Workout Essentials To Pack For The Gym
So, you've just joined the gym, which many consider the most challenging part: well done! However, you may feel a bit anxious, which is normal, especially about what to bring to the gym.
Setting up your gym bag ensures success and shows you are proactive about your health and well-being.
Allow me, a seasoned powerlifter and qualified personal trainer, to enlighten you about proper gym etiquette and the essentials you need in your gym bag.
The most important essential is a water bottle, this may seem obvious, but you'll be surprised by the number of people that don't bring water which leads to dehydration which is especially dangerous for beginners.
Most gyms come with water fountains, so you can use a plastic water bottle and re-fill it as you need. Some prefer a metal flask or a bigger plastic water bottle. It's all down to personal preference.
What Is Dehydration?
Dehydration occurs when the water leaving your body exceeds the amount you take in. Our body loses water simply by breathing and using the bathroom: however, when we exercise, we lose a lot more than usual through sweating.
This is why it's crucial to be hydrated in the gym, you should aim to drink at least 1L of water before stepping into the gym, and sip on 500-750ml while you there, and more if needed.
This is so you avoid symptoms of Dehydration, to name a few:
- Dry Mouth
- Muscle Cramps
There are multiple reasons you'd want to bring your phone to the gym, despite the stigma if you use your phone correctly, it can help you be more motivated and safer in the gym, so let's dive in:
Music can help you feel more motivated for the gym. I know from personal experience that the right song or playlist can amp you up to destroy your next set. Accompanied with a set of wired/Bluetooth headphones and you are ready to go.
However, some people find that music distracts them from the gym, so find what works best for you and go with it.
There are a plethora of workout apps that provide insightful workout programs along with demonstrations and pointers to ensure your performing the exercise right: this can help you have a direction in the gym and will ensure you are safe in the gym.
Check out some of these apps here.
Most smartphones come equipped with a timer or stopwatch: this can be especially helpful in the gym when you are resting between sets to ensure you've rested for the correct amount of time.
The correct workout attire is crucial in the gym to ensure you are aligning yourself with the rules and regulations of the gym and keeping safe. As you can imagine springing on the treadmill in skinny jeans would be a disaster.
Especially if you're coming from work, you don't want to wear/sweat in professional clothing.
Some basic things you can bring in your gym bag to ensure you are also staying hygienic are:
- Workout tops and pants like shorts, sweatpants, and leggings (active wear).
- Caps, Clips, Hairbands
- Exercise socks
- Clean briefs/boxers.
- Clean underwear/sportsbra.
Every minute in the gym is spent on your feet or applying pressure through your feet, so adequate footwear is essential.
Not only for your feet but also your spine/posture and safety. For example, wearing slippers to the gym would not be a wise choice.
However, buy the correct footwear aligned with your fitness goals, so if you run a lot in the gym, you should look for running shoes, and if you spend most of your time weightlifting, you should invest in weightlifting shoes.
Personal Care Items (Toiletries)
Personal care items are expected as part of standard gym etiquette. Hygiene is essential for you and all the other gym goers around you.
A quick spray of deodorant/antiperspirant before you hit the gym floor may help you not be the smell of the room mid-workout.
Other toiletries include your own towel, soap, comb, sprays, etc. This is to avoid diseases that develop in gym locker rooms, like athlete's foot.
Most gyms come equipped with a locker room to store items that aren't prohibited on the gym floor.
Typically they don't come with a locking mechanism, so it is crucial to bring your own padlock or self-locking combination lock. Another note is gyms usually sell locks, however, they are extremely overpriced, so I would not recommend buying one from the gym.
High Protein Snacks
Now that you've started the gym, it's vital to prioritize protein intake, as this is the key nutrient that aids in building and repairing muscle tissue.
A good rule of thumb is to aim to get 0.6-1g of protein per pound of body, so, for example, a 160lb male would eat between 96g and 160g of protein to ensure their muscles are growing.
A way to increase your protein intake is to simply pack a protein shake in your gym bag to sip on while you're leaving, or even more convenient, a protein bar/flapjack.
Not to mention, you'll be surprised how much working out can work up an appetite. Some people find snacking mid-workout helps them stay energized and more satiated throughout the workout: experiment and see what works for you as long as it's in line with the rules of your gym.
