I thought I would share some of my favorite go to items you can find in my gym bag. Not in any particular order.
- Knee Sleeves – I really enjoy using knees sleeves. They add a great layer of protection on the knees. They cause compression which helps keep everything together and feeling smooth. Not quite as intense as knee wraps, and much easier to get on and off. I currently am using Rehbands sleeves, but I plan to either order SBD’s or STrong sleeves next.
2. Wrist Wraps – I love using wrist wraps. Similar function to the knees sleeves. The purpose of the wraps are to help protect and give support to your wrist under heavy load like the bench press or military press. I use to different versions. If I am doing light loads, accessory work, crossfit, or anything else that I need to be quick with my wraps I will use Strength Wraps. They offer good support and you can adjust the tightness level just by twisting them. If I am going for heavy pressing I will switch them out for Mark Bell’s Gangsta wraps. They are much thicker, and you are able to get them much tighter than the strength wraps. I highly recommend them.
3. Squat Shoes – This is prolly one of my favorite investments. I don’t have any of the expensive pairs, as I just use the AddiPowers, but I love them. Squats shoes usually have a raised heel which allows you to increase your range of motion in the bottom portion of your squat. Hey, its all about depth right? They also make you feel so much more secure to the ground and stable under load. I have seen quite a few people increase their squat numbers and form with just the small addition of squat shoes.
4. Vet Liniment Gel – This isn’t something you might see in every gym bag. I was introduced to this by a buddy who had been using it for years. It is a gel that you simple rub on a sore muscle or body part and it helps cool and numb the pain. Similar to Sky Blue I believe it was called, or any other pain relief ointment you may get from a chiropractor. I pick it up at a hardware store for less than 15$.
5. Softball – This really could be any hard round object. Very common are lacross balls, I just don’t have one. For me, I use a softball since I play and have access to many. I use this for deep tissue work. This is great if you have a nagging muscle pain you can roll around on the ball till you hit a tight spot and hold it there, a breathing, allowing the ball to go deeper and deeper into the muscle in attempts to clean it up and break up some of the soft tissue that might be stuck. I love using it for my pecs, glutes, and traps. Those areas are harder to get this a foam roller so this does the job. Great for helping to increase range of motion.
6. Foam Roller/Stick Roller – These are very similar in function to the soft ball. Roll around on stiff/tight/sore muscle until pain starts releasing. These are much easier to use when attacking your back, quads, hammys, and lats. I usually will use a Rumble roller because it has ‘spikes’ that will go deeper into your soft tissue than your basic foam roller. If I am not using that one, I like to go with a hard plastic roller rather than a basic foam roller, just cause I feel I have grown use to a regular foam roller and I don’t get near as much use out of it. Lastly, I have a stick roller. These are commonly round with runners. They will use them for their shins mainly to help with shin splints. This works great for aggressively attacking your quads. Picture a rolling pin and pizza dough, similar concept.
7. Lifting Straps – Straps are not the same thing as wraps. Straps are there to aid in assist to your grip strength. I haven’t used them in my deadlift training in awhile as I am building more grip strength, but these serve a purpose for when your grip starts failing but your muscles of say the back haven’t been fatigued yet. It also can allow you to over load slightly, specially on accessory movements such as rows, pull downs, or shrugs. Either by able to work heavier than your usual grip can hold, or work longer than your grip can usually can hold. They definitely serve a purpose, but don’t find yourself becoming reliant on them.
8. Lifting Belt – A good lifting belt is a must if you are looking to be strong. For the longest time I lifted without one, and yes it made my core stronger and all of that, but once I actually invested in a good solid belt it made the world of difference. It just adds in another layer of support and helps brace incase you miss a brace or are still learning proper bracing. If used right I think a belt can even be a good way to learn how to brace properly. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying slap a belt on and walk around with it your entire session. I apply the same principals with the belt as I do with the lifting straps. I get some warm up sets in beltless, but when I start to get heavy and towards my working sets I will throw the belt on to help save my core before it gets to fatigued. I currently use a Inzer 10mm belt lever option. It was my first real powerlifting belt and I am a fan. It straps you in nice and tight not leaving much room for error. I know there are many different belts out there, and many are made for different sports, or areas of lifting. They vary in thickness, material, levers, etc. I just overall recommend getting one.
There are so many different items you can incorporate into your gym bag, and everyone will have different items. Just find what works best for you, and aids you the most in your journey. Happy Lifting Everyone!