I’m often asked what’s in my gym bag that I’m dragging around with me every time I’m at the gym.
I’m going to outline the 10 essentials I always have with me, and that serious lifters should always have in their gym bags.
Obviously some of these might not be applicable for you, but I have found each and every one of the following items EXTREMELY useful in progressing my strength and physique over the years.
1) Wireless Headphones
Before I delve into the functional workout equipment that will help you get bigger, stronger, stay injury free, etc. I should tell you guys about wireless Bluetooth headphones.
After years of having buds popping out of my ears during the most important sets, or doing exercises when the dumbbell hits the wire and rips the buds out of my ears, or having headphones that simply have a big ass wire constantly getting in the way, I finally upgraded to wireless Bluetooth headphones.
And I honestly think they are a necessity.
I can’t even count how many times wires have gotten in my way in the gym, pissed me off, and screwed up my set.
These wireless headphones have high quality sound, they are cheap, the battery life is very long, and best of all, it doesn’t get in my f*cking way during important lifts.
Obviously any good quality pair of wireless headphones will work, if you care though these are the ones I’ve been using and I definitely prefer them to all the other headphones I’ve tried for the reasons I outlined above.
You can order them here: http://amzn.to/2gdhtVu
2) 0.5 Pound Plates
I remember in 2008/2009 when I first started working out, I was wondering why nobody had invented these yet.
I don’t know about you guys, but it is the most annoying thing in the world how gyms only have a minimum of 2.5 pound plates.
You know as well as I do, that when trying to break strength plateaus on certain lifts like the bench press, 2.5 pounds extra on each side (5 pounds total) is near impossible to constantly add to your lift each and every week consistently.
This makes progressive overload and increasing your strength every week VERY DIFFICULT.
Thankfully, some smart SOB finally invented 0.5 pound plates, and now you can add exactly 1 pound to your lifts every single workout.
5 pounds is very noticeable (too noticeable), and is actually way too much to add every single workout when even the slightest increase in difficulty will prove too much for a plateaued muscle to handle.
1 pound on the other hand is MUCH more manageable, and you can easily slap an extra 0.5 pounds on each side of any lift week after week.
You will get 8 of these plates when you buy them, allowing you to micro-load between 1-4 pounds each workout.
Eventually, this adds up, and before you know it, you will have accrued a huge amount of new strength that you could have never done if you were stuck using the weights provided by your gym.
I highly recommend you grab some of these if you are serious about adding huge strength to your lifts.
You can order the same 0.5 pound plates I use with the following link:
3) A Good Weightlifting Belt:
It should go without saying that having a good weightlifting belt is an absolute necessity, at least on days you train your back or your legs.
There are some people that actually believe you’re a pussy if you use a weight belt because you’re not lifting the weight “raw.”
I could care less about if I’m lifting the weight “raw” or not, and frankly I find it kind of ridiculous that someone would put themselves at risk of injury simply so they can feel like they are more masculine than someone who uses a belt.
I’m not going to make a myriad of points as to why you should use a belt too or why it’s stupid to not use one, but I’ll tell you this.
With a heavy weight on your back, a belt will drastically reduce your chance of an orthopaedic injury by reducing stress on the spine and creating better body biomechanics (no brainer already in my opinion), and it will also improve your lifting performance.
I remember reading research conducted by Weider Research Group to actually determine if it increases performance or not and they found that on average, every person who participated could squat 10 pounds heavier while wearing a weight belt than they could without it.
The study was done on 12 trainers who had at least 5 years experience of squatting.
Research has also shown that wearing a lifting belt during squats increases the level of muscle activation in the quads and hamstrings, consequently promoting better muscle growth.
There are a million belts out there, and so far out of all the belts I’ve tried, this one is my favourite (I’ve gone through a lot of different belts):
You can order the belt here:
4) Alpha/Fat Grips:
If you have weak or small forearms, you NEED to get these.
I have terrible forearms, and I find that they need a lot of direct stimulation to actually grow.
I had no idea these even existed until a couple years ago, and damn are they ever good for blowing up your forearms.
These grips you can wrap around whatever bar you’re using, making it a lot fatter.
The point of doing this is it makes it 10x harder for you to hold onto the bar, which will directly engage your forearms a lot more.
