If we were stocking the ultimate gym bag, what fitness gear would be essential? That was the question we asked some of the top fitness experts. After all, they are the ones who test the gear, live the life, and rely on the best-of-the-best for unparalleled results. We tallied their votes, analyzed the options, and created a list of the 23 best fitness gifts. Discover the cutting-edge products and see if there’s anything you need to upgrade your performance.
Manduka yoga mat
The Manduka yoga mat is a longtime favourite of fitness expert Ashley Borden. And we can see why. The cushioning is superior meaning that wear and tear is minimal even after daily use. The added bonus: It doesn’t slip on any surface, meaning you’ll give out before you mat during your workouts.
Minimalist shoes have become increasingly popular as part of the “barefoot” movement. The Adipure is the first that was designed specifically for the gym to help you promote your body’s natural movement patterns. Give them a try and you’ll be surprised at how much of a difference they make, says eHow UK fitness adviser Martin Rooney
Breeze jacket by Colosseum
Colosseum’s Breeze running jacket combines the function of high-performance fabric and lots of ventilation, with style and a flattering silhouette, says Ashley Borden. The lightweight jacket has four drawstrings to keep air out, and the waistline visible. And while providing high-end comfort, the price is affordable, with everything in the line costing less than £70.
Simple, portable, and amazing, the Valslide is the first piece of equipment that literally can transform your home into a gym without taking up any space. “No matter where I am — gym, hotel or home — the Valslide adds difficulty to my workouts and makes sure I never miss a beat,” says Joe Dowdell, owner of Peak Performance.
The Calorie Tracker can help you reach your diet, weight loss and fitness goals by tracking your daily calories and exercise. Lose weight easily by setting your weight goals and track your calories and progress with this comprehensive online food journal containing more than 1 million food and fitness items. Features include daily calorie and nutrient goals, reminders and social support.
TRX Rip Trainer
The term “functional” training gets thrown around a lot and unfortunately is commonly misused. But if you’re an athlete or find that you only work in one or two planes of motion (that is, you never do any rotational work), the Rip Trainer is for you. The resistance cord allows you to create offset loads, build power and train balance and coordination.
The CamelBak backpack has a PABA-free water bladder that can carry up to three litres of water, plus it has a bite valve drinking tube and zippered storage for whatever else you need to carry. There are plenty of styles and sizes to choose from to suit your body frame and sport, and ensure that dehydration never slows you down.
SIGG water bottle
Forget your typical water bottle. The SIGG bottle is BPA free, and it keeps your water cold significantly better than plastic water bottles, says Craig Ballantyne, owner of Turbulence Training. Plus, it’s better than putting your lips anywhere near the fountain that Coughie McCougherson just drank from.
Core bag by Live Well 360
Meet the Core from Live Well 360. It's everything you've ever wanted in a gym bag: vented compartments, a variety of pockets, and enough space to fit your clothes and other gym essentials. Best of all, it’s durable and can handle your frequent trips to the gym.
Dumbbells and barbells are effective, but sandbags add a new element to your training. The sand shifts within the bag, forcing your muscles — including your core and small stabilisers — to work even harder. And the best part about these sandbells? They’re durable and can be used for everything from deadlifts, to slams, and even presses and throws.
The benefits of training with Fat Gripz are numerous, says eHow UK fitness adviser Jason Ferruggia. Pressing with a Fat Gripz dumbbell or barbell puts less stress on your elbows and is also easier on your shoulders. So, by using Fat Gripz in a majority of your exercises you get bigger forearms, a stronger grip and healthier elbows and shoulders. Hard to beat that.
You like massage, right? Well, foam rolling is one of the best things you can do for you body outside of visiting a masseuse — and this is much cheaper. The RumbIe Roller can help you with pain relief, increased flexibility; deeper muscle contraction and increased blood flow, says Ashley Borden. The Rumble Roller's trigger-point therapy gives deeper and more penetrating self-massage, thus getting to the muscle adhesions quicker and more effectively.
You wouldn't think that a sock could make such a difference, but the perfect footwear takes training to a whole new, comfortable level. The breathable fabric, built in arch support and ankle tabs to prevent chafing and sock slippage make Feetures the Rolls-Royce of athletic socks, says Ashley Borden.
Polar heart rate monitor
A heart rate monitor is a great way of keeping track of the intensity of your training session. If you are performing an interval training session, it will help ensure that each one of your work intervals are being performed at your desired intensity, says Joe Dowdell, owner of Peak Performance. You can also use it during your strength training sessions to monitor your recovery between sets.
Interval training, whether running, cycling or with weights, is one of the most popular forms of exercise and a quick way to blast fat. To increase the effectiveness of your training, the Gymboss timer can act as a coach, says Dowdell. Set the timer, and don’t stop till you hear the beep.
Hamilton Beach blender
What more could you ask for? It’s inexpensive, small, powerful and great for one-person portions. And the jar doubles as a travel cup, which cuts down on the cleanup.
Foam rollers are great for working out kinks, but the Gymnic Ball hits things that even the foam roller can't, says Craig Ballantyne, owner of Turbulence Training. And that can make all the difference when it comes to eliminating aches and pains. Ballantyne recommends the mini-size to work on your smaller, hard-to-reach muscles.
Jungle Gym XT
Using a barbell with your hands are interlocked in a straight line is unnatural for the body and potentially dangerous. That's why fitness adviser Jason Ferruggia recommends the majority of your exercises be done with dumbbells and body weight, saving just one or two big upper-body barbell exercises a week. Pushups, inverted rows, dips and chins are possibly the four most effective upper body exercises you can do, and they can all be done much more effectively and safely with Jungle Gym straps.
Hyperwear Hyper Vest
How do you take your body weight training, stroller walking, running, weight training, power walking, pool work, hiking or rollerblading to the next level? Throw on a weighted vest feel the challenge and burn more calories. Our favourite: The Hyperwear Hyper Vest because of its durability and comfort.
Jump Stretch bands
These bands allow you to use what's called accommodating resistance, says Tony Gentilcore. Using a chin-up for example, by adding in band(s) you receive the most "assistance" at the bottom of the lift where you are weakest, and less "assistance" at the top of the lift where your strongest. In addition, Jump Stretch bands are useful tools with other exercises as well, such as push-ups (band resisted push-ups), bicep curls, tricep press downs and x-band walks.
JC All-Purpose bands
Unlike most bands, the JC All-Purpose bands attach on a single loop, allowing you to work each arm independently. The strength of the bands range up to 200 kilos, making them a perfect fit for any person of any fitness level, says Borden. The bands are portable, durable, perfect for a variety of exercises and reasonably priced.
Lifters who keep journals are more dedicated and consistent than their non-journaling counterparts, says Bret Contreras. They also typically have a better plan and possess better program design skills. Keep a journal and jot down the date, the exercises, the load and the reps for each workout. You can keep track of personal records as well.
Few exercises are as timeless — and effective — as jumping rope. And if you’re looking for the best-in-class you can’t beat a Buddy Lee jump rope, says Ashley Borden. The smooth rotation of the swivel bearings handles and lightweight speed of the PVC rope make jumping rope a dream. Plus, the ropes are adjustable for all heights and the parts are replaceable.