Muscle for life

The Best Workout Equipment

The Best Workout Equipment

Although you don’t need a bunch of “stuff” to work out, here is a list of what I think is the best workout equipment.


Crappy workout equipment is frustrating–gloves that tear, straps that cut into your wrists, shoes that fall apart, headphones that sound like crap…the list goes on and on.

I’ve tried a TON of products over the years and in this article, I’ll share my recommendations for a  variety of products that I use and like.

I hope this article saves you the time, money, and headaches of having to sort through a bunch of junk to find worthwhile workout equipment.

The Best Workout Shoe:
Inov-8 Bare-XF 210

inov-8 bare xf 210

I used to work out in running shoes, and was surprised at how much of a difference a proper lifting shoe makes, particularly with squats and deadlifts.

What is a proper lifting shoe, you ask?

The most important aspect is a flat sole with a little arch and ankle support.

For almost two years I lifted in the New Balance MX20 Minimus and loved it, but I’ve found something I like even more: the INOV-8 BARE XF 210.

This is hands down the most comfortable training shoe I’ve ever worn. It weighs almost nothing, fits snugly but not too tightly, and has a perfectly flat sole and good arch support.

It’s expensive ($120), but you shouldn’t need to buy another pair for at least 1-2 years (unless you’re like me and are just kind of obsessed with trying different products).

In case you don’t want to spend that much on a shoe, two honorable mentions are the New Balance MX20 Minimus (men), the New Balance Minimu WX20 (women), and the good ol’ Chuck Taylor.

The Best Workout Pant:
Adidas Tiro 13

adidas tiro 13

“Good workout pants!?” you might be thinking. But hear me out.

Here’s what makes a bad pair of workout pants:

  • Material too thick (unnecessarily hot).
  • Crappy construction (falls apart after a couple months of squats and deadlifts).
  • Too tight in the groin area.
  • Shallow, zipperless pockets (which your iPod constantly falls out of when doing certain exercises).

And why do I love the Adidas Tiro 13 pants?

  • The material is thick and durable, but breathes.
  • The pockets are deep and zippered.
  • They actually fit well.

They’re basically perfect!

The Best Workout Headphones:


I don’t know about you, but I hate working out without my iPod.

Some people find music distracting, but I actually find that it helps me concentrate on my lifts and tune out whatever is going on in the gym. And if you’re like me, you like your music loud, which is where good headphones come in.

I’ve tried quite a few brands, including V-MODA, Sony, Bose, Sennheiser, Bang & Olufsen, and more, and I’m really impressed with the performance of the $70 Klipsch IMAGE S4 headphones.

The bass is deep and clear, the mids and highs are crisp, and they’re comfortable and durable. In my opinion, you’re getting the quality of a $150-200 pair of headphones for a fraction of the cost.

The Best Workout Glove:
Harbinger 130 Classic WristWrap Glove

Harbinger 130 Classic WristWrap GloveI know, I know, “gloves are for girls” and all that.

I used to think the same, but eventually I just got sick of tearing open calluses while deadlifting, and I gave into gloves for back day.

I went through a junk pair or two that were in tatters within a couple months, but once I found the Harbinger 130 Classic, I never looked back.

Why do I like them so much? Well…

  • They’re comfortable and extremely durable. It took a year of daily abuse before I really started to see signs of wear in the palms, but there were still no holes and no tearing.
  • The wrist straps are a big plus as it adds quite a bit of wrist stability. This is nice for heavy presses such as the Military Press, the Dumbbell Press, the Bench Press, and so forth.

You can’t go wrong here. (Oh and they’re unisex too!)

Another option for improving your grip on the bar and preventing hand damage is non-marking chalk like the Eco Ball Chalk. It’s not quite as good as actual chalk, which many gyms don’t allow, but it doesn’t make a mess.

eco ball chalk

The Best Workout Straps:
Harbinger Big Grip “No-Slip” Pro Lifting Straps

Harbinger Big Grip No-Slip Pro Lifting Straps

Like gloves, many purists scoff at the idea of using straps. And I don’t completely disagree–it’s much better to build your grip strength than rely on straps.

That said, most people will have trouble going heavy on certain exercises due to grip failure, such as the Barbell Row, Dumbbell Row, and Deadlift.

If you use straps correctly, you can build your grip strength while being able to keep the weight heavy.

Doing this is very simple: let your grip break down before you strap.

That is, try to get your first set or two without straps and let your forearms bear the brunt of the weight, which will build your grip strength. Then, if necessary, strap on your last set or two.

