There are many different types of lifting aids used within the gym environment. You may have seen various muscle bound gym-goers using Figure 6's, Figure 8's and chalk to assist in lifting heavy weights? Have you ever surprised what each one is designed for? What do they do and which ones would suit you and your type of training?
The 2 most common straps used in the gym are the figure 6's and figure 8's.
When training muscles such as back or traps the forearm muscles play a vital role in being able to grip or hang onto a barbell or dumbbell. But in some cases halfway through a session the forearms become so pumped resulting in the fingers not being able hold onto a barbell or dumbbell.
When training with straps the load is reduced considering because instead of the forearms taking all the weight it is distributed through the strap and wrist resulting in your forearms not getting fatigued as quickly.
Exercises where Figure 6's and figure 8's are needed are exercises such as farmers walk, chin ups, dead-lifts, rows and shrugs.
There are two distinct differences with the 6's and 8's.
Figure 6's are designed so that you not only use more of your forearm muscles, but if the weight is too heavy and you must drop it, the weight will slide out from the strap. On the other hand when using figure 8's you stimulate even less forearm strength and kindly on the figure 8 strap to hold the weight. Not only this but if you drop the weight, the strap will remain leaving your arm connected to whatever it was you were lifting. This can become dangerous if performing some exercises.
I recommend using figure 6's for all lift but if you like using figure 8's do not use them with dead-lifts and rows, in case you drop the weight.
Chalk is used mostly by powerlifters and weightlifters. A lot of gyms do not allow the use of chalk because it can cause quite a mess on the floor as well as get all over the weight plates and barbells.
Chalk is mainly used on rope climbing, deadlifts, power cleans, snatch and squats. Its main role is for the trainer to be able to grip as easily as possible while still using natural grip strength.
The benefit with using chalk is that the trainer can lift heavy weights (mostly on deadlifts) and continue to use the muscles in the fingers and forearms without having to rely on straps (which tend to take a lot of the load off the grip.)
Knee wraps are designed to push your patella down firmly making it easier to glide up and down. Power-lifters believe by doing this they will be able to lift more weight when squatting. Knee wraps also help you at the bottom of the squat by causing a 'bounce' out of the bottom position, which to some is the hardest position.
I recommend to be careful with using knee wraps because if you use them too much they can cause slight tears beneath the kneecap on the patella tendon.
In conclusion, most trainers do not need to use lifting aides. These will help you lift a little bit more weight but this is not necessarily a good thing. Superior technique and good nutrition is the best way to not only achieve your strength and fitness goals, but also live a healthy lifestyle.