It's time to come prepared and bring more than a belt and shaker bottle. This feature presents you with 22 items you should consider adding to your gym bag.

Brad Borland is a strength & conditioning specialist, cancer survivor and the founder of WorkoutLab.

There’s an old saying I will paraphrase: There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the fact that you forgot your umbrella. Being prepared is half the battle when it comes to pretty much anything in life, whether it be starting your work day right or setting and achieving your fitness goals. Ill preparation, well, you know where that leads you.

Haphazard thinking and unorganized action will get you nowhere very fast and this resonates loudly when it is time for you to pack your gym bag and head out the door for a workout. Do you have everything you need to make each and every workout as productive as possible? Are you prepared for changes in your routine, tracking your workouts and fostering your recovery process to the best degree?

Below are 22 must-haves when it comes to your gym bag – you know that valuable piece of baggage you tote to the gym day-in and day-out? Well, it’s time to pay closer attention to what’s actually going in said bag and make sure you are prepared for anything, no matter the weather conditions!

13 Gym Bag Essentials


How long do you rest between sets? One minute? Two? How do you really know? Having a watch cuts out the guesswork and prevents you from peering at the gym clock from 100 yards away. Digital is the way to go for ease of a quick glance at the all-important second digits. Don’t believe keeping a close eye on your rest times will make any difference? Wear a watch and see for yourself – you will be pleasantly and exhaustedly surprised.

Water bottle

Your gym has a water fountain so why even tote around a water bottle you say? Yes, this is a must for two important reasons: One, you don’t have to walk over to a fountain for a drink risking losing your station and two, drinking from a fountain, aside from the risk of contamination, you will assuredly swallow down some gulps of air which will bloat your stomach causing discomfort during your lifts. Imagine a belly full of air during an intense set of squats!

Gym bag necessities

Do you have everything you need to make each and every workout as productive as possible?

Journal and pen

How much did you row last week? How about last month or last year? Don’t know? The importance of keeping track of your training is limitless. How else do you have real proof you have progressed? You may find yourself lifting the same weights with the same amount of reps week after week and month after month. Write it down. Record everything but don’t be a slave to your journal. Just try to establish an upward trajectory with your numbers each month.

Baseball or tennis ball

Prehab is not just a trendy training word; it’s actually a much needed and beneficial practice of potentially better performance and healthier joints and overall mobility health. Rolling all your major muscle groups, especially the ones you are about to train will loosen up tight tissue, move around fluid and break up scar tissue giving you a better chassis to work with.

Shaker bottle

Another must if serious gains are on your to-do list. Having a shaker bottle at the ready will cut out the worry of if you will make it home in time to kick-start your recovery process. Whether you use one regularly or not, just throw in (a clean) one for good measure.

Protein powder

What’s a shaker bottle without anything to shake? Be sure to pack a generous serving of whey protein in your bag. A good rule of thumb: Don’t pre-mix your protein shake, after your training mix with water, shake and gulp. Having it pre-made will slightly denature the whey. Store your powder in a separate, dry container.

Music and headphones

If you’re the type, go ahead and bring some tunes for your workouts. Notice I didn’t say phone. Keep the phone away. Nothing can divide your attention more than checking your phone for the latest non-existent text that will never materialize. If you happen to have all of your music on your phone, put the ringer on silent and resist the temptation. If you find yourself unable to break the addiction, simply nix the music and leave the phone in your car.

Better Bodies weight lifting beltBelt

Whether you use a belt judiciously or not, it’s always a good thing to have one handy. You never know when a heavy squat or row day will rear its inviting head. Not to be used on every set of every lift, a belt is a very useful tool when wanting to go for a new PR or just plain heavy on some lifts.

Wrist straps

Much like the belt described above, wrist straps can be an indispensable tool as well. Used to assist your grip during heavy pulling exercises, straps can help squeeze out an extra one or two or more reps when your grip starts to give. Of course these aren’t to be confused with wrist wraps which are wrapped around your wrists for added joint protection.

Hand sanitizer

The statistics of unwelcome living things that are present pretty much on every square inch of a gym are mind-boggling. Long story short, you need to protect yourself. Frequent hand-washing after restroom breaks and when leaving the gym are not just for deterring the spread of germs but it’s also for your own health. Go the extra mile and store some hand san in your bag for those inconvenient moments.

Combo lock

Some gyms don’t like when patrons drag and drop their gym bags all over the floor, in walk-ways and against equipment. If this is a policy at your local gym, do the right thing and get a locker to store your bag. Be sure to throw in a combination lock for good measure and peace of mind.

Pre-workout snack

Going from the office straight to the gym? Don’t forget a pre-workout snack. Whether it’s a pre-workout shake, piece of fruit or something else full of complex carbs and/or lean protein be sure it’s with you and conveniently found.