Now, in terms of what to actually buy, watch out for bad straps:

  • Bad straps are overly tricky to wrap tightly.
  • Bad straps loosen while lifting.
  • Bad straps cut hard into your wrists, causing severe discomfort when you’re lifting heavy.

And I recommend the Harbinger Big Grip “No-Slip” Pro Lifting Straps because you’ll have none of these problems with them. They’re just awesome.

They have a padded wrist strap with a sturdy velcro clasp, so no awkward looping of the strap to get it to hold (this is the type that will shred your wrists), and they have two thin rubber tracks running down the inside of the strap, which grip the metal tightly.

I’ve been using the same pair for nearly two years now and they have nothing more than the normal signs of wear.

Two other grip-building tips:

  • Get a Gripmaster and bang away on it every day. Simple and effective.
  • Get some T-Grips and use them for your push exercises. These really give you something to squeeze when you’re lifting, and have made a noticeable difference in my grip strength.


What do you think of my picks? Have anything to add to the list of “best workout equipment?” Lemme know in the comments below!


admin admin

I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

If you like what I have to say, sign up for my free newsletter and every week I'll send you awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious "diet-friendly" recipes, motivational musings, and more.


If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my bestselling books.

Here's a little sneak peek of what you'll learn inside...

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
  • A no-BS guide to supplements that will save you hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars each year that you would’ve wasted on products that are nothing more than bunk science and marketing hype.
  • And a whole lot more!

The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Want more awesome stuff like this? Enter your email address to get the weekly newsletter.
LIKE MUSCLE FOR LIFE? Let Google know!
Leave a Comment!
  • Knebula


    • Michael Matthews


  • Danielle

    I love my Harbinger Kickboxing gloves, so I’m going to try their lifting gloves.

    • Michael Matthews

      Nice! I think you’ll like them.

  • Jake Ruby

    Might give those headphones a try. Hard to find a balance between quality and price IMO

    • Michael Matthews

      I agree.

  • markus

    hey mike,
    i’ve been using my bose in ear phones for like 3 years and i think they work great for me. i really lile the bose sound but at a certain point i’ll be needing new ones. my question: is the klipsch sound as crisp as the bose sound? i’m very enthusiastic when it comes to great audio quality. i don’t want to buy anything worse than the bose quality.
    thanks for another great article btw

    • Pål Kristiansen

      Hey Markus. I’ll have those klipsch in ear phones and I’m not impressed. The bass is really bad. I’ll think that is strange because I love the klipsch sound. Try out a pair of DD audio dxb 1.1 killer sound and non expensive too. But the cable sucks. Twisting around and breaks. But the sound is top class.

      • Michael Matthews

        Thanks for sharing! I’m surprised you find the bass really bad–I think it’s pretty good. Interesting recommendation!

    • Michael Matthews

      It depends which Bose model you’re using. I’ve heard Bose models that sound better than the Klipsch, but they were also very expensive.

  • Ryan

    Hey Mike, I was going to ask if you would at some point add this in one of your future books because it sounds well reasoned.

    • Michael Matthews

      Probably not one of the books but the bonus reports!

      • Ryan

        Thanks, does it matter which book your purchase or it is for any book?

        • Michael Matthews

          Bigger Leaner Stronger would be the best place to start.

          • Ryan


          • Michael Matthews


  • Sébastien

    I workout in nearly the same equipment, just add Fat Gripz and gloveless wrist wraps. I gave up on lifting gloves and straps too last year, but might bring them back for back day as every time my grip fails first (or skin!)
    Thanks for the great article as always.

    • Michael Matthews

      Fat Gripz are great too and yeah, I went gloveless and strapless for a while but hated the constant skin tearing, haha.

  • Stephen

    First off thanks Mike for all of your time and effort and all that you do. I always liked looking at your recommendations and trying them out. I will say though I tried the Inov-8 shoes but I like vivobarefoot shoes a little more. If you go back into the market for another shoe I suggest them. I am using the Stealth model and they are absolutely perfect.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much Stephen. I really appreciate it.

      Ah cool I’ll check the shoes out! Thanks!

