Tag Archives: straps

Xmas Gift Ideas for People Who Work Out

gifts

If you’re looking for gift ideas for people you know that are into lifting or exercise in general, here are mine. You could also add these to your own wish list or simply buy them for yourself. I have broken them down by price.

 

$1 – $20

First off, an ab wheel. This is easily one of the best tools to develop your abdominal muscles. For slightly under $13 with free shipping, you can’t go wrong. It’s also rated 5/5 on Amazon with 81 reviews (when I checked).

ab-wheel

 

And who doesn’t want a Superman t-shirt? For $13 with free shipping, you can’t beat it.

superman-tshirt

 

Next up… a pair of yoga blocks for just under $13 with free shipping. 5/5 based on 165 reviews when I checked. These are terrific for yoga (obviously), stretching, self-myofascial release, etc.

yoga-block

 

Lacrosse balls are just about essential for self myofascial release. I would suggest getting three: One for trigger point release and two as a lacrosse ball peanut (to work on thoracic extension). You can get three white ones for $17.95 with free shipping (the cheapest color is blue at $18.95 with free shipping for 3 balls).  If you end up buying only one, most of the colors cost $6.95. Note: The ‘size’ option on the page is actually just how many balls you want. The balls are all the same size. They are standard lacrosse balls.

lacrosse-ball

Foam rollers are awesome for recovery work and you can get one for under $20! The one below got rated 5/5 with 1,014 reviews (at the time I’m writing this) and you can get the 36 inch version for $19 with free shipping. You could also go to a home improvement store and buy a PVC pipe for $3, but it will hurt a lot more. 🙂 If you’re new to foam rolling, this is likely a better option. I’ll add some more expensive foam rollers that are also excellent in the price categories below.

foam-roller

Lifting chalk is awesome to keep a grip on those heavy barbells. Under $13 with free shipping for a pound of the stuff is a great deal. 5/5 rating with 161 reviews makes this stuff a no-brainer, if you even lift.

chalk

The eco ball is my favorite chalk alternative. It’s like regular chalk, except it doesn’t leave a mess. $5.95 with free shipping makes this an awesome, yet inexpensive, gift for any lifter or climber. 5/5 rating with 66 reviews. I personally use this, because my gym doesn’t allow normal chalk, and love it.

eco-ball

Liquid Grip is a liquid chalk that doesn’t leave a mess. You can get the 1.5oz bottle for $5 with free shipping or you can get an 8oz bottle for slightly under $20 with free shipping.

liquid-grip

Under Armour t-shirts are awesome for keeping relatively dry when you’re sweating your ass off. Usually they cost slightly more than $20, but some size and color combinations can be had for less than $20!

under-armour-tshirt

Similarly to the Under Armour t-shirts, UA boxers will keep you from having epic swamp ass. For under $20 with free shipping and a 5/5 rating from 210 reviews, you can’t go wrong with these. I wear them to the gym all the time.

ua-boxers

Lifting straps are usually good to have. You can get them for under $6 with free shipping.

lifting-straps

Other gift ideas under $20: Deadlift Slippers for $13.95 with free shipping | Bacon Socks for $9.90 with free shipping | Shaker Bottle for under $8 with free shipping | 600g of Optimum Nutrition creatine powder for under $15 with free shipping

$21 – $50

I’ll start this price category off with some Under Armour shorts, which you can get for just under $25 with free shipping. 5/5 rating based on 145 reviews.

under-armour-shorts

Fat Gripz are awesome to make your grip stronger. You can grab some for under $40 with free shipping. Rated 5/5 based on 222 reviews.

fat-gripz

The Stick is a great recovery tool. Depending on which one you pick, you can get it for slightly under $28 with free shipping.

the-stick-massager

A ton of the mobility tools available at Rogue can be purchased for under $50. What I’d specifically recommend would be: Monster Bands, lacrosse balls, Voodoo Floss Bands and a Knobber.

rogue-mobility

Other gift ideas under $50: 13 inch Grid foam roller for $39 with free shipping | 12 inch Rumble Roller for $45 with free shipping | 2lbs of Optimum Nutrition whey protein powder for $28 with free shipping | Rehband Knee Sleeves for $43 with free shipping

$51 – $100

For around $60, you can get a nice powerlifting belt with a lever.

powerlifting-belt

A blender to make some badass shakes can be had for under $80 with free shipping!

ninja-blender

Whether or not you get the blender, Optimum Nutrition whey protein powder is a great choice because you can mix it into water or milk with just a spoon. It tastes great and boosts your daily protein intake with ease. Under $54 for 5lbs of the stuff is pretty damn good!

on-whey

$60 with free shipping gets you a nice food dehydrator, so you can make your own jerky and dried fruits. Apple chips are delicious!

dehydrator

$100+

This is where all the really awesome gift ideas will be of course. I’ll start with the Excalibur food dehydrator. You can get one for $255 with free shipping to make homemade beef or turkey jerky, dried fruits, dried herbs, etc.

excalibur-food-dehydrator

For just over $100, you can get yourself an Olympic barbell. The best start to any great home gym.

olympic-barbell

For $450 you can get an awesome Vitamix blender. Pricey, but arguably the best blender out there. I’m not sure who argues about blenders though…

vitamix-blender

Need more ideas?

