gym bag

Gym Essentials – What To Bring To The Gym

Deciding what to bring to the gym can be tough. You don’t want to go overboard and have to lug around a heavy ass bag but you also don’t want to disadvantage your workout because you forgot something important.

With that said you really don’t need anything to still have a good workout. However the list below will give you an idea of some things that can help improve your workouts.

What To Bring To The Gym:

Gym Bag

gym bag

You need something to carry all of your stuff in. Any old backpack or duffle bag will do, as long as you can fit all your gear inside it.

If you like to shower or get changed at the gym you’ll need to keep this in mind as you’ll want some extra room for a change of clothes etc.


what to bring to the gym towel

A towel is one of your gym essentials. Nobody likes getting to a piece of equipment only to realise they are about to sit in somebody else’s sweat puddles. Most gyms have a no towel no workout policy for this reason.

It doesn’t need to be a full size beach towel either.

Smaller workout style towels are usually more convenient to carry around and still do the job they are required for.

Headphones and a good gym playlist


There are thousands of different headphones on the market. It really just comes down to personal choice. I like wireless headphones that way there is no chance of the wire distracting me or getting caught up during my set. The other personal reason I prefer wireless headphones is that I like to leave my phone on the floor during sets and not in my pocket. Again that is just my preference, feel free to go for whatever brand or style of headphones you prefer.

After you’ve packed your headphones you need a workout playlist to pump during your time at the gym. A great playlist can  help lift your energy and motivate you through your workout.

Water Bottle

what to bring to the gym water bottle

The gym I go to has a water fountain so I usually opt to skip this one, but it can be nice to have a bottle with you during your workout. This is especially important if you are planning on doing some cardio on the spin bikes or a treadmill.



You don’t want to be known as the gym stinker! Make sure you wear deodorant to the gym and you might want to apply some more when you’re leaving.

Workout Tracking App

workout tracking app

Progressing in your workouts is key to making gains and becoming a stronger, fitter, healthier version of yourself. The key to progressing is measuring your workouts so that next time you can aim to improve on them. The benefit of having a record is you can look back and see how you progressed over time and see if some lifts are progressing faster than others. This is really beneficial information if you are serious about your health/ fitness goals.

You should record all of your lifts, how many reps per set and how much weight you’re moving. That way your next session you can get straight into it and you no what you’re aiming to beat. Trying to remember everything in your head is just asking for trouble.

I record my workouts in an app called Strong, which has been the best app I have found so far. The downside is it charges a monthly subscription.

The good news is you don’t need a fancy app if you don’t want to. You can record everything you need in the notes app on your phone.

Comfy Gym Clothes

comfy gym clothes

They don’t need to be Nike or any other fancy brand. What they do need to be is comfy. A shirt that allows you to move around freely and isn’t too hot. If it’s leg day you’ll want some shorts that let you squat without having to worry about splitting the back of them open. Not good!

Other than that you can wear basically whatever you want, as long as you are comfortable and you can get a great workout in.

The right mindset

gym mindset

It might sound silly but I can tell you, the times that I have come to the gym not feeling like it, and not with my full attention on the workout usually suck.

You can end up half assing your lifts, not pushing out those last couple of tough reps, and letting your rest times drift longer and longer.

No matter what’s going on in your world, when you walk into the gym you need to be focussed and committed to improving on your last workout. After all the only way to grow is to progress in your lifts.

I find pre workout can help with this. It helps to give you a little lift in energy which I find really helps me to remain focused throughout my sets. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through a set and your mind starts wandering off to something you need to do later that day. I find when this happens to me I can usually fail one or two reps shorter than what I am aiming for.

So long story short. Do whatever you need to do to get your mind on the task at hand and smash your workout.

Gym Shoes

If this is your first time at the gym I would train in whatever shoes you have at the moment. Don’t let your shoes hold you back from a good workout.

Back, before I new any better I used to train in my normal nike runners.  I’ve now prefer training in harder, flat soled shoes. I like the way they feel on heavier lifts and they also seem to last me longer.

If you have a pair of converse, they will actually work as great shoes for the gym. There hard, flat sole gives you a stable base for your lifts.  If you are buying a new pair of shoes for the gym I would recommend looking for something that doesn’t have a large foam heel like most running shoes have today.

If all you have access to is a foam, padded running shoe, that is fine. I would just take them off if you are doing a heavy movement like squat or deadlift.

Here is a good explanation of what you should look for in a training shoe.


The following items aren’t necessary for everyone that goes to the gym. However some people will find them helpful to getting more out of their workouts.

Dip Belt

dip belt

If you are doing any form of dips, pull ups or chin ups you will eventually get to the level that you need to add some weight to keep progressing with the exercise. You can achieve this sometimes by holding a dumbbell between your feet, but that will only get you so far. This is where a dip belt comes in handy.

