Here’s the Strength Training Gear Recommended by Pros

If you’re just starting out, this sturdy self-locking one from Element 26, which also comes in an array of colors, is a great option. I’ve tried a number of hard belts, but I found that this one from Cerberus is the most comfortable and supportive for my intermediate-level lifting. When you’re ready to go really heavy, a lever belt like this one or a buckle belt like this one will keep you supported and safe.

Ditch the Running Shoes

“Don’t lift in your running Asics,” advises Stefi Cohen, a 25-time world-record-holding powerlifter, professional boxer, and doctor of physical therapy. Following up on the advice I really wish I’d heard before my first CrossFit class, Cohen adds that really “anything flat-soled” will work.

Pro strongman Rob Kearney, who set an American log lift record in 2020 with 475 pounds, agrees. “I would say the most important thing would be a multipurpose shoe. So not necessarily a lifting shoe, but something with a more rigid bottom. I like Reebok Nanos, and Nike has the Metcons. The Nano is a really good universal shoe for weightlifting and moving events, to create a really stable base and make sure you’re not off balance.”

Working Out at Home

If you’re new to lifting and looking to do your strength training at home, rather than the gym, both Shahlaei and Stoltman say the single best investment you can make is a really good, multiuse barbell.

“If you’re looking to get stronger, the most important piece of kit is a barbell,” Shahlaei said, “because you can squat, you can deadlift, you can press, and those are the three key movements that are going to allow you to get strong throughout your body. If you get good at the basics, there’s always a carryover to something else.”

Look for a bar that’s multiuse (not explicitly for powerlifting or Olympic lifting) and sturdy, so it can support heavy weight as you get stronger. Rogue’s classic Ohio Bar includes a lifetime guarantee against bending, while RPM’s barbell is available in three different weights, making it ideal for beginning lifters. Lastly, if you’re looking for an affordable but still sturdy option, the CAP 7-Foot Barbell is available on Amazon and has more than 3,500 reviews and a 4.5 star rating.

The Best of the Rest

Coaching

Actually, Cohen told me the best thing a newbie lifter can do is find a really good coach. “For someone who has never lifted before,” she adds,”hiring a coach, maybe even an in-person coach so you can properly learn technique,” can really make a difference.

If you’re not ready for an in-person coach just yet, there are apps that provide online programs and classes for all levels, or can be customized to your needs. Cohen’s Hybrid offers intermediate and advanced programs, and JEFIT offers customizable strength training plans and videos showing real people demonstrating each lift.

Recovery

Because all that lifting can take a toll on your muscles and fascia, powerlifter and current deadlift world record holder Tamara Walcott picked a foam roller as her most recommended piece of gear for newbies. Walcott prefers a vibrating hard roller and uses it for “stretching before and after workouts. That’s one of the things that at the beginning I took for granted. And then I realized that stretching before and after your lifts is how you perform better the next time.”

As your lifts get heavier and you become more technically proficient, having the right gear can make the difference between a good lift and a great one. Before you lace up your flat-soled shoes, buckle your belt, or pick up your barbell, though, most of the pros I spoke to recommend making sure you have one thing nailed down first: the right mindset.

When asked what a new lifter really needs, Walcott was hesitant to suggest any gear at all. “The one thing I want them to always have with them is determination over motivation,” she says. “Because at the end of the day, motivation is going to die out. You’re going to hit that number that you wanted to hit. Then what do you have next? It’s about staying determined to hit that true ultimate goal.”


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