I know the what is in my gym bag posts have been done before, but I figured I would take a stab at it. Most of these start out with “everyone is always asking me what I keep in my gym bag, so today I thought I would share”. Well nobody has ever asked me what was in my gym bag. Ever. I’m going to tell you anyways though, and I hope at least one of you finds this enjoyable.
1)Sleeves- I just recently started using neoprene sleeves to help keep injured joints warm while I lift. They also offer a slight amount of stability, but not enough to be considered a performance enhancer. I use one on my right elbow because I have a history of triceps tendinitis, and one on my right knee after I strained a ligament there playing basketball not too long ago. When I become not so poor, I will buy a left knee sleeve as well. The exact knee sleeve I use is the Rehband 7751 Knee Support, and the exact elbow sleeve I use is the Rehband 7720 Elbow Support. Both of these can be obtained from rogue fitness, however other companies sell good ones as well. When buying these I recommend going one size below what you measure out to be. The material has a tendency to stretch over time, and too small is almost always better than too large.
2)Liniment- I’m a huge fan of liniment for warming up areas during a workout. I have even used it in attempts to speed recovery to certain areas after a workout. When people ask me what this stuff is I normally answer with “it’s icy hot for horses”. That may not be the most scientific answer, but it’s good enough. Basically the liniment is a localized heating agent that can help by increasing blood flow to a joint and better preparing it to be used. It can also drastically reduce pain in an injured area, which can a double edged sword. Sometimes its nice to reduce pain so that you can get through your workout without it affecting your performance. However, sometimes you run the risk of using the liniment to mask the warning signs of further injury. It’s a fine line that needs to be walked when using this stuff on an already injured area.
My favorite method for applying the liniment is to put it on under my neoprene sleeves that I mentioned before. That seems to at least double the warming effect and keep the joint feeling good for the entirety of the workout.
A quick warning about the liniment. I have heard that it can make the surface of the skin more permeable than it should be. This means it would allow larger foreign particles to pass through, causing the potential for some health issues. For example if you were to use the liniment and then be exposed to some form of bacteria or contamination it may pass through the skin more easy. I’m not sure if there is scientific evidence to back this up, but I have heard some reputable sources mention the potential for this to happen so I figured I would put it on here for the sake of full disclosure. I have also heard this about hand sanitizer, as well as the chemical they coat receipts in. Again, I will have to do some more research to see if this is true, but I figured I would add it.
I buy my liniment from elitefts, and here is the exact stuff I use.
3)Belt- I’m a big fan of using a lifting belt for certain compound movements at certain times. I know a lot of people say using a belt weakens your core, which is actually untrue. Using a belt allows you to create more intra abdominal pressure, which allows your core musculature to contract harder. This increases stability of the trunk, slightly increases performance, and actually strengthens your core musculature. So ha! If you’re interested in this topic more, read about it here, and here, and here. I have a leather belt from elitefts featured here, and I love it. Rogue also makes a nice leather belt. There are many different types of belts to choose from, but that’s for another time….
4)Fat Gripz- I am a huge fan of fat bar training, but have never been privileged to lift at a gym that has a fat bar. However, Fat Gripz turn any bar into a fat bar for just $35! I apologize for sounding like an infomercial, but they really are great. I can’t bench without them or I get this stabbing pain in my left forearm. Not really an issue though as I can work on my bench and increase grip strength at the same time using the Fat Gripz. They also have a decent carryover to bench pressing without them, the quantity of which I am not sure of at this point in time. They are a great way to add some extra grip work to the exercises you are already performing.
5)Lacrosse Balls- No I do not play lacrosse. I use these as a form of self myofascial release. Think of it as a much more targeted, and painful, foam roller for those hard to reach places. To this day I think the most painful place I have found to use them is the glute medius… It looks weird as well, so use these in the corner of your commercial gym where there is less of an audience. The average gym goer may not realize the lacrosse ball is under you and mistakenly think you are rubbing yourself against the the floor. Mistakenly…
I also have two lacrosse balls taped together (keep your comments to yourself) for getting either side of the spine. This is one of my favorite mobility drills and makes a great way to increase thoracic mobility, something we all could use more of.
6)Bands- I always keep a bunch of bands in my gym bag. Usually they are for stretching, and sometimes they are for pull-aparts. Bands are a great purchase as they can be used for a wide variety of things and are usually quite inexpensive. Here is my selection below. All of these were bought from elitefts.
7)Blast Straps- Although I haven’t done it in awhile, I’m a big fan of inverted rows using TRX or Blast Straps. If you have the money, I largely prefer the TRX system as they are much easier to adjust. However, blast straps are much cheaper and also very sturdy.
8)Chalk- The gym I lift at while I’m in school doesn’t allow chalk. However, they do have two olympic lifting platforms outfitted with bumper plates…. If you can figure that one out let me know. Anyways chalk is a staple for improving your grip when training and also preventing calluses from tearing. I highly recommend it.
9)Lifting Shoes- I just recently started using weightlifting shoes, and they make a huge difference. I bought the adidas adipower weightlifting shoes and I love them. If you’re serious about your training, you need a nice pair of shoes to lift in. They offer support, allow you to transmit force against the floor better, and help you obtain greater ankle mobility in the squat. If your training is more powerlifting based, you may find that Chuck Taylors work better for you. They have a hard flat sole on the bottom but no heel lift, making them better for deadlifts and the more posterior chain based powerlifting style squat.
So that is everything I carry around with me in my gym bag. Let me know in the comments below what items you make sure to keep in your bag when you hit the gym.