The end result of doing bicep curls, deadlifts, (or any other exercises pretty much) with these grips is an INSANE forearm pump.
I’d recommend starting with the 2.5 inch grips first, and then once you have built up your forearm strength a bit more to upgrade to the 3.0 inch grips.
These are no joke, and will have your forearms on fire.
They also reduce the pressure on your joints that certain exercises cause, which helps prevent injuries, which is a cool extra benefit.
You can order them here:
5) Rubberized Lifting Straps:
Nobody should go without having a solid pair of lifting straps in their gym bag.
Lifting straps make holding onto heavy weights on back day, and other “pull” days (days where you do pulling exercises) soooooooo much easier.
I don't know why, but there are VERY few companies putting rubber on their lifting straps.
You will find that the rubberized ones are exponentially better for your grip, as it is simply so much easier to hold onto heavy weight when there is rubber under your hands for a high level of traction.
Most companies will just have the same material on both sides of the strap, but the ONLY straps I use and have ever used are the WSF Rubberized Lifting Straps.
I've literally bought about 5 pairs over the last 8 years, and I use them until the rubber is completely destroyed, and then go get a new pair.
There is no lifting strap on the market that can even relatively compare to these.
Rubber Straps Vs. Normal Straps = Night and Day
When you don’t have to worry about your grip at all, you can not only lift heavier, but you can directly engage your back (or whatever muscle you’re targeting) with much greater ease, and achieve a much greater level of mind-muscle connection.
They also help provide support to the wrist joint so that you can go heavier on certain movements (like dumbbell lateral raises) without worrying about your wrists blowing out.
You can order the same high quality straps I use here:
6) Neoprene Knee Sleeves:
I have struggled with knee issues for years after squatting way too heavy and not using proper form and gear.
First off, if you have knee issues, address your form.
The mechanics of your form are likely one of the culprits of your injury.
However, even if your form is perfect, there is no denying that the human body wasn’t exactly created to be able to squat 500 pounds to the grass.
Holding a giant load of weight over your body and squatting it down puts tremendous stress on your joints, ligaments, and tendons, and over time with wear and tear, you will eventually encounter some sort of issues more than likely.
This is why I always ensure my knees are wrapped up when I go heavy, to take a lot of the stress off of my knees.
These Neoprene Knee Sleeves provide a huge amount of stability and support for heavy lifts, are comfortable, and reduces the pressure exerted on my knees.
Absolutely essential for bodybuilding, powerlifting, or just normal weight lifting longevity and injury prevention.
You can order a high quality knee sleeves here:
7) Lifting Gloves:
This one isn’t as much of a necessity, but my grip strength isn’t fantastic, and I found that when I used to deadlift 500+ pounds, I would not only need my straps to hold onto the bar, but I would also need a good pair of lifting gloves to hold onto the weight without dropping it mid-set because my hands got too sweaty and my gym doesn't allow chalk to be used.
When you are first starting out, calluses can get pretty painful too when your skin is adjusting to holding onto heavy raw iron on a daily basis.
I used to go home with bloody hands constantly.
Obviously eventually your skin will adapt and you will develop calluses, but on days when you need to rip some heavy weight off the ground, or you have open wounds all over your hands from being a newbie, lifting gloves are very helpful to have on hand.
I don’t use mine as much as I used to, but they are still in my bag just in case I decide I want to do some very heavy deadlifts or farmer’s walks.
You can order high quality lifting gloves here:
8) Whey Isolate:
After a grueling weight training session when your muscles are depleted, and your glycogen stores are tapped out, the number one thing you need to worry about is starting the muscle protein synthesis (muscle recovery) process as quickly as possible.
The longer you wait, the longer your muscles are sitting there dying for nutrients and in a catabolic state.
You want to get a lean protein source in your body ASAP and start the recovery process.
This is where a high quality Whey Isolate comes into play.
Dip into your handy dandy gym bag, and grab the bag of 2 scoops Whey Isolate you packed from home and make a shake with it.
Whey protein is bar none the fastest digesting protein source, making it the most ideal thing to consume post-workout, as we want something the body can process as quickly as possible, digest, and start feeding those muscles.
Although Whey protein in general is the ideal post-workout protein source, Whey Isolate in particular is more optimal than Whey Concentrate.
