There is so much talking out there about what you need and don't need for a proper workout. Let me clear things up: You don't need any fancy stuff to get a proper workout in.
However, small changes can make a big impact. There are some pieces, which are nice to have and amplify the effectiveness of exercises.
Over the years I've tried a ton of products and I know what works and what doesn't. So let me share with you my recommendations, which will save you money, time and injuries.
Think twice about
Before I get into my favourites, let me explain why you should think twice about buying a waist trainer or lifting belt.
There is not a single piece of evidence to support the idea that your body can be moulded into the desired shape using a waist trainer.
The most common marketing statement from companies looks something like this: "Waist trainers will help you to lose fat from your waist, metabolise fat, release toxins, compress your core and reduce food intake throughout the day."
NONSENSE! You'll only lose water weight. NOT fat!
Do you think you get slimmer legs by wearing super tight pants? No. Same with waist trainers. You will definitely not lose fat or lose fat faster by wearing them.
You might lose some weight (but sure as hell no body fat), but the reason behind that isn't magical:
Wearing a waist trainer makes you sweat more. Hence, you lose water weight.
You can save the money and achieve real fat loss in a cheaper way: proper dieting and a good workout routine.
If you can answer one of the following questions with "yes", you could think about buying/using a lifting belt:
- do you have a back/spine/core injury?
- do you bench press at least 1.5x your body weight?
- do you squat at least 2x your body weight?
- do you deadlift at least 2x your body weight?
None of the above? Then you most likely don't need a belt!
A lifting belt can increase strength and reduce risk of injury by increasing intraabdominal pressure. Basically, because you're able to push your abs against the belt, you have more pressure and therefore more stability in your core section. Which then, in turn, can improve performance and decrease injury risk.
And that's where most people get a belt wrong: they either use it to compensate a bad form or don't use it correctly, because they wear it way too lightly. A lifting belt has to sit very tightly around your midsection. If you can walk around with it after your set, you're doing it wrong. You have to be able to push your core against the belt. If you wear it like a fanny bag, it's useless.
But why the specific questions above? If you have an injury, a belt can be a good idea to take load off your back, spine and core. And it can also help with strength if you're already very strong and you're reaching your body's limit. In that case, you can go beyond your limit by using a belt.
If you're not even remotely close to your limit, which is the case for 99.9% of gym rats out there, you're not doing yourself a favour. You use your core less during workouts and therefore build less muscle mass in that area.
Essentials what you should have in your gym bag
1. Blender Bottle - The best water bottle
Good hydration is the most important thing during a workout. Skip on sugary, calorie-loaded sports beverages and go for plain or fruit-infused water.
It's best to get a refillable, resealable water bottle, which is good to carry around and easy to clean.
I personally love the BlenderBottle, because you can use it for lots of different drink and shakes, such as fruit drinks, smoothies, yoghurt, etc. You can also mix thick textures such as peanut butter or ice cream without a problem.
Sometimes I use it in the kitchen when creating gravy, omelette or pudding mixtures. It really is an "all-in-one" solution bottle.
If you're looking for a bottle, the BlenderBottle is a must-have. Trust me, I tried out all kinds of different bottles.
2. Good quality fitness apparel
If you’re looking for affordable gym clothes with superb quality, look no further!
Echt Apparel it is. No, I’m not sponsored by them (I would love to ;)), I'm just in love with their quality and price.
I tried them all: Nike, Gymshark, Adidas, Myprotein, Primark, H&M... but nothing was as good as Echt-clothes. If you follow me on Instagram, you always see me wearing Echt leggings and tops. They're simply amazing.
Don’t be put off by their location. They offer a worldwide flat rate shipping. Thank me later!
3. Mpow Cheetah - Good quality Bluetooth headphones
I don't know about you, but for me, good music makes the difference between a good workout and a fantastic workout.
Some people might feel it distracting, but I feel more in the zone as I can tune out what's happening in the gym.
I tried out a few brands, such as Sony and Bose. But the MPow Cheetah's are the absolute best.
They are absolutely affordable and super handy. You're getting the quality of a £100 pair of headphones for a fraction of the cost.
4. Converse - A good workout shoe
Some people wear running shoes when lifting weights. I mean, come on! They are called running shoes for a reason. Wearing the wrong shoes makes the whole thing much more difficult than it needs to be.
How? It creates an inherently unstable structure for a lift. Instead, wear shoes with a harder, flat sole (I love to squat in Chucks) with a little arch and ankle support.
No, gloves are not just for girls. Maybe you're just like me and tired of open calluses while deadlifting.
Habinger's are simply the best. They are extremely durable and comfortable at the same time. My husband lifts very heavy and it took quite some time before we started to see some signs of wear.
Furthermore, what I experienced is they give you a good wrist stability, which is pretty nice for heavy exercises such as bench press, dumbbell press or military press.
I agree that it's important to build your grip strength than only rely on straps. However, for me as a woman, it's nice to see how heavy you can go, but my grip is not strong enough to hold a 100kg deadlift.
If you have trouble going heavy on certain exercises due to grip failure, too, you should give straps a go.
Mind, let your grip break down before you strap. This way you'll build your grip strength while being able to lift heavier. Also, look for straps which don't get loose while lifting or are overly tricky to wrap tightly.
If you never tried out a foam roller, you're missing out on one of the best tools for recovering and injury prevention.
Rollers are the most popular mechanism for self-myofascial release. Rolling yourself out on a foam roller is an affordable alternative to massage therapy.
You don't even need to work out regularly to get the benefits of foam rolling. Simply use the roller during a commercial break to release some tense muscle.
What do you think about my gym essentials? If you have anything to add to the list, please let me know in the comments below!
BTW, this blog post is not sponsored