Additional Non-Essitenal Items To Bring To The Gym
Now that we've got the essential items out the way, let's dive into some items that are subjective to a specific goal or way of working out that may interest you further down the line.
Grip gloves are excellent for, you guessed it, improving grip and helping avoid calluses.
People might require additional grip because they have sweaty palms in the gym. This makes for an unsteady and slippery surface for a barbell or dumbbell to rest on, making the overall lift unstable and pretty scary.
Grip gloves eradicate this problem by removing the contact between a sweaty hand and the barbell. Commonly used by bodybuilders as out of all the strength sports, they spend the most time underneath a barbell or dumbbell.
A lifting belt is used by advanced lifters and in sports like powerlifting, weightlifting, and strongman. Most serious gym goers use a lifting belt, but why?
A lifting belt provides something to brace into when you lift. By bracing into a belt, you increase the pressure in your abdominals and stiffen your body, making for a more stable and efficient lift.
However, they are only necessary for some, they are an excellent tool for people that perform compound exercises more than 2x or 3x a week, so it depends entirely on your goals and type of training whether a lifting belt deserves a spot in your gym bag.
Grip strength becomes a limiting factor for many strength athletes. Lifting straps are intended to reduce the need to grip the barbell, providing a strapped bridge between you and the barbell itself, reducing grip fatigue, and allowing you to lift heavier.
A lifting strap wraps around your wrist/hand and then attaches to the barbell eradicating any issues with grip, whether you have a weak grip, sweaty palms, or small hands.
Some benefits include:
- Lifting heavier and for longer.
- Reduces the risk of injury: provides extra stability when lifting heavier weights.
- Reduces grip fatigue.
Lifting chalk again is another product used to tackle the issue of grip. Using chalk removes the moisture on your palms, hands, and fingers, making your contact with the barbell stronger and more sturdy.
Some people prefer chalk over lifting straps as it's seen as more impressive. Additionally, in competition, chalk is the only thing allowed to help your grip in sports like weightlifting and powerlifting.
Lifting chalk can come in two types: Liquid chalk and a block of dry chalk. Liquid chalk is most common for gym goers as it's easily accessible, typically coming in a tube. Do be sure to check with your gym if they allow chalk before purchasing.
Dips are an excellent beginner-friendly compound exercise working the chest, shoulders, triceps, and deltoids.
To begin with, people start with bodyweight dips, however, to progressively overload, you will need to invest in a dip belt. This allows you to add additional weight to your body, therefore, making the dip harder.
Which will lead to multiple benefits, such as:
- Strength gains.
- Size gains: dips build a lot of muscle.
- Easy to overload.
- Safer and more beginner-friendly compared to the bench press.
The knee joint is subject to immense pressure and impact in day-to-day life and especially in the weight room. They provide moderate to tight compression to help the knee joint stay in a place warm and safe.
Knee sleeves may attract people with previous knee problems or people that compete in powerlifting weightlifting or strongman as they are allowed in competition.
Further down your lifting career, you may require some knee sleeves as a precaution to prevent injuries and tendonitis. Exercises like squats, leg press, and even deadlifts can benefit from knee sleeves.
Wrist wraps similar to knee sleeves, provide a moderate to tight compression around the wrist joint to keep it straight during pressing movements.
This is to protect the wrist as, during most pressing exercises, there is immense stress on the wrist joint, which may cause the wrist to bend backward, which is notorious for leading to sprains and injuries.
To name a few exercises that can benefit from wrist wraps: bench press, dips, overhead press, tricep pushdowns, dumbbell press, and dumbbell overhead press.
This may be a surprise on this list however allow me to explain. Many lifters love to record their lifts for things like social media, and so they can critique their form and get advice from more experienced people.
Smartphone tripods are the most popular and extremely easy to use: this can take a lifter from beginner to intermediate/advanced, as your form is arguably the most important thing in the gym. Hence, the ability to improve it is invaluable.
Do be sure that your gym allows you to record before purchasing.
The Final Set
So there you have it, the essentials and non-essentials for your first day to the gym.
The gym can be intimidating, but everyone has the same goal of improving and becoming the best version of themselves, all of whom are typically happy to help and share their knowledge.
Fitness and the gym is all about trial and error and finding what works best for you, so don't be afraid to experiment with things on this list and your training.