Since joining the military nearly two decades ago, I've always made it a priority to live an active lifestyle. The only problem is, I have slight A.D.D., so my priorities seem to jump from one feat to another.
As of writing this, I've competed in bodybuilding and men's physique, powerlifting, ran over a dozen marathons including an ultra marathon, three ironmans, scaled over half of the highest peaks in the world, many obstacle course races, and a whole host of other randomness.
I don't say this to brag, but when it comes to gear, I've tried just about any and everything that I could to give me a slight edge.
As of now, my passion is in physique sports, primarily bodybuilding, which was my first passion so long ago.
Here is a compilation of gear that I find both very useful and cost-effective to help you accomplish your goals quicker and more efficiently.
If you're looking for an all-around cross-trainer shoe to wear to the gym or go on a walk, the New Balance minimus is the perfect option that delivers a snug fit, but also works for those with wider feet.
For a shoe with reliable traction, not too much padding, and great to wear at the gym, the minimus is perfect.
I've been wearing the New Balance minimus shoes since the very first version released almost ten years ago.
I was particularly fond of the very minimal footwear when Vibram Five Fingers came out but was looking for an alternative that looked a little more aesthetically pleasing. New Balance then released their minimus shoe WITH the sole from Vibram, and I was instantly hooked.
Your feet were meant to move, be functional, and become strong enough to meet your daily demands. If you're looking for a shoe that doesn't feel like your trapped and have a pillow wrapped around it, give these a try.
What's even better is that if you have an Amazon prime account, you can try these and other shoes for free with Prime Wardrobe and only pay if you like them and want to keep it.
For any serious lifter, whether bodybuilding or Olympic lifting, a great lifting shoe is essential.
Whether you're an Olympic lifter looking to hit some snatches and cleans, or a bodybuilder looking to develop your quads to its max potential, grab a pair of lifting shoes, and you'll wonder why you didn't grab one sooner.
Lifting shoes allow you to have greater dorsiflexion at the bottom of the squat position due to the raised heel. This will enable lifters to achieve greater and (in my opinion) safer depth on leg movements.
For Olympic lifting, these shoes are a no brainer, but for bodybuilders looking to target the quads, you'll never leave the house without them.
I use these shoes for squats, hack squats, lunges, and even the leg press for maximum quad stimulation and depth.
When looking for a running shoe, I want it to meet specific criteria:
- Roomy toebox
- Secure ankle and midfoot
Topo shoes are shaped like your feet, what I think running shoes are supposed to do, but funny enough, most aren't.
As you're on your feet all day, especially if you're running, not only do your feet swell, but your toes need room to spread and splay… not be bunched up.
When I tried my first Topo running shoe, I fell in love immediately. You'll appreciate Topo even more if you have wide feet like me and always fail to find one that's comfortable enough to wear and run in.
Funny enough, I ended up learning that Topo was founded by former CEO of Vibram Tony Post, so it's no wonder why I enjoy all of this brands shoes.
They just get it.
For anyone looking to add in a home gym, save yourself the trouble of buying multiple pairs of dumbbells. The Bowflex adjustable dumbbells are perfect for those looking to save space.
The dumbbells adjust between 5 and 90 lbs depending on the model you get, and all you have to do is twist a dial.
I was skeptical at first when I made the purchase (I jumped on these during a Black Friday sale), but when I got them, I couldn't imagine using anything else.
The dumbbells are comfortable to use, well made, and easily adjustable.
For those that are more into bodyweight training, or just looking to add in bodyweight exercises in addition to weights, the door gym is a perfect alternative.
The door gym easily fits on almost all doors and can be used for pull-ups, push-ups, and even as a foot anchor for sit-ups.
I'll even bring my door gym with me on vacation or road trips as an easy way to get in a workout in the comfort of my room.
Everyone loves to workout their abs/core, and while you can't spot reduce your tummy with endless crunches to see that six-pack (only diet will get that done), the ab wheel is an excellent tool with a lot of function and versatility.
Having a strong core is not only pleasant to look at, but makes other activities more comfortable to do, such as helping with lower back pain, improving posture, and helping with any sport.
The ab wheel is my choice when it comes to working the core since I can use it for various angles, with a weight vest, and can pack it for travel.
Kettlebells can range in weight and offer a lot of versatility when it comes to both functional fitness and putting on muscle. Kettlebells provide a complete full-body workout you can do almost anywhere and with no other equipment.