The reason why Whey Isolate is the optimal choice over Whey Concentrate is because it is filtered in the manufacturing facility even more so than Whey Concentrate.
By removing more lactose, carbohydrates and fat from a Whey Concentrate, the manufacturer can further filter the protein into a faster digesting protein that is absorbed even quicker by the body.
This extra filtered/pure protein is called Whey Isolate.
As you can see in the nutritional facts below on the Whey Isolate I use, per 1 scoop it has almost 0 grams of fat, it has 0 grams of carbs, it is only 105 calories, and it has 25 grams of high quality Whey Isolate.
That is exactly the kind of nutrient profile we want for lightning fast digestion and recovery.
Make it a priority to get a couple scoops of Whey Isolate consumed as quickly as possible after your workout if you want to maximize your muscle gain potential.
You can order the same high quality Whey Isolate I use here:
9) Fast Digesting Carbohydrates (That Are Easy On The Stomach And Won’t Bloat):
Coupled with a good Whey Isolate, fast digesting carbs become the next most important thing you need to worry about post-workout.
I get asked time and time again what the best post-workout meal is.
There is so much misinformation, let me clarify how simple it really is.
Post-workout ALL you want and need is a fast digesting Whey Isolate, and a fast digesting Carbohydrate.
When you ingest carbs, your blood sugar will go up, causing the Pancreas in your body to release insulin as a countermeasure to bring blood sugar levels back down to homeostasis.
Insulin is a shuttling hormone, responsible for transporting nutrients throughout the body faster and more effectively than they would without its’ presence.
The result of high insulin levels post-workout is your Whey Isolate getting shuttled to your muscles even quicker, and more efficiently, resulting in more muscle growth.
Hence, we want our insulin levels elevated post-workout, so we must ingest a fast-digesting carbohydrate to instigate this process.
Some great choices for post-workout simple carbs are Dextrose and Maltodextrin, or Waxy Maize.
All of which are processed and digested fairly quickly by the body.
However, one issue I have with these carb sources is that they are notorious for causing bloating and gastrointestinal stress in many individuals.
If you are bloating and getting excruciating stomach aches, obviously that is counterproductive to muscle growth.
Also, Dextrose, Maltodextrin and Waxy Maize have a high osmolality which delays gastric emptying (and subsequently absorption) by the small intestines.
What I have found to be the best fast digesting carb source post-workout is Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrins.
Formed by the breakdown of amylopectin, a low osmolality, high molecular weight molecule is formed.
Once this branched dextrin cluster hits the stomach it passes through the stomach at an insanely fast speed.
This is exactly what you want in a post-workout supplement with your protein.
In and out of the stomach quickly to be absorbed by the small intestine, in conjunction with the Whey Isolate you should have ingested alongside it, you can initiate muscle recovery and growth within minutes of finishing your workout.
These carbs are fairly new on the market, and are very special as they are one of the first insanely fast digesting carbs that are very light on the stomach.
It doesn’t bloat, it doesn’t upset the stomach, and it digests more efficiently than even Dextrose, Maltodextrin, and Waxy Maize.
I typically will use 2 scoops of this post-workout, but on really heavy intense workout days like back day or leg day I may opt for 3-4 scoops.
However, when I’m strictly dieting down I will usually limit myself to 2 scoops of this as a maximum post-workout.
You can order the same Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin product I use here:
10) Deodorant That Doesn’t Stain Your Clothes:
Ok this one I felt I should add in because there are a lot of stinky mofo’s at the gym, and I actually went through some trial and error before finding a deodorant that didn’t mess up my clothes at all.
Obviously, you should use deodorant every day, and if you aren’t, then please start.
Throw a stick of this in your gym bag, as you will undoubtedly need it.
One thing that annoyed me to no end was all the deodorant products out there that would stain my clothes yellow when I’d sweat.
It was disgusting, and very noticeable on my white clothes.
Within one day of wearing a white shirt, with a subpar deodorant I would literally have a yellow mini pit stain.
Not a good look at all.
I eventually stumbled on this deodorant, and have never turned back.
It smells great, doesn’t leave any residue on your arm pits, and best of all, it doesn’t stain your clothes AT ALL.
I’m sure you can probably find this at your local supermarket for a much cheaper price so I advise you check there first, but if for some reason you can’t find it, you can order it here: