Essentials for Lifting

When you decide you want to start lifting weights, there are a few essential items you should have. I will cover the physical preparedness you should bring to the table in another article, but this is a list of actual things you should own or have access to.


Proper Gym Attire

This will differ from person to person, but generally speaking you should have:

1. Some sweatpants or gym shorts. I prefer basketball shorts with pockets for convenience. As long as you don’t show up in dress pants or jeans, you’ll be fine.

2. A t-shirt of some sort. I like Under Armour t-shirts, because they absorb sweat a little better than regular cotton t-shirts. Most t-shirts will work, but some gyms may not allow muscle t-shirts. Try not to be the weird person working out in a polo shirt, if you can avoid it.

3. Proper underwear is a big one. I’ve ripped a few pairs of regular boxers trying to squat in them. For men, I can recommend Under Armour boxer briefs.

4. High socks for deadlifts. These will prevent you from brutalizing your shins. Alternatively you can wear pants to deadlift. Personally, I sweat way too much to wear pants at the gym.



Proper lifting shoes are nice to have, but you can also go barefoot. You’ll want to avoid cushioned sneakers. You don’t want a lot of padding. A basic option is a pair of Converse All Stars (Chucks). For squatting with a more narrow stance (usually high bar Olympic style back squats or front squats) and Olympic lifts, it might be worth considering getting a pair of Oly shoes with raised heels.


Notebook and Pen

This is going to allow you to keep track of your workouts and also commit you to actually doing them. If your workout is handwritten out by you (not on a computer or phone) before you even step in the gym, you are more likely to complete it. Write out your workouts ahead of time, keep track of goals and personal records. It won’t take a lot of extra time, but it will be very good for keeping yourself accountable. This is the pen I use. I couldn’t find the notebook I use, but it’s similar to this one.



Most gyms will require that you bring a towel with you to put on equipment, so you don’t soak it in sweat.


Water Bottle

So you don’t pass out and die from dehydration. An aluminum water bottle is awesome. It keeps your water cool for a long time.


Optional: Jump Stretch Band

These are awesome for stretching and also to add resistance/assistance to certain movements.


Optional: Self Myofascial Release Tools

I’ll cover Self Myofascial Release (SMR) in another article, but basically it’s giving yourself a massage to relieve muscle tension, manage soreness and improve range of motion with certain movements. Useful tools: Foam roller (the Rumble Roller is awesome), PVC pipe (cheaper than a foam roller, but more painful for beginners), tennis ball (beginners), and a lacrosse ball or field hockey ball (after a few weeks of using a tennis ball). Get 3 balls minimum. Taping two together will turn them into a great tool to loosen up your upper back.


Optional: Powerlifting Belt

A belt can be nice, but it’s not required. If you do decide to belt up, make sure you buy a good one. You’ll be using it for a while (read: a LONG time) and it’s going to take some time to break in. You’ll want to get a good leather belt.


Optional: Chalk and Straps

Using chalk when weights get heavy will improve your grip on the bar and reduce callus formation. There are liquid chalks and also chalk alternatives like an eco ball (I personally use this), if you can’t use chalk because it leaves a mess.

Straps are the next step after chalk. They should not be used on everything (because you do want to strengthen your grip over time), but they can be great if you’re doing a lot of heavy pulling or high repetition sets where your grip would give out before your posterior chain. If straps are utilized a lot, it is wise to train grip strength separately (i.e. with Farmer’s Walk, Static Holds with heavy dumbbells or a heavy barbell, or Kroc Rows).

I won’t go into details here, because this is more of a summary article, but a good rule of thumb is to use the following grips until they give out and then move to the next: Overhand (possibly underhand), overhand with chalk, hook grip (for heavy singles mostly), mixed grip (be aware of this), and finally overhand with straps. If you can’t hold it with straps, it’s way too heavy for you.


As always, this is just my take on things.