Okay, not necessarily a necessity but something that is just good to have available. Bad hair day? Want to create some tunnel vision? Or do you have a lucky “leg day” hat that gives you extra Viking Power? Go ahead, toss a hat in too!

Even in the most sanitary-looking facilities who knows what’s growing on those shower floors. Locker rooms are only as clean as the people using it.

9 Gym Bag Optionals

Now that you have the essentials down and then some, let’s list a few optional items for those who spend a little more time at the gym – namely the locker room. Below are a few extras to consider when you have to perform the “three S’s”: shower, shave and suite-up.

3 in 1 shower gel

Don’t rely on the gym to provide you with everything you need. Pack some shower gel or liquid soap. It’s easier to store than bar soap and by purchasing a 2-in-1 (soap and shampoo combo) you’ll save space.


Not much needs to be said about this. For the sake of others, use it.

Extra towel

Another insurance move on your part. The gym may or may not have available towels and with your luck they might be out at the most inconvenient time. Pack an extra towel – you’ll be glad.

Shower shoes

Even in the most sanitary-looking facilities who knows what’s growing on those shower floors. Locker rooms are only as clean as the people using it – don’t risk picking up a few unwanted “friends” on your feet.

Shaving kit

Have a spare shave kit just for your gym bag in those instances you need to clean up your mug in the morning.


Yes, men need to moisturize too. With all that gym time spent on looking better a little should be set aside softening rough areas especially your face after a close shave.

Shorts and shirt

If you aren’t going to the gym already dressed don’t forget to pack your gym clothes. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to pack an extra shirt.

Quality shoes and socks

Whether you run, lift or cross-train having quality shoes specific to the task at hand is paramount. Don’t be afraid to spend a few dollars on top notch footwear.

Set of clothes

After all is said and done; you’ve had a great training session, you’ve showered and shaved – it’s time to get ready for your day. Don’t risk having to put back on your sweaty gym clothes. Be sure to pack your work clothes for the day.

Posted on: Sat, 01/30/2016 - 20:51

out of 20 chances ( 30 if you consider there was a 2nd article ) ..... no one thought to put CHALK on either list?? Hand santizer went on the list and not a chalk bag??? A sweater was on the list. So many things I want to say that I can't.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 02/01/2016 - 09:34

Not all gyms allow chalk so Brad may have left it off the list for that exact reason knowing that many train at commercial facilities. Most of the private and collegiate sports facilities that I train at allow and encourage chalk but the average Gold's Gym or LA Fitness is definitely not going to be interested in that so you have to cater the article to those individuals as well.

I actually wrote another gym bag article which had more essentials and chalk was in the top 3:

Ashutosh Malhotra
Posted on: Sun, 10/05/2014 - 16:30

Thankyou for great article really helped me.:)

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 10/06/2014 - 19:18


Posted on: Sat, 10/04/2014 - 03:41

surely a towel should be under essential?

and a hat is an essential item for leg day? surely this optional item should be replaced with flat soled shoes for leg day, which actually has an impact on the workout you are doing. utterly bizarre suggestion

might as well throw in your lucky pants into the bag as no.1 item

chalk and dip belt would be another couple of items i would like to post under optional. like the idea of tennis ball though for muscles

Posted on: Fri, 10/03/2014 - 09:09

brad as long as you believe what you write and feel very strongly about it nothing anyone says should matter because you can't make everyone happy, so it's okay. look forward to the next article keep me posted.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 10/03/2014 - 10:41

Will do!

Posted on: Fri, 10/03/2014 - 00:14

You forgot LIPSTICK and SANITARY PADS i think lol

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 10/03/2014 - 10:40

Ha, yeah!

Posted on: Thu, 10/02/2014 - 18:38

I actually found this a good, fun read too. Shame about the keyboard heroes with the negative comments.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 10/03/2014 - 10:40

Jamie, thanks so much!

Posted on: Thu, 10/02/2014 - 16:42

i particularly cared for the article and it was very informative and makes a lot of sense. Brad don't let people like that discourage you from teaching others, including myself so thank you and keep up the good work.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 10/03/2014 - 08:19

Thank you so much for the kind words, Jahmel.

Logan Lang
Posted on: Wed, 10/01/2014 - 12:53

Why does everyone have to get so serious about this? If anything It was a fun read and I figured I could compare the list to what I already have in my bag. Guys like you give us bodybuilding types the douche bag read though.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 10/02/2014 - 10:25

Thanks, Logan! Well put.

Posted on: Wed, 10/01/2014 - 11:12

Hat is essential, shower gel and deoderant optional.... yeah, I don't entirely agree with this list.

Posted on: Tue, 09/30/2014 - 21:44

Who *** writes these idiot's lists. Get real man.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Wed, 10/01/2014 - 10:56

I wrote it. I don't know what compels people to write negative comments like this but It's not required reading. You can choose to click on if you decide. But as I always say, thanks for reading...

Posted on: Tue, 09/30/2014 - 21:21