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Weightlifting Essentials to Kill Every Workout | What to Buy and How to Think

Aug 20, 2018

Weightlifting Essentials to Kill Every Workout | What to Buy and How to ThinkThe best way to kill your workouts is by having your weightlifting essentials ready to go.

Your weightlifting essentials will be a mix of physical and mental tools.

I know, I know.

How can a mental tool be a weightlifting essential?

Don’t worry, I’ll get to that and fully explain how important the mental aspect is to killing your workouts.

There are a few accessories that I see as vital weightlifting essentials to optimize your time in the gym.

But, there are also some weightlifting essentials that you would probably overlook on a regular basis.

Lastly, if you aren’t also focusing on your mindset, then you are neglecting yet another one of your weightlifting essentials.

Let me break down the different weightlifting essentials categories before we continue on into detail.

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Weightlifting Essentials Categories

Physical Weightlifting Essentials

Weightlifting Essentials - Physical

This category includes any of your weightlifting essentials that are physically brought to the gym.

Or, physically utilizable in your home, at the park or in the workplace.

Basically, this category holds the most important tools to actually killing your workouts.

Weightlifting accessories, recovery accessories, proper clothing, tools for nutrition/diet, etc.

If you can have some physical entities with you while you are going through the motions, you can turn a mediocre workout into something truly phenomenal.

And, for those of you who always kill their workouts at a high level — adding in some of these tools can take you beyond plateaus.


Mental Weightlifting Essentials

The mental side of weightlifting essentials is just as important, in my opinion.

For many of you out there, the mindset aspect wouldn’t factor into your weightlifting essentials.

This is because mindset and mood are fickle and you probably would rather only go to the gym when you want to.

Motivation is the key to success, right?


Motivation is a fleeting mentality that gives you mediocre results.

We tend to prefer the path of least resistance, so mindset is everything when it comes down to having focus and drive for the gym all the time.

I’m not saying that you need to be in the gym every single day (though it can be very beneficial).

However, being active every day is something you should without a doubt strive toward.

So, the mental weightlifting essentials category revolves around all of the ways you can mentally prepare yourself, reassure yourself, and delegate your actions in the gym.

If you have never spent time worrying about the coexistence between mind and muscle, then now is the time to learn about the connection.


Optional Weightlifting Essentials

Lastly, there are some weightlifting essentials that fall into the optional category.

Well, if they are optional, why are you calling them “essential”?

Good question!

I’ve included this category because there are certain physical and mental tools you can use that will work for some and not for others.

Furthermore, some people will find these optional tools very beneficial, while others will rarely need to utilize them.

These are the weightlifting essentials that are a luxury or a “bonus” to the ones I recommend as necessary essentials.

Pro Tip: None of these essentials are necessary (you can buy, use, and do whatever you want. I am simply here to recommend what can help set you up for success!).


Physical Weightlifting Essentials

Weightlifting Accessories for Safety, Form, and Better Lifting

Weightlifting Essentials - Dark Iron Fitness Weightlifting BeltThe essentials I am referring to here are going to protect you in one way or another.

Not only will they be protective, they’ll also help improve your lifts.

Furthermore, they are a way to maintain form — all around winning items!

Here at Dark Iron Fitness, we provide the following weightlifting essentials for safety, form, and better lifting:

  • Genuine Suede Wrist Wraps (Alternate Link)
    • Having proper tightness in your wrists will allow for stronger lifting and pressing movements. Letting your wrists bend back during bench press will be uncomfortable and detrimental — wrist wraps will help prevent problems like this

Some other essentials that I believe fall into this category, which would be awesome to utilize, are the following:

  • Elbow Compression Sleeves
    • Elbow compression is super useful during any pulling movements that force your elbows back, but more particularly with pushing movements (bench, overhead press, push-ups) by keeping your elbows warm, tight, and secure
  • Bicep Curl Arm Blaster
    • In order to keep perfect form during your bicep curls, an arm blaster can really be beneficial. I’d say this is the best way to properly perform this isolation movement without sacrificing your gains and potentially hurting yourself from swinging the weights


Weightlifting Accessories for Generally Optimizing Your Workouts

Some other weightlifting accessories that aren’t directly connected to form or safety are the ones that simply optimize your workouts (or time in the gym).

All of these physical things will be great additions to any and all routines.

If you want to know more about some other general options for the gym, check out our article on gym bag basics.

