It’s true that you can get into shape with nothing but a gym membership, a pair of cross-trainers, and a can-do attitude; but, there are other aspects of training that a commercial gym may not be equipped for, or their setup just sucks. Primarily, I’m talking about equipment for training explosive power and tools for recovery and muscle health. With that being said, this is my list of necessary gym gear to seek out at your gym or, like me, bring to the gym yourself.
If your gym doesn’t allow chalk then you need to find a better gym. Using chalk during compound and Olympic lifts not only provides a massive advantage in the grip department, but also in your confidence level. It wicks away moisture and helps the knurling dig into your skin for added grip; personally, it also puts me in the mind frame that it’s time to get serious and move some heavy weight. I use the moments leading up to a lift to chalk my hands, visualizing my successfully making the lift, and getting myself amped up to rip the barbell off the floor.
Chalk is possibly the cheapest piece of “equipment” you can buy which and will quite possibly yield the biggest and fastest increase to your performance in the gym. If you want to get serious with your major lifts and actually start moving the pile, these are some of my favorite chalks to use.
Chalk Ness Monster Blocks:
First, it’s the best brand name for chalk I’ve come across. Second, I like that it’s 100% chalk and doesn’t contain dyes, chemicals, or other drying agents that many liquid chalks (see below) contain. I personally prefer blocked chalk because it’s not as messy. Unless your gym has an actual chalk bowl/bucket at your gym and you’re reading about chalk in your free time, odds are you’re bringing your own chalk to the gym. Continually reaching your hands into a bag of powdered chalk can get very messy and it spills out of your bag. Blocks of chalk will break and crumble, but you’re able to rub it directly where you need it instead of dipping your entire hand into a bag to get unnecessary chalk on the back of your hand.
If you prefer powdered chalk, Chalk Ness Monster also offers powdered chalk. I’ve never tried it, but if it’s as good as their blocks and you prefer powder instead, go for it. If you want to go that route but looking to go even cheaper, read below.
Triple the amount of powdered chalk for almost the same price as Chalk Ness Monster. I bought this chalk over the summer and am still using it. I intended to do some rock climbing during my road trip and blocks aren’t really suited for that; due to some sciatic nerve damage and riding 300+ miles on a motorcycle every day for a month, I didn’t get the chance. Now, I use this as my gym chalk and it works great. I’ve used powdered chalk in the past and I hate the bags they come in and the cloth bags they usually come with. The bags always tear in my bag and chalk gets everywhere. I use a dry sack instead and my bag is chalk-free.
If you don’t have the right to use chalk in your gym or the ability to switch to a respectable gym then you can always try liquid chalk. I used it once a few years ago and, if my memory serves me correctly, it does work well. It just doesn’t get me in the same mindset at actual chalk does, and it’s more expensive.
Where to Buy
Most, if not all, of my links, are to Amazon simply because I enjoy Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping. If you’re into free gear with your purchases there are other retailers too. For that route, I suggest bodybuilding.com.
Wrist straps are great for presses and Olympic lifts. In theory, they provide support to your wrists and secure them in a neutral position; in practice, wrist straps keep the weight in line with your forearms leading to a more direct application of force to the bar. Straps are vital if you’ve had a wrist injury in the past, habitually let the bar roll onto your fingertips during pressing movements, or you’re just looking for another way to improve your performance in the gym. Wrist straps are relatively cheap and will last you a long time; here are some of my favorites from testing, borrowing, and purchasing them over the years.
Gasp wraps unquestionably top this list. These are my absolute favorite wrap and I’ve used them for quite a few years. For $20, they’re phenomenal. As you can see in the picture, I’m not huge and I’m not overhead pressing 300 pounds. I don’t need wraps that cover half of my forearm but I want more stability than a Livestrong bracelet. Gasp straps are just over 3 inches wide and are a perfect middle-ground wrap.
Mark Bell’s Slingshot has taken the world by storm over the past few years; Slingshot wraps shouldn’t be overshadowed by the original product, though. I love these because while they’re on the higher spectrum of the price range they’re not limited to just wrist straps. These straps are offered in a variety of sizes and can be used for other problem areas, such as your knees and elbows. The ability to use them for multiple areas warrants the heftier price tag, I believe.
Rip Toned 18″ Straps:
I love these straps because they’re cheap, durable, and, most importantly, they work. I’ve been using my Rip Toned straps for a long time and recently retired them for my Gasp ones. I still keep my Rip Tones straps in my bag as a backup pair. If you’re in the market for a pair of straps simply for your wrists and don’t want to spend $40 on a strap of thick material with a thumb loop and velcro strip, Rip Toned straps come in at $10.00 from Amazon and are very comparable.
Resistance bands are effective in two often-overlooked aspects of weightlifting – recovery, explosive power, and the lockout position of compound lifts. During deload weeks, stretching over the weekend, and my daily warmup, I used resistance bands quite a bit. Primarily, I use resistance bands on my problem areas – shoulders and hips. For explosive power and strengthing my lockout position, bands are just as effective. Wrap a resistance band around both ends of a bar, weigh it down with dumbells, and go to town. Whether you’re working deadlifts, squats, bench, or (I guess?) curls, using resistance bands in your training makes it harder during flexion and will make you have to work harder at lockout.
Bonus: If your gym has a slippery bench, try wrapping bands around it. This will help your upper back stick to the bench. I got this tip from Brian Alsruhe and his Youtube Channel – a very knowledgeable man and valuable source for lifting.
There’s a wide variety of bands available. I prefer to stick with one company when it comes to resistance bands that way I know the same materials, tensions, and dimensions are guaranteed. For me, that company is WODFitters. No, I don’t do Crossfit; they’re just the best ones for my budget at the moment. I know many other people are huge fans of GoFit resistance bands which can be found on Bodybuilding.com.
I swear I don’t do Crossfit. The benefits of foam rolling are innumerable and it’s possible that your gym has a pile of these lying around. My old gym did, but they were too soft for deep tissue work. I ended up buying mine from Bodybuilding.com for about $20. I suggest you find one that has a high density and not much “give.”
Bonus: Lacross balls are amazing for your upper back, shoulders, and forearms and are less than 10 bucks on Amazon.
There you have it. The four pieces of gym gear that are absolutely essential to breaking through plateaus, recovery, and crushing PRs.