Torture Tools and Recovery Resources
“What the hell is that?”
I sat down at the gym as the kid, probably 16, checked out my bag. He’s a high school football player, working another coach, and he couldn’t unfix his eyes from my bag. He also had a weird sideways grin on his face.
I pulled out the Rumble Roller, a medieval looking knobby foam roller. His eyes widened in terror, he started to sweat, and his bottom lip was trembling.
Okay, I exaggerate. But only slightly. “Yes, that’s a foam roller,” I said. He was hooked and asked what else do I had in the bag.
At that moment, I knew I needed to write this post. If a 16 year old wanted to know what my gym bag essentials were, then the 10,000+ monthly readers here would benefit, too.
After all, your gym bag is more than a place to hide your shaker until the smell of rotten whey solids becomes unbearable.
Your gym bag is a place to store training aids that can turn a bad day into an awesome one. Best yet, these items let me carry around a satchel, which is way better than a bag of man-purse.
Sadly, lots of training tools are marketed as the “next big thing.” (Google Foam roller and you get 2.2 million options). 99% of the time, they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
So, to start things off, I’m going to explain why each item is in my bag.
I’ll tell you how it gets me bigger, leaner, and stronger.
I’ll explain how it reduces pain and muscle adhesions. Best yet, these items let me carry around a satchel, which is way better than a man-purse.
C’mon, you know this would be there, right? If you’re not tracking your training is some form, you won’t make progress.
Lifting is about progressive overload and constantly pushing, grinding, and making improvement. Either pick up a cheap notebook, track on your phone, or use an app like Trainerize, which I use with all my online clients.
A lot of people train using their phone for music.
I can’t. Phone= Work.
I can’t train for five minutes without a text message from a client, ping notification for a Facebook comment, or twitter messaging popping-up. I’m sure you’re the same way.
Distractions zap focus, and building a stronger, bigger, leaner body needs all your attention when you’re hitting the gym. That’s where the shuffle comes in: no distractions, just music.
Here’s What I’m Currently listening too:
- Party Up by DMX
- 0-100 by Drake
- Blowin Money Fast by Rick Ross
- Can’t be Touched by Roy Jones Jr.
- Lose Yourself by Eminem
- Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana
Nike Frees 4.0 OR Chuck Taylors
Your footwear is important to your training success, you can’t just show up in Crocs (please, never) and expect to tear it up in the gym. Footwear matters. Big time.
If you’re just lifting and hitting mobility work, Chuck Taylors are your best, most versatile bet. The solid sole and support provides a great base for your lifts and minimizes “power leaks,” making you stronger.
Oh, and they make you look like a badass. And you can’t put a price on that before hoisting some heavy deadlifts.
If you’re jumping, cutting, and sprinting (which you should a few times per week), I opt for the Nike Free 4.0. The 4.0 is the best bet because compared to other Nike Free shoes, they have much better support. Shoes that are too flimsy “minimalist,” don’t have enough lateral support. Hello, ankle sprains.
I’m not a huge fan of treadmills, bikes, or ellipticals. I’d rather swing kettle bells, sprint outside, or jump rope. I wrote why the Jump Rope is the best conditioning tool you’re not using here, so be sure to check that out. Also, try jumping rope for three minutes straight and tell me it’s not a workout, especially with the interchangeable ropes from Crossrope. For a real killer, try the Titan, it’s like jumping with a support cable from the Golden Gate bridge. Okay, maybe not that intense, but it’s a beast.
I use Crossropes, as they allow interchangable handles and weights, while being nearly unbreakable. Yes, they cost a bit more, but you pay for quality. Get them here.
Pro Red Mini-Band
I use this for stretching out my shoulders, band pull aparts, making exercises a little more difficult. Look this band around your back for added resistance for push-ups, or use it at the end of squat rack for triceps push-down burn outs if all the cable machines are taken. Also great for glute activation like X- band walks, as shown by Tony Gentilcore.
Plus, they work like a wicked slingshot. Here’s the one I use and travel with from Elitefts.
The stick is a great tool for soft tissue work and takes up less space than your average foam roller. I bring this when I’m on the road so when I get back, my body doesn’t feel like it was tucked in a barrel and thrown down Niagara Falls. The Stick rolls knots out of muscle, providing myofascial release and trigger point therapy and is way less intense than foam rollers. Foam rolling triggers a pain response that de-sensitives tissues, so dialing back the intensity can be a good thing.
Get the travel stick I use here.
The medaevil torture device of all foam rollers, this device will work out even your toughest muscular adhesions. I wouldn’t jump onto the black, knobby roller right away unless you’ve been rolling for a long time and are fairly de-sensitived to regular high-density foam rollers. I prefer the big, black one (read that out-loud if you feel like being self-depricating) to really hammer my glutes and thoracic spine after a workout — rather than before.
Fat Gripz are a cheaper option than buying fat grip barbells and dumbbells. Use this on sub-maximal lifts for gigger forearms, bigger biceps, greater shoulder stability, and increased rotator cuff activation through irradiation (squeezing the grips as hard as possible).
Win, win, win, win, right? Check out Fat Gripz here.
I don’t use a belt often, but when I do, I’m glad to have it. More than anything, a solid belt gives you a boost in confidence and a firm wall to push your stomach into, stabilizing the spine and giving more stability during heavy lifts. I don’t recommend you use a belt all the time, but you will see improvements in performance when used with your big lifts.
When it comes to belts, buy nice or buy twice.
I have an eliteFTS belt which you can get here, and my old man’s belt for special occasions.
Shaker and Onnit Hemp Force
Like you, I don’t always have time for a meal after training. In that case, it’s best you come prepared with a quick hit of protein to jump-start recovery to get bigger, stronger, and leaner. Just make sure to wash your shaker so your bag doesn’t smell like a rotting corpse tomorrow.
Sadly, I’ve developed an allergy to whey, and stick with hemp, rice, or egg protein these days. That said, even if you tolerate whey without gut irritation, it’s best to rotate through your protein sources to avoid allergies. Pick up Hemp Force Superfood Protein here. If you’re a stickler for whey, I recommend IsoPure.
There are tons of other cool little toys that we’d all love to play with but that’s my list of essentials I keep when training.
Now I’d like to hear from you. What’s in your bag? Join the discussion on Facebook.