  • Deep Tissue Foam Roller (Alternate Link)
    • Release that pain, soreness, and pressure with this essential tool. It feels great, helps a bunch, and will keep you ready before and after workouts
  • Basic Resistance Band Kit (Alternate Link)
    • Resistance bands are awesome for workouts on their own, but I believe they are more so great in addition to what you normally do. They are generally a great tool for helping with fitness and should be seen as a weightlifting essential

General Weightlifting Essentials by Dark Iron Fitness

  • Heavy-Duty Foam Barbell Pad (Alternate Link)
    • If comfort is king for you in the gym, then a barbell neck pad is crucial. I find that using a barbell pad for squats and hip thrusts really makes a difference in how much volume you can do with these exercises
  • Genuine Leather Ankle Straps (Alternate Link)
    • Anyone out there that wants to start targeting their lower body properly should see ankle straps as a weightlifting essential. Not enough people are doing unilateral movements, let alone utilizing cable exercises. Ankle straps will allow you to properly do both
  • Genuine Leather Dip Belt (Alternate Link)
    • How is a dip belt a weightlifting essential, you may be asking? Well, once you reach a certain level, your bodyweight alone is no longer challenging. Adding a dip belt into the mix gives you so many more exercises and varying levels of resistance that you can play with


Mental Weightlifting Essentials

Proper Mindset

Weightlifting Essentials - Positive Thinking

When I say “proper” mindset, I mainly mean a positive mindset.

That is your foundation for your mental state in the gym.

Sure, I do believe that there are times when anger, sadness, and depression can FUEL a killer workout.

But, that isn’t as sustainable as a positive mindset that allows for continual progress and excitement in the gym.

Focus on being loose with your body and your mind.

Release all of the tension within and let your mind be free from all your problems, at least for an hour or two while you workout.

You can worry later.

Instead, right now, while in the gym, focus on killing it!

I truly believe proper mindset is one of the most important weightlifting essentials to have.


Motivation and Drive

Having drive is a weightlifting essential if you want to succeed in life.

Motivation is a weightlifting essential if you need an expedient boost during low times.

I wouldn’t ever rely on motivation.

You can read my full thoughts on motivation here.

However, drive is something you can learn to build, and once put into action, a thing you can rely on.

Drive is what gets you out of bed on a day where you are sore, tired, and feeling nice and cozy.

It tells you, “Hey, are you going to waste more time sleeping or get up and kill it?”

Listen to the drive that you’ve spent so long working to achieve — it will never steer you wrong.

Motivation is what gets you to sign up at a gym in January.

Drive is what keeps you consistently hitting the gym, even when you reach seniority in life.

Learn the difference between the two, utilize them both when necessary, and realize their importance to your success.


Get After it and Make it Happen Mantras

It’s always good to have some self-talk mantras available to use as weightlifting essentials.

Whether it be something as crucial as “get after it” or “make it happen” to something as trendy and benign as “#GYMFLOW

These constant reminders to yourself will help keep you on the right path in the gym.

Mantras play a huge role into the first two mental weightlifting essentials: drive and mindset.

Your mantras can keep you positive, as well as help to reinforce your drive.

You wake up hungover, for example, and your drive is telling you to get up and hit the gym.

It’s tough, you’re making your way out from under the covers, and then you tell yourself, “MAKE IT HAPPEN!” and you do.

Think about that for a minute; think about the power of your own mind and self-talk.

It can make you or break you, so it’s best to choose your mantras very wisely.


Breathing Techniques

Utilizing deep and calm breathing techniques will also amplify workouts.

As with the rest of these on the “mental” weightlifting essentials, breathing works with and for them.

A lot of our tension builds up because we don’t breathe, or we don’t breathe right.

Try to learn how to breathe from your diaphragm, your stomach, instead of your chest and mouth.

Shallow breaths will not help you in the gym.

Your brain needs oxygen and your system needs to be put at ease through breathing.

It’s truly amazing how much this simple exercise can optimize your lifts (and life).

Don’t overlook the benefits of learning and testing out breathing techniques.

Below: Follow the Wim Hof Guided Breathing Routine (***Consult with a doctor first and make sure you are in a controlled space***)


Optional Weightlifting Essentials

Goal-Oriented Gym

Gym choice is optional, of course.

Yet, the gym you choose can play a huge role in your success.

A solid foundation in fitness, for me, revolves around three foundations: a positive mindset, proper form, and a progressdriven gym.

Without these three foundations in your fitness, you will falter somewhere along the line.

If you like to lift loud, heavy, bang the weights, use chalk, get messy, then a commercial gym geared towards beginners isn’t where you’ll find success.

You can obviously make progress, but it won’t be optimal progress.

Someone who is a beginner probably won’t feel as comfortable in a CrossFit gym where pushing yourself to the limits the entire time is the goal.

