A lot of things we use have been around for decades, like Olympic lifting shoes, knee sleeves and weightlifting belts, while some other items are more sport specific and could significantly effect your performance.
Below are the top 10 Items I have in my gym bag to take my game to the next level.
1. Wrist Wraps
These are great if you have weak wrists like I do. You can get elastic and non-elastic wrist wraps which are great for push-ups, handstand push-ups and jerks. Most elastic wraps have a thumb strap that helps you keep the wrap in place. You can choose to use it or not, in either way it won’t affect the effectiveness of the wrap. Toss these in your gym bag before you head to your box.
2. Knee Sleeves/Knee Wraps
Like with the wrist wraps, also knee sleeves come in elastic or non-elastic form. The neoprene sleeves are stretchy and slide on under or over your pants. The non-elastic wraps tie on and go over your pants or on bare legs if wearing shorts. I have the neoprene ones and can’t squat without them. The added compression provides supports and allows me to squat both heavy and/or high volume without suffering from over-use pain.
3. Olympic lifting shoes
Oly shoes have been evolving over the past few years. Traditional lifting shoes have a wooden bottom/heel and one or 2 Velcro strips on the top. As Crossfit has increased the popularity of Olympic lifting, manufacturers have designed lifting shoes with plastic bottoms that allow you to go from a back squat into a box jump without changing your shoes. Olympic lifting shoes are great for those of us who lack ankle flexibility. You may not think of your ankle as a place where flexibility matters, but put on a pair of lifting shoes and that small lift they give your heal will change your squat! I have old school wooden soled lifting shoes. I love them but I can ONLY lift in them: if I want to do box jumps or double unders for any amount of time I have to change my shoes.
4. Athletic Tape
As a new crossfitter I tore up my hands every time I did more than 10 pull-ups. If you have ever ripped your hands you know how bad it hurts and how long it takes to recover. I started taping my hands before doing pull-ups and as my hands got stronger and good calluses developed I no longer needed the tape to protect my hands. Now I keep the tape in my bag at all times to tape a slippery bar, or even my thumbs if I’m going to be doing a lot of hook-gripping. Athletic tape is easy to put in your bag, affordable and can be used for a variety of needs.
Chalk, like tape, is something I used a lot when I first started Crossfit. Unlike tape, I never grew out of using chalk. Maybe it’s because I have a weak grip and I swear the chalk helps me hold on. Or maybe it’s the ritual of putting chalk on before I grab onto any bar, either way I can’t lift without it. A little chalk, as a chalk block or also liquid chalk, helps to pull moisture from your hands so that you can better hold on. Too much chalk is counter-productive, so use it sparingly.
6. Foam Roller
If you have not experienced the glorious pain of a good foam rolling session I suggest you put that on your to-do list. Most boxes have at least one of these devils of delight laying around. Next time you see a foam roller give it a try, and then get your own. These come in 2 lengths, full sized and 1/2 sized. I have a full sized one in my living room and roll out almost every night while watching my favourite TV shows. The 1/2 sized ones fit in your gym bag better so you can take it with you. Foam rolling is great for mobility, myofascial release (working our knots), and recovery before or after your workout.
7. Speed Rope
Speed ropes and not just your regular school yard jump ropes. They will help you with those ever elusive double-unders. These speed ropes are designed to spin quickly with little force, but be careful with this speed spinning: they really leave a mark if you miss a jump. Don’t worry, it’s good motivation to no mess up. Speed ropes are small and perfect to take with you literally anywhere! You can do an entire WOD with just your rope and an open space.
Bands are great for mobility, training technique and adding resistance to lifts. I have 3 types of bands in my gym bag: hard, medium and easy. My bands come in handy when coaching a new person on pull-ups, working on muscle-ups or warming up my shoulders. Bands also serve and resistance when you can’t get your hands on any weights.
9. Weight belt
Want to increase your back squat, dead lift, or snatch? A weightlifting belt can help. We’ve all heard our coaches say to take a deep breath and tighten our core before we lift. A weight belt helps by giving you something to apply pressure to in-turn keeping your core tight. It took me a few days of lifting to feel comfortable using my belt and now I can’t PR without it.
10. An App or notebook
Crossfit is all about measurable results and what better way to track your progress than a handy smartphone app?! There are several apps out there that come pre-populated with common lifts, Hero WODs, The Girls, benchmarks and dozens of ideas on how to workout while travelling. Most apps will also have the timers you need to do AMRAP, Tabata, intervals or just a standard countdown. If smartphones and applications are not really for you then grab an old note book and jot down your scores. Nothing feels better than looking back after a few months or a year and seeing all of the progress you’ve made.