If you need more fitness-related gifts and found nothing you liked in my list, browse through the Rogue site and I’m sure you’ll find something you like. I wish I could buy almost everything on there…

rogue

When to Use Straps – Video from Jonnie Candito

This video touches again on a subject I covered in my recent grip training article. I fully agree with Candito.

Get yourself some lifting straps and strap up, son!

Grip Training

Grip strength is obviously of great importance for people who lift. When you’re lifting heavy weights off the floor, with the deadlift specifically, grip can often be a limiting factor. Using straps when your grip gives out can be an effective method to continue the workout, but it’s not always optimal.

That being said, ideally – and especially if you plan to compete in a sport such as powerlifting – your grip should be strong enough to hold the maximum amount of weight the rest of your body allows for. In short, grip strength should not be the limiting factor.

I already covered grip progression and some other things about it in my Deadlift 101 article, so I’m just going to copy and paste that portion below. Then I’ll go into the grip strength exercises I would recommend.

 

How to Grip the Bar

Your best bet is the double overhand grip. Use this until weights get too heavy for you to handle with the overhand grip. Make sure you’re gripping the bar properly during the deadlift. This also applies to other pulling movements. Video on that: Rip on Grip (Bonus: Gripping the bar in this manner will reduce callus formation during pull movements like the deadlift.)

Once your overhand grip gives out, improve your grip by using lifting chalk. If your gym does not allow the use of lifting chalk, try an alternative like Liquid Grip or an eco ball.

When your chalked overhand grip no longer does the trick, you have three valid options: Use a mixed grip, use straps and/or use a hook grip. I’ll give you a quick breakdown of the positives/negatives of each option.

Mixed Grip: This is where one hand is in an overhand/pronated grip and the other hand is in an underhand/supinated grip. The positive is that you can pull more weight like this than with a double overhand grip. The negative is that it increases your chance of tearing a bicep.

Using Straps: This is where you’d use lifting straps to help you hang onto the barbell when weight gets too heavy for a double overhand grip (with chalk or a chalk alternative). The positive is that you can use more weight without grip being a limiting factor. You’re also much less likely to tear a bicep than you are with a mixed grip. The negative is that you’ll have to do extra grip training and that you can’t use straps in a powerlifting competition obviously.

Hook Grip: The hook grip is a very good option. The only negative aspect is that it will be painful to get used to the hook grip and it’s not too feasible for most people to use this grip on high repetition deadlift sets. I would say that it’s a valid option for pulling lower rep sets and possibly can be used in competition as well.

Below is a video from Jonnie Candito on why he thinks you should avoid the mixed grip. I say make your own decision, but make it an educated one!

 

What Do I Do?

Personally, I avoid the mixed grip as Candito suggests in the above video (to minimize the risk of tearing a bicep). For my deadlift sets, I use an overhand grip until it gives out, then I use straps for sets done for more than one repetition.  For heavy singles, I use a hook grip. It’s painful, so not everyone will be willing to use a hook grip, but it is very secure and decreases the risk of tearing your bicep tendon.

 

How to Improve Grip Strength

Whichever grip you decide to use, it’s a good idea to train your grip strength specifically. Direct grip training is the most effective way to increase your grip strength. The exercises below will help you improve grip strength beyond the carryover grip strength increase you would get from exercises like heavy barbell rows, pullups and RDLs.

Most of the exercises listed don’t require any special equipment you won’t find at a regular gym either. They’re basic, but they will test your will power.

 

Static Holds

Load up a barbell with around 50-60% of your deadlift max, pick it up (either off the floor, from blocks or safety pins) and hold it for as long as you can. I usually do one static hold with a supinated (double underhand) grip and one static hold with a pronated (double overhand) grip for time. The static holds are done at the end of a non-deadlift workout and not on a workout the day before heavy pulling.

The video below from Elliott Hulse at strengthcamp explains how to do static holds. He also mentions using Fat Gripz to make it harder to grip the bar. And he shows an interesting way to do static holds with dumbbells, before describing how to do plate grippers.

I run 5/3/1 – with some training principles described in Beyond 5/3/1 – as an Upper/Lower split four days per week, so I do the static holds on my squat day at the end of the workout.

Static holds can of course be done with dumbbells, farmers walk handles, an axle, or anything heavy you can grab and hold for time.

 

Farmers Walk

Pick up some heavy dumbbells or loaded farmers walk handles and walk with them until your grip gives out. It’s not easy, but it’s basic and brutal.

 

Hand Grippers

I’ve never used these things, but some people swear they work. Worth a shot I guess. The fact that they’re called Captains of Crush Hand Grippers makes them fucking awesome by default.

captains-of-crush-hand-gripper

 

And that’s it. That’s my take on how to improve your grip strength for lifts like deadlift. As always, it’s just my opinion and you should do what you think is best.

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.

 

Shoes

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.

 

Towel

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.