I was approached recently by a representative of the company Harbinger, the one that makes workout gear, about doing a review of some of their products. She asked me if I’d like to grab a cup of coffee so we could talk about it, and so that she could “pick my brain” about this weirdo weightlifting culture of ours. Harbinger is a pretty big company, so I didn’t expect that She’d be as nice and receptive as she was. In fact, we ended up sitting there and blabbing for a good number of hours!
We had coffee, and I explained to her that there is indeed a difference between a bodybuilder, a weightlifter, a powerlifter, a Highland Games Thrower, etc! I explained what CrossFit was (if that is even possible). And I found that for a woman without a background in weightlifting of any kind, she was surprisingly interested in what I had to say.
Honestly, at first, I wasn’t sure that there was much in Harbinger’s product line that weightlifters would get much use out of. After all, Harbinger is probably best known for their weightlifting gloves, and lord knows we aren’t going to wear those! Luckily I was wrong.
When I got home, I searched the Harbinger website, and picked the most basic things I could find that I KNOW a weightlifter will likely end up using (since I and most of my own lifters already do), and that I already use, so that it would make the review more “true to life” from my end. Here they are:
- 4’’ Nylon Belt with Velcro.
- Lifting Straps
- Wrist Wraps
I sent her the links to the 3 items I wanted to try out, and included a bunch of links to Youtube vids depicting the different strength sports in action that we had talked about during coffee (what? I’m an evangelist). And she got to work sending me the items.
I’ve now been using all three for a couple of weeks. All in all, I like them (especially the belt). Here’s the details:
Harbinger Weightlifting Belt
The Velcro weightlifting belt was the most important item. It’s the most universal (everyone from Olympic Weightlifters to CrossFitters to Throwers has use of them). And, I’d been in the market for a new one anyway. Keep in mind that Harbinger does not sell (currently) any Powerlifting belts. Sorry folks.
Harbinger’s belt sizing runs a bit smaller than Valeo (the brand of these types of belts that most weightlifters use, currently). I wear a small in Valeo, but the small that was sent to me by Harbinger was WAY too small. I emailed the rep, and she had them send me out a medium and it fit perfectly. Keep this sizing difference in mind if you buy one and you’re used to the Valeo’s.
The first thing to notice is that the belt is 4 inches wide. Why do I care? Because in Olympic weightlifting competitions you can’t wear any belt that is wider than that. You should never train in a belt that is illegal in competition.
Second, the belt is very strong and durable feeling, meaning it will likely last a long time. The downside here is that it takes a good 6 or 7 workouts to work in. But, once it mellowed out, I really started to like the feeling.
The “buckle”, which is only a steel roller, lays flat enough that you don’t hit it on the way up during snatches. While I really enjoyed the cam buckle on my Valeo that allowed me to snap/lock it into place, it was so big that I had to wear the belt sideways! (Many lifters wear the belts backwards, but I’ve always found that to be hard to buckle.)
I instinctively wore the Harbinger belt sideways at first, too. However, once I realized it was unnecessary, it made me like the belt even more. The added security of having the buckle isn’t really necessary, of course, we’re not Powerlifters. The belt isn’t going to pop off! The Velcro is very sturdy all on its own.
I honestly don’t have anything bad to say about it. If you want a buckle, this doesn’t have one. So, there’s that. But, otherwise, I think this is a great belt for a weightlifter, and at only 13.50 at Bodybuilding.com
Harbinger Padded Lifting Straps
The Harbinger Padded Lifting Straps were rather standard in most ways. Stiff and sturdy feeling (too stiff at first until you work them in, then they were great). However, they had a little bonus for those of us who aren’t too concerned about always playing the ‘tough guy’ … padding.
Yep, right on the part that touches the top part of your hand/wrist, there is foam padding. And on a heavy deadlift, this turned out to be kinda nice. Not necessary, by any means, but nice.
WARNING: Do NOT use these straps for snatches. I’m serious. They are, like most brands of straps, designed to lock you onto the bar. They are a heavy weight cotton which will grip the knurling on the bar so much that there is no way you’ll bail out of a snatch safely. If you want to snatch with straps, always always use the “slick” variety like the Iron Mind straps, or even a converted seatbelt (many clubs do this). The Harbinger straps are strictly for deadlifts, pulls, heavy shrugs, and other exercises that you WANT to be locked into.
- Strong grip on the bar.
- Padding for extra wrist comfort during heavy deadlifts.
- Reasonable Price
- Can’t be used for snatches.
- Padding may cause other lifters to make fun of you. But, if it gets you to endure another rep, you’ll be stronger than them anyways, so who cares!
Price: 8.99 at Bodybuilding.com, so they ain’t breaking the bank. But, if you hurt (like I do), get something heavier like the Schiek’s. These are both strong AND legal in competition. Or, if you’re totally adventurous, you can go with the leather “gauntlet” style at Risto.
There was a second problem I had with Harbinger’s wrist wraps. They were both right handed! I thought this was a problem with the particular pair sent to me, but one of my lifters bought a pair and they were the same way. I can only assume (by the flawed logic of induction!) that this is the way they come on purpose. If that is true, it is a design flaw. The thumb loop needs to be hand-specific.
- Competition legal.
- Easy to take on and off.
- Very lightweight, so won’t provide protection for previously injured wrists.
Price: 200 or more for their Olympic lifting shoes, and do so gladly. In the last few years, the small company, Risto, has EXPLODED on the market of strength athletes and CrossFit athletes by simply making a good shoe that actually met our needs AND was truly fun (you can customize colors, designs, etc). They made sure that what they made was something we really did want. And now their shoes sell very very well. (I own a pair, as do a number of my lifters, and I fully plan on making my next pair a pair of Risto’s – purple!)
For years, every pair of olympic lifting shoes looked like boring bowling shoes. Then Risto comes along and provides a HAND MADE shoe, with real wood heel, and leather upper (read: quality) AND it comes in all kinds of fun colors. The pink Risto’s are now immensely popular. Anyone who watched the CrossFit/USAW live-feed would have noticed how many of those pink Risto’s were on the feet of CrossFit athletes.
If Harbinger wanted to, they could focus on just a couple of “high-end” products that were designed with us in mind. If they did that, we’d buy them.
The market here is pretty open still and waiting for innovators. For instance, there is only ONE serious brand of neoprene knee sleeves, Rehband. Everyone wears Rehband sleeves. Yes, they are great sleeves. But, that’s all there is, and they only come in blue or grey. If we had options with lots of fun colors, and the sleeves were just as good or better than Rehband’s, we’d eat them up!
The same could be said about belts. Make the SAME 4’’ Nylon Belt, but make it in a variety of colors … it would sell through the roof. (Make sure one is Pink, companies often drastically underestimate how many women do this kind of stuff. It’s AT LEAST 50%, probably more. Treat them right. Give them a serious hardcore product … in pink.)
Same with the wrist wraps. Make something heavy duty and in fun colors. Even if they cost 50% more, we’d buy them.
The important thing to remember about “cultish” groups (all strength athletes, CrossFitters, and other people in niche sports are at least a little cultish) is that once you get a few of them on board, the whole herd gets on board. That’s a marketing advantage.
It wouldn’t take much to add an entire new group of buyers to Harbinger’s client list.
At any rate, the products I got were all good quality. And I am going to continue using the belt for some time. And if in the future they come out with a purple belt with a green stripe … I’d be all over it!