What’s the latest in workout gear and personal training accessories that will help you lift more weight, train harder, and look good while doing it? Glad you asked! Here are 15 popular items to consider investing in before your next workout.
1. Thumb Stretch Tape. Lifting barbells and dumbbells with knurling can be hard on the thumbs, so often heavy-duty lifters will wrap their thumbs with tape. Athletic tape can help protect the skin, but there are more flexibility types of tape that you may find more comfortable. One such tape is the Jaylastic brand, which contains a combination of cotton and polyester to protect the thumbs and give a more secure grip.
2. BPA-Free Water Bottles. Hydration is key to a good workout, but you need to avoid water bottles made with bisphenol A (BPA), which is a chemical used to make products of polycarbonate plastics. Animal studies have shown that the effects of high levels of BPA exposure include cancer, diabetes, and even obesity. Plastics that have a stamp with the numbers 1,2, 4 and 5 are BPA-free. Stainless steel and glass bottles are also BPA free, but make certain stainless steel bottles are lead-free.
3. Microfiber Workout Towels. Cotton towels are the standard choice to remove sweat, but there are many microfiber materials that may be a better choice as they can hold more water, dry faster than cotton, and are less likely to attract germs and bacteria.
4. Wireless, Sweat-Proof Headphones. Modern technology has given us headphones that are small, wireless, and sweat-proof! Among the most popular are the “earbuds” that fit snug in the ear and are less likely to fall out from vigorous activity.
5. Neoprene Knee Sleeves. Unless you’re a competitive powerlifter or strongman, rather than knee wraps a better alternative to improve knee stability are neoprene knee sleeves. These sleeves keep the knee warm without altering movement mechanics. Although knee wraps are frequently worn to protect the knee joint, they may in fact increase the friction between the patella and the underlying cartilage because the wraps compress the kneecap into the thighbone, increasing the risk of injury and knee pathologies such as arthritis.
6. Chalk, Chalk Balls and Liquid Chalk. Chalk absorbs moisture to ensure a sturdy grip. Do not use too much chalk, because this can compromise your grip as the chalk particles move across your hand. If your gym does not allow the use of conventional chalk, you might be able to use a chalk ball, which is not as messy. Another option is liquid grip chalk; some of these products contain an antibacterial agent. As for gloves, one problem with using weightlifting gloves as an alternative to chalk is that they adversely affect proprioception (body awareness), which is important to safely perform exercises such as the Olympic lifts.
7. Weightlifting Shoes. In addition to being very rigid to give you a solid platform for squatting, weightlifting shoes have an elevated heel, usually about 1 inch. This heel enables the shins to incline forward further so your back can maintain a more upright position during the squat. This effect is especially valuable for those with tight calves, as they would have to lean forward excessively when squatting to compensate. The rigid design of these shoes also helps align the bones of the ankle and foot, so it’s easier to keep the knees in the proper alignment when squatting.
A dozen years ago there were only a few brands of weightlifting shoes available, but the recent popularity of Olympic lifting in the country has brought with it an explosion in the types of weightlifting shoes available. Adidas and Nike are the leaders in the industry, and many manufacturers offer women’s sizes. The Adidas Leistung shoe is one of most unique; instead of laces, it uses a single steel cable and a BOA-system that adjusts its tension throughout the shoe as the foot flexes for a more secure fit.
8. Cross Training Shoes. If you’re going to do heavy squats, cleans, and snatches, wear a weightlifting shoes. If you’re going to run on a treadmill, wear a running shoe. If you’re going to do a variety of athletic activities in a single workout, you need a more versatile shoe. Reebok has introduced the largest number of these new cross training shoes that enable you to do it all. Other major shoe companies, such as Nike and Adidas, have also jumped into this field so it’s a buyer’s market.
9. Kinesio Tape. Kinesio tape is a special tape used to stabilize muscles and joints while providing a form of treatment by manipulating the soft tissue. It can also provide pain relief for many conditions and decrease inflammation. It can be used for injuries involving fascia, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. The downside is you’ll need some training on how to use it, and for some areas, such as the upper back, you’ll have to have someone else apply it.
10. Weight training Belt. A weight training belt is considered an essential tool for heavy lifting. Most belts designed for powerlifting are thick, about four inches wide and the same width all the way around. A weightlifting belt is about this same width in the back, but the width tapers down in the front of the body in the buckle area so it doesn’t dig into the waist when you bend over. There are also noncompetition belts that are similar to weightlifting belts but are wider in the back; this style is popular among those who have back pain.
11. Compression Clothing. Compression clothing includes form-fitting garments such as T-shirts and shorts designed to improve athletic performance and reduce muscle soreness. The idea for such workout clothing probably came from support hosiery that helps with venous disorders such as thrombosis, edema, and phlebitis. The jury is still out on these high-tech garments, but some of the research looks promising, especially in the area of reducing muscle soreness. One downside is that compression clothing can be quite expensive, with some shirts costing over $100.
12. Wrist Wraps. Wrist wraps are used to support the wrists for pressing or overhead exercises. Leather straps are more secure, but elastic wraps with Velcro provide the best fit. The precaution is that you should never just wear one wrap to protect an injured wrist – wear them on both wrists, as this can affect lifting mechanics.
13. Lifting straps. A lifting strap is made by sewing one end of a strip of cloth to itself to form a loop. The other end of the cloth is passed through the loop so it can wrap around the wrist. By wrapping the free end of the cloth around a barbell or other apparatus, you reinforce the grip. Straps should only be used in cases where limitations in the strength of your grip will prevent you from overloading the muscles you are focusing on in an exercise, such as a deadlift. This means straps are not necessary during warm-up sets, and for some exercises they should not be used at all.
14. Fat Grips. Few gyms have thick-handled equipment, but there are attachments such as Fat Gripz ™ that can be used with dumbbells and barbells to create the same effect. The Fat Gripz, which has a slit on one side that lets you slip it on a barbell or dumbbell shift, is made from a durable military-grade compound that provides a secure grip and feels like rubber. These devices easily fit into a gym bag.
15. Boxing Gloves. If you plan on hitting a heavy bag at your gym, you need the right gloves. There is no such a thing as a multi-purpose boxing glove. The gloves used for hitting speed bags are lighter than gloves use for hitting a heavy bag and thus offer minimal protection to the hands and wrists. For heavy bag training, there is the type that has more padding on the front of the glove to better protect the hands, such as the Winning® glove, and those that have additional padding around the wrists that better stabilize this area of the body, such Cleto Reyes® gloves. Before purchasing any boxing glove, consult with a boxing expert to determine the best type of glove for you.
There you have it: information and guidance about popular lifting gear and accessories that can help you make the most out of your workouts. Happy shopping!