What’s in your current gym bag? Do you show up with a water bottle, and that’s it!? Whether you are at your home gym or the local muscle house, make sure you have everything you need to get the most out of your training. Always be prepared by having a stocked gym bag.
This article will touch on all the essentials for everyday use and some luxuries you can compile for top performance. Let’s take a look at what you need to have for the perfect gym bag.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Absolute Necessities For Any Gym Bag
1. Gym Bag
How could we have an article about gym bag essentials without mentioning the actual gym bag?
A durable gym bag is an investment towards your convenience, organization, and the longevity of your training equipment. Look for a gym bag with multiple compartments to keep your gear organized and easily accessible. Weather-resistant features, such as waterproof materials, are also key for protecting your items from damage.
Additionally, size matters. Your gym bag should comfortably accommodate all your gear without becoming an unwieldy burden. Overstuffing can lead to wear and tear, and struggling to fit in everything can add unnecessary stress to your training routine if you’re shuffling around to find gear.
But also keep in mind that your gym bag might have to fit in a locker in the case the gym you go to has a strict locker room policy for gym bags.
2. Gym Clothes
Some might prefer pump covers or stringers, but think about how your clothing is actually going to impact your lift. The right gym clothes can impact the quality of your training, and as such, deserves a dedicated spot in your gym bag. Pack your clothes into your gym bag the night before training so you aren't tempted to skip a workout due to lack of preparation.
Choosing workout clothes made of elastic materials allows for an unrestricted range of motion, important for performing exercises correctly and efficiently. These fabrics adapt to your body's movements, reducing the risk of injury and improving your overall athletic performance.
Additionally, your workout clothes should also be breathable. Breathable fabrics are designed to wick away sweat, keeping you dry and comfortable during your training sessions. This moisture-wicking ability helps maintain your body temperature, prevent skin irritation, and minimize distractions so you can fully focus on your workout.
If you’re looking to pick up some clean workout clothes for the gym, you can check out what’s on sale in the Garage Strength apparel store. We have limited-time apparel lines every season so feel free to add on to your workout outfit.
3. Gym Shoes
The role of the right gym shoes in athletic performance shouldn’t be overlooked. Yet, the type of footwear you choose can significantly impact your stability, form, and safety during gym workouts, especially when it comes to weightlifting.
Weightlifting shoes are designed with elevated, solid heels, enhancing stability and allowing for a deeper squat while maintaining proper form. Squat shoes, often synonymous with weightlifting shoes, also serve this purpose, improving the effectiveness of your lifts.
Alternatively, cross-trainers are a versatile choice, providing a balance of flexibility, cushioning, and stability, making them suitable for a variety of workouts. Sneakers, on the other hand, can be perfect for lighter gym days, cardio, or agility training, thanks to their comfort and mobility.
4. Weight Belt
Want to lift more weight? A good weight belt as an absolute gym bag essential.
Lifting belts come in various materials and thicknesses, each offering unique benefits. Leather belts are typically more rigid and durable, providing excellent support for heavy lifting. Nylon belts, on the other hand, offer more flexibility, making them suitable for workouts requiring a wider range of motion.
A lifting belt creates more intra-abdominal pressure when you brace during a lift, helping stabilize your whole midsection and protect against potential internal injuries. They also allow for improved power transmission from your hips to your upper body, which can contribute to lifting heavier loads.
5. Water Bottle
This should be a no-brainer, but bring a freaking water bottle!
During gym workouts, our bodies lose significant amounts of fluid through sweat, leading to potential dehydration, which can drastically hinder performance and recovery. Carrying a reusable water bottle enables constant access to water, promoting consistent hydration throughout your training session.
A good water bottle should ideally have insulation properties to maintain water temperature, and a tight seal to prevent leakage. This ensures your drink remains refreshing throughout your training and your gym equipment stays dry.
If you don't have a water bottle, make it a priority to pick up some water either on your way to the gym or at the gym if it's available. (Sponsors welcome!)
6. Lifting Straps
One effective tool that may often be overlooked is the lifting strap. These simple but reusable pieces of equipment can transform your lifting routine, making them an essential addition to your gym bag.
Lifting straps work by providing an extended grip to the bar, allowing athletes to handle more weight in pulls, bent over rows, or deadlifts. This additional grip strength ensures you can challenge your muscles to their fullest potential without your workout being limited by your grip.
In gyms where the use of chalk is restricted due to potential mess, lifting straps serve as an excellent alternative. They provide the necessary grip enhancement without leaving any residue, making them a more acceptable choice in such environments.
Even with all the performance-enhancing gear in your gym bag, a seemingly simple item, deodorant, holds a significant place.
As athletes, we push our bodies to their limits, often resulting in excessive sweating. While sweat is a natural and healthy response to exercise, it can lead to unpleasant body odor. A quality deodorant helps combat this, ensuring you remain fresh throughout your workout.
Applying deodorant before your workout, and sometimes during longer training sessions, not only keeps you comfortable but also respects the shared gym space by limiting odors. It's a small act that contributes to a more pleasant and hygienic gym environment for everyone.
Not Essential, But Nice to Have
8. Thumb Tape
While thumb tape may not be an absolute must-have for all lifters, it holds an key spot in the gym bags of many weightlifters, crossfitters, and certain powerlifters.
Thumb tape plays a vital role in offering protection and enhanced grip during intense lifting sessions, particularly for athletes who use hook grip. Hook grip, while excellent for securing a heavy bar, can be rough on your thumbs and uncomfortable when starting out.
