Packing your gym bag does not have to be a confusing experience. Here is a quick checklist with the essentials you need for the gym.
This one should go without saying, but I’m going to put it as number one as it is the most important item on this list. Carrying a water bottle is always a good idea when working out, and it can even be loaded with some amino acid mix for improving recovery. Even if your gym has a water fountain, you’ll save time by bringing your own bottle. Also, some gyms don’t let you drink directly from the fountain, you can only fill up a bottle.
Weight Lifting Belt
This one is important enough to rank right up near the water bottle. The weight-lifting belt is one of the most versatile pieces of gym equipment in your arsenal. Lifting belts not only protect your lower back but also tighten up your core, giving your core muscles something to “push” against, helping to increase the stability of your lifts.
Towels are a basic item that a lot of people forget. A towel can help you clean up both during and after a workout. It’s always handy to have one with you. A smaller hand towel is great for wiping your hands and face during your workout.
Gloves have been used by many lifters for decades. They don’t only protect your hands from injury, but they also improve your grip. Weight-lifting gloves are especially useful for any pulling motion such as deadlifts and rows.
Many lifters will go straight home after their workout for a shower, so they can forgo bringing hygiene gear to the gym. However, many also go to the gym on the way to work and shower at the gym. In this case make sure you bring a spare set of hygiene tools, such as a razor, deodorant, and aftershave. This also includes any beauty products such as makeup or moisturizer.
A spare set of clothes can really come in handy at the gym, both during and after a workout. For instance, after finishing your weightlifting routine, if you want to hit some cardio, you may want to throw other clothes in your gym bag.
Barbell Squat Pad
A squat pad is a simple piece of foam that slips over the barbell to protect your neck and spine when performing squats. They are also a must need when doing hip thrusts to protect your hips especially if you’re going heavy. Some people wrap a towel around the barbell instead but this isn’t nearly as effective as a squat pad.
Headphones are another great addition for good reason. Listening to your favourite music or podcast will keep your mood elevated while lifting. Any serious lifter will tell you how important music is while lifting. They know the benefit of putting on a specific playlist when they’re trying to hit PRs or getting into the really heavy lifts. I would personally recommend Apple AirPods, they are pricey but worth every penny, being small, easy to use, and have great sound.
Your gym shoes might seem like an obvious item, but you will need a specific type of shoe for a particular workout. You don’t want to show up for a spinning class with bulky running shoes. There are great all-purpose athletic shoes you can wear, but you’ll benefit from pairing the right shoe with the right activity. There are a variety of shoes designed for weightlifting, crosstraining, rock climbing, and running.
Keeping track of your workouts is a great way to ensure progressive overload. Carry a notebook and pen through your workout, or take notes on your smartphone. By doing this you can make sure you progress every workout and build more muscle.
It’s always good to keep a high-protein snack in your gym bag for after your workout. Protein bars, protein powder and a shaker bottle, nuts, and jerky will all keep for a long time and are all high in protein.
Grip plays a crucial role in many exercises, from curls to pulldowns to deadlifts. If your grip fails before the target muscles, your workout won’t be as productive as it should be. Wiping your hands on a gym towel before each set can help keep your palms dry, but experienced lifters use chalk. Lifting chalk soaks up sweat and keeps your hands drier for longer. Some gyms don’t allow chalk as it leaves behind a white residue and can make a mess so be sure to ask first.
A strong grip is vital for doing heavy deadlifts, rows, pull-ups, and pulldowns. Because of this, most lifters should spend time building their grip. That said, the strongest grip can still fail, which is where lifting straps come in. They provide a secure connection between your hands and the bar, leaving you to focus on the reps. They can also relieve any elbow pain that can be caused by hard and repetitive gripping.
Resistance bands barely take up any room in your gym bag but can add a lot to your workout. You can use short “mini bands” to increase glute activation for better lower body training or larger bands to make exercises like bench presses, deadlifts, and squats more demanding. They can also be used for stretching. Some gyms have bands, but it’s easier and you can save yourself from searching for them if you pack your own. As an added benefit, you can use them anywhere and anytime.
A good workout starts with a thorough warm-up, and part of the warm-up is increasing your core temperature. Any cardio machine will do, but jumping rope is arguably one of the best options. It’s a full-body activity while increasing hand-eye coordination and agility too. Like the resistance bands, you can jump rope anywhere and anytime.
Knee and Elbow Sleeves
Strength training is mostly a healthy activity, however, you may start to experience a few aches and pains. Knee and elbow sleeves provide your hard-working joints with some support. Whether you currently have painful knees or elbows or just want to avoid them in the future, sleeves are a great investment to your gym equipment.
Make sure your workouts are as productive as possible by packing your gym bag with these essentials. Keep them in your bag so that you’ve always got them when you need them and don’t forget anything.
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