vans will do just fine for deadlifts.
I hope this helped explained what all the crazy things are that you see people wearing at the gym. Even if you are newer or "not very strong", or "not very good" doesn't mean that you shouldn't be using some of these items. These accessories don't know if you're squatting 75 lbs or 400 lbs. They don't care if you do banded pull ups or rock the butterfly. They are just there to provide help and support to your body during your workout. What are your must have accessories and why?