What I bring to the gym
A successful session in the gym can be down to your preparation; equipment, clothing, and any other items that assist you in a workout can make a huge difference. It helps to have equipment that you own, even if it is available at your gym, to ensure it's always there if you need it or want to be more hygienic. Below, you can read about what I consider to be essential, or just a helpful add-on.
What I have in my bag:
A water bottle
This is a MUST. Hydration is vital for both in and out of a gym. Water intake contributes immensely to brain, muscle, joint, and heart function. When your body temperature rises from exercise, your skin releases sweat to keep your temperature stable, and sweat is almost completely water. I always remind myself to drink 1-2 glasses of water before starting a session, then sip throughout my workout.
A sweat towel
This is just basic gym etiquette; if you're on a machine or floor mat after getting hot and sweaty, nobody else is going to feel comfortable using it afterwards. If you want to be good person, lay the towel between your body and wherever it's resting on the equipment.
I don't know about you, but I cannot get myself into the zone without good music playing. Use your favourite energetic songs to get yourself lifting heavier and moving faster. If you have some good ones that block out noise, you may even drown out the nearby lunk as he grunts out another set. A few months ago, I found myself some second hand Sony Wireless Bluetooth earphones off of Amazon.co.uk . I'm not going to try to get you to buy them, but they are really good for the gym, and anywhere else actually.
A Dip belt
A dip belt is quite specific for my training, as I'm still avoiding barbell squats, but I bring it with me almost every time I train legs. It takes a little bit of getting used to, especially for an awkward exercise like belt squats, but it's perfect for lifting heavy weight without hurting your back. I got one online for about £15, and it gets the job done.
These are a really easy and affordable addition to any workout. Adding some elastic resistance to a movement can activate neglected muscles and intensify the exercise really well. In my opinion, I wouldn't buy the thicker, fancier "booty bands" that you may see some fitspos promote. Instead, I would go for the much more affordable and effective set of 5 bands you can get for about £10 from Amazon.co.uk .
Other useful items:
If you like to lift as heavy as you can, then at some point in the future you may be at a stage where you can lift heavier than you can grip. This is where lifting straps come in: they wrap around your wrists and the barbell (or any other equipment you hold) to alleviate your hands and forearms. This way, you can go beyond grip failure and really push the muscle groups that you're targeting.
Similar to lifting straps, chalk increases the time for which you can hold a heavy weight with your hands. But, chalk works to counteract any slipping that comes with sweaty hands or an old barbell. This isn't necessary for moderately weighted exercises, as training your grip strength is good for a well rounded ability.
Hand sanitising gel
This is best used after training, especially if you are in a rush. If you value hygiene, you may want to consider washing your hands or using gel after each session, as a lot of people have touched the equipment before you have, even if it is regularly cleaned. This is also a good way to prevent catching a cold or any other illnesses, or transmitting them onto other people.
I would advise you to not use a barbell pad when squatting, as it offsets your centre of balance and makes the bar less stable. Proper technique involves retracting your shoulder blades and squeezing them together to form a natural 'shelf' where you can rest the bar for a stable squat. I find that a barbell pad is most useful for hip thrusts, for this movement will definitely bruise your hip-flexors and lower abs without it. I used to wrap a hoodie around the bar as protection, but it was almost useless!
I don't actually own a pair of legitimate lifting shoes, as they can be really expensive, but they can be a powerful accessory to help you perform big lifts. Because I don't own a pair, I prefer to just wear flat shoes with a stiff sole, such as vans or converse, or I just take my shoes off. Whatever works for you!
Never underestimate the power of the little things; your preparation can make all the difference in a session and progress you further in the long run. Try something new if you want to shake things up :)