Fitness fads and equipment come and go while others stand the test of time. Below you will find, in no particular order, a guide to equipment and accessories that you may encounter in a gym. These items have the ability to add variety to your workouts as well as enhance and progress them.
Resistance Bands – Resistance bands are found in many gyms and are also a great purchase for in home use. The type of workout you are planning would determine the type of band you would use. Flat bands (various lengths and open-ended) can be used for upper and lower body exercises as well as for stretching, yoga and therapy. Loop bands (8-11” dimension and circular/closed ended) can be used for hip, thigh, and glute exercises. Super bands (40’ diameter and circular/closed ended) are thick, extra strong bands that can be used for both upper and lower body exercises. Many commercially available bands come packaged with three or more that have varied levels of resistance. When choosing a band, make sure to match your level of fitness to the correct level of resistance to prevent injury. Make sure your bands are durable and stand up to the most rigorous of workout routines.
Resistance elastic tubing – Tubing is similar to and often referred to as resistance bands. Tubing comes in a variety of sizes and resistance. The type of workout you are planning would determine the type of tubing you would use. Handle bands are tubing that come with handles permanently attached. Clip bands are tubing with handles that are detachable. You may also encounter tubes with rotating handles. Figure 8 bands look just like a figure 8 with handles on each end and are shorter than the tubing previously described. They cannot be stretched as far as the other bands; therefore, range of motion is limited. All of these tubes can be used for exercises that work the entire body. These tubes improve strength and toning and are useful in rehabilitation exercises.
Step tubes and ankle tubes are not often found in gyms but you can purchase them for in home use. Step tubes come with special material wrapped around their middle as a “wear and tear” protection for the tubing. They are used for those exercises that require the act of stepping on the band. Ankle tubes attach to ankle straps and can be used for lower body workouts. They are an effective tool for backward, forward, diagonal, lateral and side to side training.
When choosing a tube, make sure to match your level of fitness to the correct level of resistance to prevent injury. Make sure your tubes are durable and stand up to the most rigorous of workout routines.
Stability ball (Swiss ball, physio ball) –Stability balls can be used for a variety of exercises. Stability balls should be fully inflated and be an appropriate height to size measurement.
Your height – use ball size:
4’6”- 5’0” use a 45 cm ball
5’1”- 5’7” use a 55 cm ball
5’8”- 6’2” use a 65 cm ball
over 6’2” use a 75 cm ball
Exercises employing the use of a stability ball can often times be more progressive than exercises using other equipment because it requires more muscles to keep the body stabilized. This ball is often used in rehabilitation exercises as it is a great way to develop balance, coordination and flexibility.
Medicine ball – A medicine ball is a weighted exercise ball that often resembles a basketball. However, they do come in a variety of weights, sizes and textures. One handle, two handles or no handles, choose a ball with weight that challenges your exercise without limiting your control of the exercise. These balls can be used for exercises that work the entire body resulting in an increase in strength, balance, coordination and flexibility.
Bosu – Bosu is an acronym for “both sides up.” It can be used with the base positioned either up or down. Primarily used for balance, this ball can also be used for all types of exercises which will help improve muscle strength, endurance, coordination and stabilization.
Fat Gripz – A durable tool used to widen your grip on bars, barbells, dumbbells or other equipment used for pulling. Fat Gripz wrap around equipment widening their diameters resulting in an effective way to increase your grip strength (wrist strength). The manufacturers also claim that these gripz increase arm size and strength.
WEIGHT LIFTING BELT
Weight lifting belt – Belts are available in most gyms but members often times bring their own. Belts can be used to help protect the spine when performing heavy weighted exercises such as squats, deadlifts, clean and jerks, and snatches. A typical belt is usually made of leather, 4-6 inches wide and is secured with a metal buckle.
Wrist straps – Also known as wrist wraps, these accessories are used to help improve your grip around barbells, dumbbells or resistance cable machines. Wraps reduce the stress on wrists and hands during heavy weightlifting exercises. Overuse can lead to weaker forearm muscles. To correctly strap the wrap, place the loop in between thumb and index finger. Next, wrap the strap around the wrist and then around your piece of equipment twice. Lastly, pass the remainder of the strap back through the loop.
VAL SLIDES/GLIDING DISCS
Val slides/Gliding discs – Slides can be used for a variety of exercises. Placing them under your hands or feet allows for constant contact with a surface creating tension on the muscles. They also create a bit of instability which requires the core muscles to engage in order for balance to be maintained during an exercise.
TRX SUSPENSION STRAPS
TRX – This strap is a suspension training tool that incorporates the use of gravity and your own body weight while performing an exercise. These straps can be used for an entire body workout which will help improve muscle strength, flexibility, endurance, coordination and stabilization. Not all gyms have these straps or they may require a fee for their use. My gym initially required a fee for usage but has since reversed policy and made them available to everyone free of charge. If you wish to purchase these for in home use you may want to consider Lifeline Jungle Gym XT for a fraction of the cost of a TRX.
Note: I am not paid by Lifeline for this endorsement. I have purchased Lifeline’s version of the TRX and have had no issues with it.
T-Bar Row/Landmine – Not all gyms have these pieces of equipment. Depending on the manufacturer/model of the equipment, their look may vary but their function will be the same. Often used for row exercises, they can also be used for press, abdominal, shoulder, squat, lunge and leg raise exercises.
SAND BAG / BULGARIAN BAG
Sand bag/Bulgarian bag – These bags differ from one another but both can be used for a range of exercises that train the entire body. They come in a variety of looks, weights, sizes and handle positions. Sandbags require the ability to control the constant shifting of sand. These bags allow you to train in all planes of movement and can improve on grip strength, overall body strength and conditioning, stability, mobility, and aerobic capacity.
Ropes – Make some waves! Ropes come in a variety of lengths and sizes. The smaller rope pictured above can be attached to a cable resistance machine and is often used for triceps press downs. However, it can also be used for other exercises such as the face pull, curls, abdominal and lower body exercises. Longer ropes can be used for waves, crisscrosses, slams, throws, circles pulls, jacks and side to side exercises. Ropes can be used for exercises that work the entire body and can increase your aerobic capacity, strength and conditioning, and endurance.
Gloves – Gym gloves are an important accessory that you will have to purchase on your own and that I highly recommend. They reinforce your grip on equipment and protect hands against blisters and calluses – especially with the bars that have knurling grooves!
Chalk – Chalk is used to dry the sweat off your hands and helps create friction between your skin and the equipment. This results in a better hold on a bar allowing you to perform more reps before a loss of grip. However, many gyms do not allow the use of chalk so check the policy first before applying!
I may have inadvertently left out some equipment. If you have questions on equipment not selected for this post or need further assistance on the equipment that is listed, please leave a comment…