With so much equipment and paraphernalia available to people who train with weights, what exactly should you take with you to the gym in order to get the most out of your workout?
This isn’t a list of everything you should take every time you hit the weights room, but an overall look at the equipment available and when, or if, you should use it.
The object and symbol most synonymous with someone who goes to the gym, a belt should only really be used for heavy lifts – squats and deadlifts being the prime examples. And then, only during heavy sets of said lifts.
Using it for bicep curls as well as a vast majority of other lifts is a waste of time and money, not to mention completely unnecessary. Make sure you start your training journey without one in order to build up strength in your mid-section, frequently known as your ‘core’, and only purchase one when you truly feel that it is necessary: either for back safety reasons or in order to increase the intra-abdominal pressure of your mid-section and therefore lift slightly more weight.
When or if you decide to buy one, then it’s usually optimal to get one that’s the same width all the way around. This helps balance the assistance it gives around your core musculature, whilst belts with varying widths will not:
Forget gloves, chalk is your friend when it comes to covering your hands in the gym. Gloves will increase the circumference of your grip and therefore make it more difficult to hold onto the bar when the weights get heavy.
Chalk, on the other hand, will allow you to pick up more than your grip allows, meaning you wont be limited in how much you’re capable of lifting by your grip. I personally prefer block chalk, but it comes down to personal preference. Also, like the belt, don’t waste it on absolutely every lift.
For someone who predominantly trains with weights and focuses on the important lifts, then the best all-round shoes are a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors or similar.
Thick-soled, shock absorbent trainers are great for running, but will help absorb downward force exerted towards the floor when you squat, bench press or deadlift – something you really want to avoid, as it will hinder how much you can lift.
Wearing a flat, or nearly flat, sole (like the ones on Converse) will prevent this while also being the cheapest, and to many people best, option when it comes to lifting weights. It all starts from having a rock-solid base, and these kind of shoes are one of the best for achieving this.
Different from lifting straps in that wrist straps are designed to support your wrists when lifting heavy weights. I started using wrist straps when the weight on my bench press got heavy enough that I started noticing a slight pain in my wrists. Since using wrist straps this pain has been virtually non-existent and, alongside pain prevention, I feel like they’re capable of increasing stability and confidence when grasping heavy weights.
Try and find a thick, solid pair of wrist straps; I’ve found that Titan and Strength Shop make some fantastic straps that have served me well and, unlike the lifting belt, wear them as soon as you feel like you need to – usually when discomfort becomes an issue.
Until recently, I never really saw the benefit of lifting straps until I started performing really heavy shrugs and doing more lifts with a double overhand grip. When deadlifting, however, I never use them, as chalk is my (and should be everybody’s) source of grip assistance.
When performing any lift that requires the bar to be held on to for a long period of time, over numerous reps, then I see no problem with using lifting straps. Similarly to the reasoning behind using chalk, grip will often give out before your capability of performing the lift.
Only straps when grip becomes an issue and train without them as much as possible – they can limit grip and forearm development. Which type to buy? I’m not really sure; I’ve used cheap no-brand pairs before and they’ve worked beautifully for months on end, so it’s just down to personal preference.