Sure, you can learn a lot and use the intensity as motivation, but that’s not how many beginners think and feel.


Build your foundation in all aspects of fitness — including your gym choice.


Workout Partners

Weightlifting Essentials - Workout Partner

Workout partners are optional, as some people don’t have others with matching schedules.

Actually, synching up schedules is the main reason workout partners don’t exist for many of us.

However, that should be no issue in achieving a killer workout.

If you aren’t someone who can stay consistent in the gym without someone else, you need to learn why working out alone is still great.

But, if you can swing a workout partner into the mix, why not?

Some people can actually have far more success when someone else is there to help drive them.

I look at workout partners as a double-edged sword: more time-consuming workouts, more potentially wasted time talking, rest periods being too long, having to be stuck on someone else’s schedule, etc.

On the good side, though: slight competition, unique routines, being held accountable, comparing results, and having some company while you kill the weights.

It all depends on how you utilize your workout partner.

Will you let them help you lose your excess fat?

Or, will you let them bring you down and slow your gym progression?

The choice is yours!



Another subset of optional weightlifting essentials would be music and videos.

A lot of us can be distracted by the music we choose to listen to or the videos we let play.

Even though it may feel awkward or “boring”, there could be a chance that uninterrupted, silent fitness will be your best bet.

I will agree that this is tough to achieve in most gyms, but you can find places of tranquility to workout in.

Go for a run, a walk, an outdoor workout — with no music, no videos, no phone — all silence.

I bet listening to your heartbeat and your mind will get you more in tune with what you can achieve and what you should strive towards in your fitness.

However, there are those of us who flourish from the benefit of “distraction” if you will.

I dislike cardio, especially going on long runs, but music usually helps me.

For me, music is a weightlifting (and fitness) essential.

I am almost unresponsive during my workout if I forget my music, my headphones die, or I’m forced to listen to whatever is playing over the gym speakers.

Again, this essential is what you make of it.

Listen to music that stimulates your time in the gym for the better.

Let the music take you to a place of intensity, while your videos are used to learn and grow.

Why not listen to a podcast or a video that educates you?

It’s better than watching a funny cat video — that requires too much constant visualization and less time spent on working out.

Be careful with your use of music and videos.



Weightlifting Essentials - Stretching

Both stretching and meditation can be weightlifting essentials because they prep you for the workout.

They also help in facilitating a “cool-down”, both mentally and physically.

Use your stretching time to meditate, and vice-versa, stretch out during any meditation periods.

You don’t have to do either of these, but they can really help in the long run.

I’d say these are two things that can help your longevity in the gym by protecting your physical state and keeping your mind focused and centered.

Give ’em both a try!


Clothing Choices


Proper clothing will help more than you know.

Loose clothing (but not baggy) can be preferable for the gym.

Leave the fitted clothing for after you finish, shower, and head out the door.

Tank tops, stringers and the like are actually purpose-driven.

Airflow, you guys.

It’s all about airflow!

Trust me — I used to wear fitted t-shirts, get soaked with sweat and would spend 5 minutes trying to remove my shirt at the end of the workout.

There are specific times when shorts are best and when sweats are best.

Maybe you prefer wearing loose-fitting track pants.

Either way, 100% cotton denim is probably the most uncomfortable clothing choice in the gym.

I’ve been in this situation when working out before or after my work shift, on a whim.

It truly sucks and I’d avoid doing any fitness in your jeans unless you have to.

Then you can think of items like hoodies, where they can increase your heat retention and make you sweat even more.

For some people, this is beneficial, while for others it is just gross feeling.

Choose your optimal workout clothes to build the best weightlifting essentials for you.

Please — no Crocs in the gym.


Free Weights vs. Machines

I would say that free weights and machines can be weightlifting essentials.

I lean more towards the use of free weights because of their versatility.

For the most part, free weights are the best way to target your muscles and utilize stabilization.

Machines sort of do 1/3 of the work for you… sort of.

You can definitely choose either or, or both!


Final Thoughts: Weightlifting Essentials are Extremely Useful

Having your weightlifting essentials figured out is important.

These tools, both mentally and physically, will be beneficial for your success.

Your growth, longevity, and happiness in fitness depend on smart choices.

Look over the essentials I’ve put forth in this article, implement some or all of them, but keep them all in the back of your mind.

You may realize that at different points in your training, you’ll want to utilize something I’ve mentioned here.

Whether it be an accessory like a weightlifting belt or even a book about fitness, these are essentials to help you be better.

Don’t underestimate the power of the resources you have around you; especially your mind.

Below: Arnold Gives His Thoughts on Success in the Gym and Life