If you have been going to the gym for any length of time, you’ll notice that other gym-goers have fancy belts, knee sleeves and other pieces of equipment. In this article, I’ll share the 5 essentials that I feel everyone should have in their gym bag. These will help you prepare, organise and make the most of your training in the gym helping squeeze out those marginal gains to help you towards your goals that bit quicker. Inevitably, there may be some things that don’t make the list which could have a lot of benefit for some but these are the things that I simply would not go to the gym without, if I had the choice. All of the equipment and accessories mentioned are available at Strength Shop. This is my personal list, let me know what accessories you would never go to the gym without in the comments below.
#1 - Wrist Wraps
Wrist wraps provide support to the wrist joint mainly used for pressing movements like bench press, overhead press and jerks. They can also help to reduce some of the pressure and discomfort that you might experience during movements like front squat and clean. They are versatile depending on how you wrap them. Pulling them tighter and wrapping firmly both above and below the joint can help keep the wrist stacked, perfect for giving maximum support for your heavy bench press attempts. Conversely, using a looser wrap can still allow the joint some flexibility during your explosive movements like snatch and clean where a variety of positions are required throughout the movement. Wrist wraps are pretty cheap, easy to transport and so should be added to anyone who lift weight’s gym bag. I’d personally opt for a softer wrap like the Strength Shop Hercules range which can be pulled tighter when extra support is needed.
#2 - Straps and Chalk
Both lifting straps and chalk allow us to limit the extent to which grip becomes the limiting factor during many exercises helping us get the most from our training. It’s important to develop a strong grip through a range of exercises but we shouldn’t allow this to hold back the development of other key areas. Chalk is available in powder, liquid or block form which one you go for doesn’t really matter but it helps by reducing sweating in the hands and increasing friction. I’d use chalk for all pulling movements particularly for upper body exercises like chins-ups and rows.
Lifting straps also come in a variety of forms and being a weightlifter, I prefer using a sewn loop style as it allows quick release of the bar when needed and more even distribution of the weight across the wrists. Other varieties include a figure of 8 style which provides a lot of grip support but they can be fiddly to get on and off. The most common style has a single loop on one end and you thread the other through around your wrist before wrapping and gripping it around the bar. Both straps and chalk are cheap, easy to transport and so should be included within your gym bag.
#3 - Lifting Shoes
Weightlifting shoes are one of the less common lifting accessories considered but one of the most valuable. Firstly, they provide a flat and solid surface to lift through and transfer your strength from the ground to the bar. Most styles of lifting shoes will also feature a raised heel which helps to improve mobility for exercises like squats. The heel lift allows the knees to track forward more helping maintain a more upright torso. This is particularly suited to a quad dominant or Olympic style squat that transfers into sporting movements well. Many running style trainers have a lot of cushioning in the sole which creates an unstable surface and poor stability for developing muscle and strength. There are many styles of weightlifting shoe and you should consider the amount of use they are likely to get before determining your budget and which range you should look at.
#4 - Training Diary
A training diary is essential to track your workouts, measure progress and evaluate your results. Write down exactly what you done for the day. As well as the weight lifted, sets and reps performed, write down how you felt and where you plan to progress to next week. It also serves to keep you motivated as you look back on previous months training. It can really help keep you on track if you have what you thought was a bad session only to look back and see that only 4 week prior you would have been extremely pleased to get through that. You can also start to pick up on trends of what is working and what isn’t helping to figure out the best approach for you. Keeping a training diary can help keep you motivated and is a great way to keep yourself accountable. Any diary or notepad will do but Strength Shop sell a handy, well-laid out diary you can buy at Strength Shop UK by Clicking Here.
#5 - Shaker / Water Bottle
A good quality shaker is an essential accessory for your gym bag. You can use it to mix up your favourite pre-workout supplement, sip your BCAA’s from it and consume your post workout protein/carb shake from it. Most gyms will have a water fountain or access to drinkable tap water so having a shaker or water bottle takes away the hassle of having to remember to bring water or buy some from the gym making it easy to stay hydrated throughout your training. I find a shaker with a mixing ball best to help smoothen out those clumps of powder. The stainless steel shaker available from Strength Shop is ideal as it comes with a mixing ball. The stainless steel is easier to clean and less susceptible to foul smells.
All of the above accessories I use personally in my own training and advise the use of them to most clients. If you have any questions or would like to hear my opinion on things that haven't made the list then feel free to contact me by clicking here.
Before you forget, here is a quick summary of those 5 training essentials.
Allan Young is a Personal Trainer and coach educator in Glasgow who operates Strength Coach Glasgow and is a 4x Scottish Champion Olympic Weightlifter.