This is where thumb tape comes in handy.
Applying thumb tape provides a layer of cushioning, reducing the direct friction between your skin and the bar, and helping prevent painful calluses or blisters. Additionally, it enhances your grip, offering a secure hold even during sweaty sessions.
9. Knee Sleeves
Knee sleeves are not just a piece of protective gear; they serve multiple functions that can benefit lifters.
Knee sleeves and sometimes knee wraps provide compression, which can help increase blood flow and reduce pain and swelling during and after a workout. This support can be especially useful for athletes looking to reduce stress on the knees over time.
Also, the warmth generated from knee sleeves can keep the joints lubricated, minimizing the risk of injuries and stiffness. For those who aim to squat heavy, knee sleeves can provide the confidence of additional support.
10. Wrist Wraps
Along the lines of supportive gear, wrist wraps usually go hand in hand with knee sleeves or a weight belt.
Wrist wraps function primarily to lend support to the wrist joints during heavy or high-volume pressing movements, such as bench press, military press, or jerks. As weight increases, maintaining wrist stability becomes increasingly crucial to prevent injuries and promote efficient force transfer.
By providing a layer of support and compression, wrist wraps aid in keeping the wrist in a safe, neutral position under load. This minimizes the risk of straining the wrists, especially during high-intensity lifts.
11. Lifting Chalk
If you have the ability to do so, bring lifting chalk along with your bag. Just make sure to pack it tightly closed so it doesn't dust up your entire bag!
Applied to your hands before a lift, it absorbs sweat and reduces moisture, significantly enhancing your grip on the bar and reducing the risk of slippage.
With a more secure grip, not only does your lifting performance improve, but the chance of accidental drops, which could lead to injury, is considerably minimized. By increasing the friction between your skin and the bar, chalk allows for a safer and more confident lift.
However, it's worth noting that some commercial gyms may not permit the use of chalk due to potential mess and the associated cleanup on the gym floor. In such cases, consider alternatives like lifting straps that can be reused and more acceptable at your everyday gym.
12. Earbuds / Headphones
I’m sure we all feel the same way about commercial gym music…
This is where we might need our own earbuds or headphones during a lift.
Having your own set of earbuds isn't just about personal enjoyment. The right soundtrack can boost motivation, help maintain pace, and make your workout more enjoyable. Research even suggests that music can have a profound impact on exercise performance, endurance, and perceived effort.
By having something like wireless headphones in your gym bag, you ensure that you control your workout environment to a great extent. They allow you to tune into your own world, creating a personal zone of motivation and focus amidst the shared space.
While it's common for athletes to keep supplements at home, having them readily available in your gym bag can be a smart move.
Pre-workout supplements can be beneficial to consume just before your training session, providing an energy boost and enhancing focus. Having them in your bag ensures you won’t miss the optimal intake window even when you're on the go.
Creatine, known to enhance strength and muscle mass, can also be handy to have post-workout. In addition to creatine, having a protein supplement available immediately after your training can kick-start the recovery process by providing essential amino acids for muscle repair and growth.
14. Snack Bar
On a similar subject as supplements, who gets a little hungry toward the end of their workout? Hopefully not just me.
While it's not an absolute necessity, bringing a snack or a granola bar is a smart move that can ensure your energy levels stay optimal before, during, and after your workout sessions.
A pre-workout snack can provide the necessary fuel for your body to perform at its best. Opt for something light and easily digestible, such as a piece of fruit or a small serving of whole grains.
For a post workout snack, it's important to replenish your energy stores and start the recovery process. A granola bar, packed with a balanced mix of proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, can serve this purpose excellently until you have your next meal.
15. Sweat Towel
Finally on our list of gym bag essentials is the gym towel. This is different from a regular towel that you would use for a post workout shower. Gym towels are usually smaller and more portable.
While most gyms have cleansing wipes and resources in place, carrying your own towel provides an extra layer of assurance. Before using a piece of equipment, a quick wipe down can ensure that you're training in a clean environment. Post-workout, wiping off equipment is a respectful and considerate gesture towards your fellow gym-goers.
Additionally, a gym towel can serve as a barrier between you and shared gym equipment, helping to reduce direct contact and the potential spread of germs.
Your gym bag doesn’t need to be an entire camping bag of goodies and random equipment. Bring what you need to lift well and usually only stuff you would use every day.
The first half of the list does a good job of pointing out what you should be bringing every day to ensure you’re set up for success. A couple things we didn’t mention in the article that are honorable mentions include:
- Written program / workout routine
- Fitness tracker
- Shower shoes / flip flops
- Gym lock
- Body wash
One thing we can help you with, if you don’t know where to start, is a program.
Although it might be on your phone, or written down somewhere, it’s a good idea to have a program that helps you achieve your long term goals. Peak Strength provides programs for athletes and general lifters alike for specific sports or even if you are just trying to lose weight.
Try Peak Strength to get 5 free workouts and have your program be a gym bag essential as well. PEACE!
Individualized Training App
Get elite level strength programming with
Yo, It's Dane
Welcome to the Garage Strength Blog, where it is my goal to provide you with the experience and knowledge I've gained in the strength and conditioning world over many years of learning from both successes and failures. I train elite-level athletes in a multitude of sports from the high school to professional levels, already producing 5 Olympics and 30+ National Champions. If you want to be the next champion I train, check out my strength programs below!
Start Training With Me
Join for free educational videos EVERY WEEK on strength coaching and athletic performance