It basically allows you to add weights to the chain which increases the difficulty of the exercise. I like to use one for weighted pull ups and weighted dips. If you are just starting out using a dip belt add a small plate to the chain and then build your way up. You will be able to progress in weights like you do any other exercise but be prepared to start small and work your way up.

Some gyms have dip belts, although a lot of the time they are old and tatty, it can save you buying your own. But if you’ve got the money or your gym doesn’t have one it can be nice to have your own dip built that you can get used to.

Chalk Bag

gym chalk

Not entirely necessary but if you’re looking to lift heavy weights, especially during deadlifts and pull-ups, grip strength is extremely important.

Go steady on the application, most gyms won’t want you leaving loads of chalk everywhere.

Tall socks for deadlifting

deadlifting socks

An optional addition to your deadlifting days is a pair of long socks. They help to prevent the bar from scratching the fronts of your legs to pieces on heavy lifts. They might look funny but it’s a trade off you might want to make for scratch-less shins.

Lifting Belt

weightlifting belt

Lifting belts can be a great tool to help you advance in your lifts and get stronger. If it’s your first time at the gym you can skip this as you won’t be lifting enough weight to require one. I prefer to train without a weight belt as it requires me to use more of the tiny stabiliser muscles in my lower back to keep me steady throughout the lift. But then again, I’m not about to enter a powerlifting competition any time soon.

Lifting Straps

lifting straps

Lifting straps are an optional extra that can help if you are doing higher reps exercises at the end of your session. I wouldn’t recommend getting in the habit of using them to help you lift more on your deadlifts etc though.

You’re better off building up your grip strength over time than relying on them to get through your sets. Where they can be useful is at the end of your workouts if your program calls for higher reps on rows or something like that where your forearms give out way before your back is ready to.

However if this is the case I would still work on building your grip strength and not relying on lifting straps to get you through your workouts.

Fractional Plates

fractional plates

Making consistent improvements on your lifts is key to building more muscle and getting stronger. If you’ve been lifting heavy for some time you may find it hard to stack on even the smallest, additional plates at your gym. This is where fractional plates can come in handy. Fractional plates weigh less than the smallest plates at your gym 0.5kg as opposed to 1.25kg. This means that you can continue to increase the weight each session and push through your plateaus.

If you don’t have access to fractional plates you can progress by increasing the weight of your first set one week and then increasing the weight of your second and third sets to catch up the next week. For example if you are benching 90kg for 3 sets and looking to increase your weights.

Week 1 would look like this:

Set 1: 90kg +1.25kg plate either side = 92.5kg total weight

Set 2 and 3: 90kg for required reps.

Week 2 would look like this

Set 1, 2 and 3: 90kg +1.25kg plate either side = 92.5kg total weight

The difference/benefit of fractional plates is that you can increase all sets.

Week 1 would look like this:

Set 1, 2 and 3: 90kg + 0.5kg plate either side = 91kg total weight

Week 2 would look like this

Set 1, 2 and 3: 90kg +1.25kg plate either side = 92.5kg total weight

So after two weeks you end up in the same place. You then can continue on this pattern to increase your lifts into the future.

Fractional plates can come in a range of sizes, some as low as 0.25 kg. These plates can help you to continue progressing no your workouts and avoid gettin stuck at a weight and not be able to move up.

These small progressions keep you moving in the right direction and continuing to gain strength. As you start to lift heavier weights the more you will benefit from fractional plates.

Fitness Tracker

fitness heart rate tracker

It seems like every man and his dog has some form of fancy new fitness tracker strapped to their wrists. I personally don’t use one, however if you are wanting to keep track of your heart rate during workouts or if you are doing more cardio intensive workouts you may find the information a fitness tracker provides useful.

For example if you were doing some form of HIIT training on a rowing machine, your program might call for you to keep your heart rate above a certain BPM (beats per minute) in the intense section of the workout and then drop it down in the rest periods.

In this case a heart rate tracker with a screen that can show your readings would be of benefit. The heart rate monitors on machines are often notoriously hard to get a reading when you are working out.

Having something that is reliable and easy to read without interrupting or taking any focus away from your workout is a great asset.

Knee Sleeves

knee sleeves

Image from

These neoprene knee sleeves by SBD are designed to keep your knees warm and provide some support and compression during your workouts. Thicker sleeves like these SBD’s are often preferred by powerlifters, while thinner less stiff sleeves are better for functional fitness and recreational gym goers. Check out this article by Barbend on the best knee sleeves if you want more information.


So hopefully this has answered your question of what to bring to the gym. Ultimately all you need is a yourself and a towel. (You don’t want to be the guy or gal leaving sweat on the equipment.) But these are some other good things that can help improve your workouts and help you get the most out of your time at the gym.

Let me know what you thought of this gym bag checklist. Did I miss anything out? What essentials do you have in your gym bag?

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