People go to the gym to use equipment they don’t have, but you actually have a ton of equipment at home that they won’t have. A gym bag can be a treasure trove of useful items that enhance workouts. From accessories like wrist straps, lifting belts, and knee wraps, to a place to store your shaker cup and supplements, your gym bag allows you to hold onto many useful items that would otherwise be to cumbersome to carry.
You should consider carefully the items in your gym bag. An extra pair of shoes can be helpful, especially if you are lifting weights and doing cardio in the same day. But have you ever seen someone else’s gym bag and thought, “what could possibly be in there” or “why on earth would they have that?” Well, sometimes unconventional items can be strangely useful in the gym. Here are four favorites.
While a gym towel may be a common sight at the gym, towels are more versatile than you think. They can do more than just wipe up sweat. Towels can also be incorporated as part of your workout.
A kitchen towel is the perfect size to use as an attachment for a variety exercises. It can be used as a substitute for the rope attachment, one of the most coveted pieces of gym equipment. The rope is primarily used on cable machines and is desireable due to its ability to offer a greater range of motion than a fixed bar, rotate, pull apart, and grip easily. But all of these traits are shared with a kitchen towel.
Simply attach the middle of the towel to the clip on the cable machine, and you’re ready for business. You can also knot off the ends of the towel to prevent your hands from slipping off. Exercises a towel can be used on include: pull-ups, bodyweight rows, single leg assisted squats. You can also wrap the towel around a kettlebell and do dynamic hammer curls.
If you have a training partner, you can grab the rope while the other pulls on it to create the resistance of the exercise. For example, if you were doing bicep curls with a towel, one person would pull the towel down while the other tried to curl it. The person pulling on the towel can increase or decrease the difficulty by pulling more or less on the towel.
Gym injuries are not uncommon. Scrapes and bruises are bound to happen eventually when training. Make sure you treat these appropriately. You do not want to leave a trail of blood across the gym.
Perhaps you missed a box jump, or had a callous tear off, you can ask the front desk for a band-aid, which may or may not fall off soon after you put it on, or you just use some superglue. Superglue acts like liquid stitches. Simply apply the glue to the wound, wait for it to dry, and voila, you’re ready to get back to your workout.
Obviously if the wound is serious, you should seek immediate medical attention. But for simple cuts that just need to be sealed and given time to heal, superglue will do the trick. Superglue’s wound-sealing abilities are well noted and date back to the Vietnam War. Medics used superglue before sending troops on to surgery. Surprisingly, superglue has been shown to cause less scarring than other wound treatments. (Information taken from Thomas B. Bruns and J. Mack Worthington, “Using Tissue Adhesive for Wound Repair: A Practical Guide to Dermabond.” American Family Physician, March 1, 2000.)
You may only ever rarely need a some superglue at the gym, but when you do it is nice to have. Fortunately, it does not take up much space in your bag, so next time you are at the convenience store pick up some up and toss it in your gym bag.
For a more detailed account on when you should and should not use superglue to seal a wound, check this out.
This item seems to be growing in popularity in the past few years. When used correctly, a lacrosse ball can help muscles recover through trigger-point massage sessions. It will also prevent the muscle soreness associated with intense workouts, and increase flexibility.
You can think of a lacrosse ball as a mini foam roller. The benefits of foam rolling are well documented, but there are some limitations of a roller. Since the lacrosse ball is much smaller than a roller, yet is still very dense, it can target smaller muscle groups. Good spots for a lacrosse trigger-point session include: chest, shoulders, calves, and feet.
Another use for a lacrosse ball is to increasing grip strength. Try squeezing the ball as hard as you can for a few seconds before releasing and squeezing it again. Repeat for a few sets and switch hands.
Surprisingly, rolling out the bottom of your feet with a ball has been shown to increase hamstring flexibility.
For some interesting ideas on how to use a lacrosse ball effectively, read this.
Trigger point sessions are not limited to foam rollers and lacrosse balls. For even smaller muscle groups, different tools are required. The muscles in the hands and forearms also require myofascial release, which is where a spoon can come in handy.
Myofascial release (MFR) treats skeletal muscle immobility and pain by relaxing contracted muscles, improving blood and lymphatic circulation, and stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles. Fascia is a thin, tough, elastic type of connective tissue that wraps most structures within the human body, including muscle. (information taken from Spinaris T, DiGiovanna EL (2005). Chapter 12: Myofascial release. An Osteopathic Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment (3rd ed.). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pp. 80–82. ISBN 978-0-7817-4293-1.)
Your fascia covers your entire body, not just your legs and back. Parts of your body, like your hands, would not be great to use a foam roller on as they require more pressure to get at the fascia.
Weightlifters like Ben Pollack have advocated for the Graston Technique which can help with soft tissue mobilization, address scar tissue, fascial restrictions and range of motion. But graston blades can be expensive, often being priced in the hundreds of dollars. Luckily for you a household spoon will be almost as effective.
Use the cupped part of the spoon to dig into the palm of the hand and fingers. You should feel a gravely type surface, that is what you are trying to smooth out. You can also use the use the cupped part on the other side of your hand between your thumb and index finger. Continued treatment on the hands will help with thumb and finger flexibility, which will help assist you in many of your lifts.
The handle’s edge can be used on the forearms. Simply scrape up and down along your forearms to help break apart the facia.
A plumber who shows up to a job with half of his tools is not a very good plumber. Don’t let a lack of tools hold your workout hostage. A properly stocked gym bag will help optimize your workouts and keep you on track. But the fitness accessories and equipment you need don’t always appear at the sporting goods store or at GNC. Sometimes you need to think outside of the box to find the right tools for the job.