Unlike my Vertx Tactical Pants Endurance Test protocol, where I wear my Vertx pants for the duration of an entire training session, I am only wearing the gloves for tire flips and upper body dominant exercises. However, as with my Vertx testing, the tire flip remains the main exercise to test the performance and manufacturing capabilities of the gloves.
For this first week, I performed over 400 tire flips wearing the gloves…and what a difference they made! The majority of my previous experience with gloves, dealt with the kind worn during deep-sea diving operations. And while I have spent over 24 years training in gyms, I can only think of a handful of occasions where I wore gloves in the gym. However, having worn gloves all this past week (which consisted primarily of modified strongman exercises) I can say wearing gloves for load bearing exercises was a learning experience for my nervous system.
One of my favorite training protocols, is to perform 100 tires flips for time, trying to beat my previous time with every session. My personal best is 23 minutes 45 seconds, while wearing Vert tactical pants and Magnum Cobra boots. However, wearing the same clothing with the addition of tactical gloves, increased my time to 34 minutes 40 seconds. And if that wasn’t enough, the gloves drastically increased both the physical and mental effort required to complete the 100 tire flips.
As you can see in the video, I appear to be struggling tremendously…the sad part, I was only 30 flips into the 100 rep challenge. Once completed, I had to sit down and contemplate which specific attribute of the gloves increased the difficulty of a challenge I usually have no problem performing. After considerable thought, I came up with 2 answers:
- The gloves material/protective spray: the gloves kept slipping off when attempting to lift the tire off the ground. At first I was perplexed by this, as the tire’s surface is extremely coarse and usually tears into anything it contacts. Apparently, this excludes both the 5.11 and Blackhawk gloves. I’m not certain whether it’s due to the type of material utilized and/or the protective (water-resistant?) spray applied by the manufacturers. The slippage encountered by BOTH gloves (left hand – 5.11 TAC A2 and right hand – Blackhawk S.O.L.A.G.) caused my forearm’s muscles and hands to expand greater force than usual. After 5 years of flipping tires without gloves, my central nervous system had a difficult time adjusting and learning how to deal with this new development. And while it may seem like a small issue, this learning curve, of my nervous system learning a new technique, is anything but a small issue. Remember, while it’s the muscles which contract and act on your bones to generate strength and movement, the intent is generated from your brain/central nervous system. And since the gloves cover your hands/fingers, they negatively affect the mechanoreceptors (respond to mechanical pressure and distortion) and the sensory imput or feedback they relay to the brain. Ultimately, this interrupts the hand’s fine motor control. Which is not something you want to experience when manipulating firearms.
- Due to the altered feedback of the mechanoreceptors and the interrupted motor control of the hands, the muscles of both my upper body (biceps) and lower body worked harder as compensation. This explains why I seemed to have trouble not only lifting the tire off the ground, but in maintaining it against my right thigh, while changing my hand grip to flip it over. My central nervous system “realizing” the lessened motor control and strength of the hands and forearms, expanded greater neural drive to other muscles groups to complete the action of flipping the tire. The increased neural drive, considerably and quickly drained both physical and neural resources. Additionally, this also affected my tire flipping technique, causing me to further lean into the tire and resting my biceps against it. This resulted in small bruises slightly above my elbows, which has never occurred prior to using the gloves.
However, it’s not all bad news. The key is realizing that anytime you try new gear, there is a learning curve, or process of your body adjusting to the new equipment. So when using new gear, it’s vital for the breaking-in period to not coincide with any life threatening or challenging situations…especially if fine motor control is required. Ensure you allow for at least 4-5 weeks of using the gloves before wearing them in any dangerous/threatening environments. This also goes for when switching to a different brand of gloves or model.
5.11 TAC A2 glove – slight tear along the small finger seam
At some point within the first 300 tire flips, the 5.11 TAC A2 glove developed a small tear/split along the stitching at base of the small finger, where the leather finger joins the elastic material. Since it’s not located at a stress point, I attribute this to the manufacturing process, rather than mechanical stress.
Visible wear of over 400 tire flips
The 5.11 TAC A2 is displaying signs of wear on the fingers. This may have been expedited by the “cut” of the synthetic leather utilized.
5.11 TAC A2 sweat wipe panel
The sweat wipe panel was extremely appreciated and worked well, especially during the “heat wave” experienced in Connecticut. The cut, location and size of the sweat panel facilitated its use and didn’t interfere or affect performance of the glove.
Compared to the 5.11 TAC A2, the Blackhawk S.O.L.A.G. displayed less wear and the seams appeared to be better constructed during the manufacturing process.
A sweat panel would have appreciated and donning/doffing the gloves takes some effort, as the wrist openings were obviously designed for osteoporotic anorexics.
While both 5.11 and Blackhawk promote a secure grip in their marketing literature, they may want to rethink the synthetic material and/or any protective coatings they utilize. Old and worn heavy earth moving equipment tires are some of the most abrasive objects you’ll encounter…and if your gloves have problems “biting” onto the tire, there might be some issues. And while they don’t have to be as tacky as a pair of football wide receiver gloves, they should prevent slippage across a wide variety of surfaces.
However, in all fairness, they might need a breaking-in period to “wear down” any protective coatings.
It’s still too early to draw any conclusions, but I’ll keep plugging away and see what develops.
For a review of my testing requirements and protocols, visit here.