Everything You Need to Bring to the Gym

What belongs in your gym bag?  What do you need to bring with you when you’re going to work out at the gym?

Let me start this by saying I’ve had most of this at one time or another.  Much like anything, we go in cycles and I have become a bit more of a gym gear minimalist.  If you see me working out now, I probably don’t have any of this.

However, everything on this list has a place and if you’re a gym newbie, let’s get you up to speed.

The Bare Minimum

It should be obvious that you’re not going to be working out at a public facility au natural.  The bare minimum are clothes, shoes, and [probably] water.  If you sweat a lot, you might also think about taking a towel with you if your gym doesn’t offer them.

After that, everything else becomes a matter of preference, safety, and training focus.  You shouldn’t be in a hurry to collect all the gear though, but if you are looking for a little guidance, keep reading.

The List in No Particular Order


Some people are believers in shoes for any occasion.  I would encourage you to use the same shoe regardless of your what you’re training but if not, here are a couple of options for you:

  • Weightlifting Shoes (Here’s a GUIDE to weightlifting shoes)
    • This is generally for someone who does the Olympic lifts or for someone who wants a little bit of an assist in their squatting
    • Do me a favor, though… don’t wear these when you deadlift
  • Running Shoes (Here’s a GUIDE to picking the right running shoes)
    • There are entire companies dedicated to running shoes, specifically.  If you want to go this route, I would encourage you to talk to someone who can take a look at your running gait and give you recommendations on what you should be wearing
    • If you are not a believer in the running shoe, like I am not, then you needn’t worry about this
  • CrossFit Type Shoes (Here’s a LIST of the best CrossFit shoes of 2023)
    • The reason I am a proponent of this type of shoe is because it can do a little bit of everything:  running, jumping, climbing, lifting, etc.
    • Common complaints?  For the runners, it’s not soft enough.  For the lifters, it’s not solid enough.  For the minimalists, the heel lift is too much.

Lifting Belts

One important note about lifting belts:  you need to know how to use them for them to be as effective as they say they are.  If you don’t know, ask someone who does.  Reach out to me if you want a crash course.

Weightlifting belts are a great means of creating an extra layer of stability for your trunk.  Wearing them can also serve as a reminder of what you should be doing with your core when you lift.  When I used to wear them, it would primarily be for the second part of the clean and jerk (the jerk for those keeping track at home).

My favorite lifting belt I’ve ever owned?  Check THIS one out.

You can get heavier duty, and more robust, lifting belts but this works well for most things most of the time.  Everything else is a matter of preference and a matter of sport.

Knee Sleeves

The purpose of knee sleeves are two-fold:  1) to keep your knees warm during, and between, sets and 2) to create a little compression and support for your knees.  For these reasons, knee sleeves can certainly be worth the investment.  However…

Spend time learning how to move and improve your own strength [and stability] before implementing anything like this into your training.  This is one of those things, similar to lifting straps and lifting belts, that you won’t need early on in your strength training career.

Lifting Straps

Generally, I would say you really don’t need lifting straps.  If you are a beginner or novice trainee, you have no need for straps.  You need to focus on building grip strength, shoulder stability, and learning the lifting mechanics.

If you are someone who has years of experience with lifting, and you are looking for an edge to help you build strength (and you do plenty of lifting without straps)… then yes, straps may be for you.  We won’t be discussing the varieties of straps out there but do a little research and make your purchase!

It is important to say that you won’t use straps all the time.  Just at very specific times in your training for very specific goals.

Wrist Wraps

Wrist wraps are a slightly different story.  You may find that, as you start lifting weights, that your wrists hurt.  Wrist wraps are a good way to get you training without the aches and pains sometimes associated with training.  Similarly to the lifting straps, you probably don’t need to wear them all the time and for all things.  Give your body a chance to adapt to what you are asking it to do.

…this includes your wrists.

Gymnastics Grips

This might be more for the CrossFitter or someone who does a lot of work on the pull up bar.

Gymnastics grips are a means of giving your hand a little barrier between you and the bar.  Repeated friction and rotation on the pull up bar can result in some nasty rips in your hands.  If you’ve ever washed your hands after ripping them open, you know what I mean.

While gymnastic grips are not 100% effective in preventing this, they do tend to help.

The downside?  Depending on the type of gymnastics grip you go with, and their material construction, your ability to grip the pull up bar may be affected in a negative way so you need to try some things and figure out what to go with.  This is where the next thing comes into play…


Not every gym has chalk.  Not every gym is ok with chalk.  Some will have rules against its use as it is messy, it’s hard to clean, and it tends to get into everything…


However, if you are allowed, chalk is a great means of adding a little better connection to the pull up bar, barbell, or whatever you’re training with.  With better grip comes better gains.

Or something like that.

But What Do I Actually Need?

All things considered, all you really need is you!

These pieces of gym gear can be great additions to your gym bag but none of them will make or break your training.  Learn the fundamentals, simpler tends to be better, and ask questions if you have questions.

What do you think?  What pieces of personal gym gear did I miss?

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