For those of us who didn't grow up playing sports or who have had a fraught relationship with our...
What's In Your Gym Bag? Underrated Gym Gear Guys Need
The most important part of your workout routine is sticking with it. Even if you're doing bodyweight HIIT intervals every day, the equipment you use means far less than your consistency.
That said, if exercise and fitness are central parts of your routine– or you want them to be– having the right equipment on hand can help you make the most of your routine.
That's why we wanted to do a round-up of the gear and supplies that have had the biggest impact on our own routines.
A Fitness Tracker (Our pick: WHOOP)
I worked out consistently for about three years without any type of fitness tracker or heart rate monitor because I thought they were entirely unnecessary. After all, if I was sweating and could feel my heart pounding in my chest, that was a pretty clear sign that I was doing things correctly, right?
Well, not necessarily. When I started working out with a WHOOP strap on, my perspective changed immensely.
By wearing my WHOOP 24/7, I have a clearer sense of my heart rate patterns while I'm working out as well as the quality of my sleep and how rested my body is.
Having this data on hand has been hugely beneficial. It helps me know when I need to tack some cardio onto the end of lifting days, when I shouldn't push myself quite as hard, and when I'm pushing myself to go above and beyond my usual performance.
It provides me with quantifiable insights that I wouldn't otherwise have.
An unavoidable trait of frequent lifting is rough, calloused hands. However, even if you're comfortable with callouses, you should still have a pair of lifting gloves in your gym bag.
Lifting gloves will help protect your palms from unnecessary damage and roughness. On top of that, if you do high-weight barbell exercises like deadlifts, rack pulls, or cleans and jerks, you need lifting gloves to ensure you're comfortable enough to sustain a tight grip for the entire exercise.
Brands like Harbinger and Gold's Gym make lifting gloves that are durable and affordable, and they come in a variety of sizes.
A Lifting Belt
Lifting belts are one of those gym accessories that a lot of people use without actually understanding what they do.
I've heard dozens of guys say that they wear lifting belts to support their lower backs during heavy lifts.
Lifting belts don't work that way. They're not there to brace your lower back and provide artificial support. Instead, they help you tighten your own core muscles, which improves your posture and stabilizes you during your lifts.
Some estimates suggest that wearing a lifting belt can increase your one-rep max weight by 15lbs for lifts like deadlifts and squats. Regardless of the actual increase in weight you can lift while wearing a belt, they're ideal for learning to leverage your own core muscles for stability.
A Water Bottle
It should go without saying, but you need to take water with you to the gym. I specifically recommend getting one that is easy to clean– dishwasher-friendly is ideal if you're like me and hate doing your dishes by hand.
It's trendy to get gigantic, gallon-sized water bottles. Those can be great for carrying around all day and ensuring you stay hydrated, but you need to be able to clean your water bottle regularly to prevent mold and bacteria from building up in it, and the larger bottles are hard to clean well.
A classic Nalgene bottle is great. They're durable, large, and easy to clean.
If you want to reduce your plastic consumption, then I definitely recommend looking into an aluminum bottle instead of a glass one– one dropped dumbbell and an eco-friendly glass bottle becomes a safety hazard.
A Workout Journal
This one may be unexpected, but I highly, highly, highly recommend getting some sort of workout journal or log to track your exercises.
This journal that's available at Barnes and Noble is my preferred way to log my workouts. A plain notebook or composition book, or a number of phone-based apps, will accomplish the same end goal.
The key is that you track your workouts. What muscle groups are you working, how much weight are you lifting, and how many reps are you able to complete?
Knowing these data points will help you track your progress and challenge yourself to continuously increase your training intensity at the gym.
A Bite Guard
This is another one that might come as a surprise, but I highly recommend getting a mouth guard for the gym.
A common behavior that most of us don't even recognize that we're doing is to bite down or grind our teeth during periods of extreme exertion. If you're working hard to max out your deadlift, for example, you're probably clenching your jaw shut harder than you realize as you strain against the barbell.
Doing this can damage your teeth, especially if you have any sort of dental appliance.
I'm speaking from experience. I have a bonded retainer on the backs of my front teeth, and I've snapped my lower retainer twice.
Get a dang mouth guard. They're cheap and can protect your teeth. Just remember to clean them frequently.
Lifting Shoes AND Running Shoes
I'm a fashion-conscious guy, but for a long time, I assumed that shoes were just shoes and what you wore to the gym would be a matter of personal preference.
As it turns out, wearing the right shoes for individual activities is pretty important.
Lifting shoes or trainers tend to have flat, durable soles. These are ideal for keeping your stance as natural as possible during lifts like squats, deadlifts, and leg presses.
Running shoes, on the other hand, have supportive, flexible soles. These are great for running because they're made to bend with your foot and provide padding or reinforcement for your arches.
I have incredibly flat feet and severe overpronation on my left leg, so I've spent the last few years training in highly reinforced running shoes. The problem with this is that those running shoes aren't made for 650lbs of leg pressing weight, and they break down quicker than they should. On top of that, I have to constantly readjust my feet to maintain a neutral stance.
Training in flat trainers and doing cardio, walking, and general daily movement in supportive running shoes has proven to be pretty helpful for me.
For trainers, I've been wearing NoBull. They're pretty stiff at first and take some breaking in, but they're light, comfortable, and they look great. Plus, after seeing their ads in my Instagram stories for roughly the 10929384th time, I felt like giving them a try.
For running shoes, I alternate between Brooks and OrthoFeet.