If you're new to kettlebell training, I would recommend picking up a video or book and look no further then the “godfather” of kettlebell training Pavel Tsatsouline.
I would also recommend either Dragon Door or Onnit Kettlebells due to their build quality. I've had kettlebells in the past that broke on me, but never again.
Dragon Door is basically the originators of the modern-day kettlebells, but Onnit offers quality ones as well at a bit cheaper price point.
Purchase Enter The Kettle Bell Book | Video
If you're looking to add in either dumbbells or a barbell and some weights, you're next best bet is to accompany that with an adjustable bench.
An adjustable bench will allow you to perform a myriad of exercises that target your chest, back, legs, and even abs.
Olympic weight lifting set
An Olympic weight lifting set is a must-have if you have any serious goals when it comes to Olympic lifting or bodybuilding.
An Olympic weight lifting set is essential and will allow you to perform a wide range of exercises from squats, bench presses, to rows.
An Olympic weight set is just a standard 45 lb weightlifting bar, some clips to hold on the weights, and the weights itself.
Now we're stepping your home gym up into what I would consider another essential piece of equipment. If I were to choose three pieces of equipment, it would most certainly be a power rack, an Olympic set, and a bench.
With those three pieces of equipment alone, I can work out just about any and everything.
A power rack will serve as a place to hold your Olympic weight set for squats, bench press, and may even come with attachments to add things like cables or a pull-up bar.
The quality and price of power racks have come a long way since my first home gym, and they even make ones that fold flat against the wall to save on room.
If you have a home gym, a mat will be there to protect your floor from wear and tear.
If you happen to do CrossFit or other high-intensity exercises, these mats will be a nice soft cushion for you to plop on when you've thoroughly exhausted yourselves.
From soaking up sweat and keeping your hair up to block out the sun, a running cap is a must in my racing tool kit.
A great cap that provides UV protection, allows ventilation (vital for heavy sweaters like me), and lightweight are what I base my requirements on.
Heart rate monitor & GPS
For any serious runner, tracking and monitoring your heart rate are essential tools to take your progress further.
After all, what gets measured gets managed.
If you're looking for a great way to track your heart rate and your mileage, a great running watch is a valuable asset.
Whether you have a pre, intra, or post-workout shake, a shaker cup comes quite handy. Simply pour water and your powdered supplement in the bottle and shake it up, then rinse it out for easy cleanup.
I like the insulated blender bottle since it keeps my drinks cold, reduces my plastic use, and rinses out much easier.
It also looks pretty slick.
Captain of Crush Grips
Captains of Crush are the originators of the heavy-duty hand grips! If you're interested in strengthening your grip or having massive forearms, give these a try.
Captains of Crush grips come in a variety of strengths.
IPR Hip Thrust Pad
If you're interested in building up a nice behind (who isn't), then as the saying goes, the hip thrust is a must.
The only problem with hip thrusts is they're not that comfortable since you have to rest a bar across your pelvis/hips.
While you can use a leg extension or leg curl machine to do hip thrusts, your best bet is either the smith machine or a barbell. A hip thrust past is the only way you're going to be able to do hip thrusts efficiently and without pain.
I've tried out a few hip thrust pads, and the one from IPR has been the best so far.
IPR press down cable
I first bought this attachment after breaking my finger and needing a way to do a few exercises without having to grip a bar or rope with my hands. With this attachment, you can effectively take your grip out of the equation and put more stress on the actual muscle you're trying to work.
I use this attachment for tricep press downs (tricep), face pulls (rear delts), and even cable crunches (abs), among many other uses.
If you're familiar with Versa grips, these offer the same support without the added cost. Weight grips/straps allow you to hold more weight without your grip being the limiting factor.
Straps and grips are perfect for deadlifts, pull-ups, and a variety of other pulling/back exercises.
I prefer these grips over straps as they place a more even weight distribution across my wrist, much quicker to use, and more sturdy than regular straps.
If you're old school and prefer the simple lifting strap, here are the ones I used to use before I made the switch.
And there you have it, folks, these are the products I would highly recommend to enhance your training without breaking the bank.
If you have any questions about other gear recommendations, don't hesitate to reach out and shoot me an email.
For more recommendations, including my favorite books and scientifically-based supplements to help you on your keto journey, check out my recommended page.