  • Patrick

    I really like the Harbinger Big Grip “No-Slip” Pro Lifting Straps. They
    provide cushioning around your wrists where the cheap straps would cut
    into your skin, or for me, create nerve damage. The only thing I don’t
    like about these straps is the Velcro seems to wear out fast. Other than that, they are a great lifting strap.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah me too. Best straps I’ve found. I haven’t had a problem with the velcro, but maybe I use them less than you…

  • Has your knee pain problems gotten to the aim where you’d favor to action? usually
    people can have knee pain or instability issues that they suppose that time
    will simply take them away. Well, which may have worked once you were younger,
    but with age and a worsening knee flinch,

  • Olivia Heartelly

    Yeah I agree we really don’t need much equipment to workout but then again for me it’s more effective if you have a complete set and right equipment. My workout would not be complete without my ipod. Make yourself a regular on gears and you’ll accelerate your metabolism while chiseling sexy muscles.

  • Pingback: best gym equipment()

  • Corey Nacin

    Jay birds wireless headphones. Probably the best sounding headphones I have ever owned. A little pricey, but the quality is awesome. The only issue I have is they drown out everything. I once was running outdoors and didn’t hear a car wreck that happened 20 yards away from me.

    • Michael Matthews

      Lol wow that’s some serious noise canceling. I’ll have to check them out.

  • Andy

    Hey Mike! I’d like to look better in the gym as I always just wear old baggy T shirts. Can you recommend some cool tshirts / shorts?

    • Michael Matthews

      Haha I really like Alternative brand shirts. Nike Dry Fit are nice too.

  • rebsnumpty

    Hi Mike, have you ever tried Olympic weightlifting shoes for squats? I find they really help me keep a good lower back posture in the hole and the increased stability feels great too.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yeah I have! Adidas Powerlift 2s. You?

      • rebsnumpty

        Nice! I just have a cheapo pair of no name brand I picked up in a sale to see how I liked them but I love what they do for me so much I’ll definitely upgrade to something swish like yours asap. As we’re talking equipment, for anybody in the UK or Europe that doesn’t know already, https://www.strengthshop.co.uk/ is THE place for all your lifting needs. I get all my bars and bumper discs etc from them. Great quality and the best prices by far. I have no affiliation with them btw – I’m a musculoskeletal physio. Thanks Mike.

        • Michael Matthews

          Oh cool well I recommend the Adidas PL 2 for sure. Thanks on the reco! I’ll pass it along to my UK peeps. 🙂

  • TheLionRegime

    Interesting. What about trainers to run in? I used to love my Adidas pair, but they were old (:'(), so I replaced with a pair of Nikes, but I think I should get a different pair?


    • Michael Matthews

      Not sure. I don’t run, I bike. I should try some running shoes out though for recommendation purposes.

  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:


    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • Matt S

    Hi Mike!
    What do you think of using the Slingshot during BLS? What I was thinking was adding one extra working set to the flat bench that is heavier and doing a single or double. Yeah, it’s more of a powerlifting thing, but I think it could help my strength increase, since my bench definitely lags behind. Would adding that be overtraining?


    • I’ve never used it but I’ve heard some people like them. No you could add some eccentric training and be okay.

  • Ivo Naves

    Last week I was almost damaging my back trying to do 100 kgs on Deadlifts.

    Then yesterday I finally traded my fancy Nike running shoes for cheaper Converse All Star, 100 kgs felt like “nothing”. Then I increased to 115 kgs, still easy, then again 120 kgs, still easy, 6 reps. With strict form. I was unable to control a grin and thinking “wtf…”.

  • Tony

    How do you deal with bad gym equipment? For example, my new gym uses barbells that don’t appear to be standardized to 45 or even 55 lbs. They seem to be all different weights with different diameters and knurling. It’s screwing up my progressive overload because I don’t know if I’m actually making progress based on the barbell that I’m using. It’s a crowded gym and the barbells get switched between stations, so it’s difficult to know if I’m using the same barbell every time.

    • Damn that’s annoying.

      I would recommend either weighing each one just so you know what the weights are.

      Or, if you can tell what kind of barbells they are, you can probably find the weights online.

  • Christos Christaki

    Hey mike. I was wondering. Adidas Adipower and Nike Romaleos are only for squads? They are not suitable for deadlifts as well?

  • Marshall Shortridge

    Hey Mike, I’m interested in getting some workout gloves, but from my understanding, the gloves that you recommend are no longer available, so I began looking at some other pairs. What would you recommend? I thought these looked like a solid option: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M0I79XG/ref=crt_ewc_img_gw_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A1HO4G0LGTWRHV

    What do you think?

    P.S. I just finished BLS, and now I’m going through the bonus report. It’s awesome! Thank you for your work!

    • Looks good! That’s great you finished the book and are starting on the Y1C 🙂

Sign in to Muscle For Life
or use your MFL Account