You see some people wear some interesting things at the gym. The latest gadgets seem to change weekly and they claim they can do all sorts of things. I have used quite a few different items and some are definitely more useful than others. Some are just plain stupid and some are very useful.
Regardless of all the items on the list, a good workout can be done without and there is no need to buy any of these. Work hard and do your mobility work, if you decide you are going to buy any of these, do your research first. On any of these, it’s definitely worth spending more money on them as they will last. My first few purchases were: Wrist wraps and a foam roller. With any workout programme, you get back what you put in. None of these should act as plasters over a bad workout programme or poor mobility patterns but only acts as aids to your workouts. Think of these items as food supplements, they can add an extra edge but shouldn’t replace anything in your diet or workouts.
As always, seek professional advice before starting any exercise programme.
The first one I think I use the most out of any of these on the list. I have fairly small wrists so it can be difficult to do daily weight bearing exercise on them (a mixture of hand stands, overhead press, chest press work and then added wrist locks in BJJ too). These are great just to add a bit of compression on my wrists and aid in injury prevention.
A fairly new one for me but I like it. There has been a lot of debate about whether these are good or bad for you but Greg Nuckols has done a fantastic article about this which can be read here. If you don’t want to read it, the short form is that wearing a belt or not does not increase core activation more or less. Wearing a belt is a great way to increase your Intra Abdominal Pressure and actually protect your spine, especially if you are lifting heavy weights.
Great for increasing your dorsiflexion for if you suffer from ankle mobility issues. You can easily increase your squat depth and decreasing your injury risk. Be aware, however, this should not mean an elimination of your ankle mobility routine and you should be able to comfortably squat ATG without the shoes. I also find using the shoes increases my foot stability and seems to act as a queue for me to stay tight with my squat, especially when doing high bar or overhead squats. Remember the quote though “don’t have a 100 dollar pair of shoes and a 10 cent squat.” Your form should still be your focus.
Foam roller/Cricket ball
Speaking of mobility. A good foam roller or even a cricket/lacrosse ball will be very useful in the long term. These will not tear apart muscle fibres or add length to the muscle. They will, although, allow you to relax the muscle while under stress and over time that muscle will relax more to the point where muscular tightness is less. I keep a cricket ball in my gym bag and a foam roller at home, depending on when I need to use them.
Heart rate monitor
These are additional items that aren’t necessary but are nice to have. You can get some incredible gains without ever tracking your heart rate. But for example, if you are doing lots of intervals and heart rate zone training, overtime you will want to track your average heart rate and your recovery times in between working sets. The thing I enjoy to do is get my heart rate up high (between 180 and 190 BPM) and track the time it takes my heart to decrease back to below 140 beats per minute. These are a good way to measure your recovery too. (Don’t try push your heart rate too high, especially if you are untrained. Please speak to your doctor first.)
Unfortunately, over time, your grip will start to give out. Yes, it is important to fix it and you shouldn’t wear lifting straps all the time. But doing high volume deadlifts, rows and any pulling exercise will overtime tire your grip and forearms to the point where you can’t lift the heaviest weights you need to lift. So a good pair of lifting straps will be worth buying but you should also invest time in your training to increase your grip. Dead hangs and towel pull ups will do wonders for your grip and hand strength.
Resistance bands are great, not only for doing workouts but doing mobility work can be great. Getting a ligth and a heavy band you can do an entire workout. You can also use them for ballistic stretching (after warming up) and if you are interested in the conjugate method, you can use the bands as accomidating resistance. I personally use the bands for warming up my shoulders and back. I then go into a resisted stretch and allow the bands to pull my joint forward into proper alignment.
Have a healthy week.