These are lots of little things that have really, or would have really, enhanced my lifting experience, if I had had them at the moment I first needed them. If someone had gifted me a be-ribboned little pair of plastic barbell collars back when my hands were too weak to use the mangled clips scattered around the floor of Richie’s Gym, I would have welled up with tears. If someone had had the insight, the forethought, to buy me a set of 1.25lb fractional plates I could carry in my gym bag to help my overcome my overhead press plateau? I’d be weeping on the floor.
These are also just things that we lifters run out of, or lose, on a fairly regular basis (liquid chalk, barbell collars, straps). You almost can’t have enough of some of this stuff. There are also just things that people ask me, “Which ___ do you have?” And I had no place to put those links. Until now. This is the Swole Woman Studio Guide, a.k.a. the Beastly Starter Kit, items for the lifting lad or lady on the go.1
If you are forwarding this to a gift-giver who wants to support your lifting journey, there's lots to choose from here. And if you are not-so-secretly buying for yourself, most of these are super-easy to tack on to your generously overfilled cart of goodies for others.
Toward the end are a few more expensive things, but even if your giftee already owns a version, they might really appreciate an upgrade to the fancier version (plus, most fitness equipment is VERY resellable). And if you’re buying the fancier version for yourself? You deserve it. What is better for you and has brought you more joy than lifting weights?
This is the RPE/rep calculator I use. Handy also because it can convert back and forth between RPE and reps (i.e. if you can do 7 reps at RPE 6 with 135 pounds, how much weight would RPE 8 for 7 reps be?)
Calcuplator is an app built buy one of our very own Beasties for figuring out which plates to load on the bar for any given weight. It costs 99 cents.
Liquid chalk. Regular chalk is essential for helping with your deadlift grip, but gyms frequently ban it because it is messy. Liquid chalk, however? It's every lifting girl's little secret.
Barbell collars. Unless you train at a very fancy gym, there are either no clips to keep the plates on the barbells, or there are clips that are, for reasons I've never fully understood, mangled beyond recognition. These types of self-tightening collars used to be pricey, but now they are like ten dollars. I bet if a gym put them into circulation they would be immediately broken, but it's very easy to keep your own working pair in a gym bag.
Blender bottle. These are so cheap and get so stinky and torn up on the inside, thus becoming difficult to effectively clean, that you probably deserve to lovingly recycle yours and get a fresh one. Also, you're allowed to have multiples! They stack! You don't have to wash the same one by hand over and over!
Foam roller. I'd be so surprised if you don't own a foam roller by now, but if not, here is a reminder that at some point you thought owning one would be a good idea. I also recommend a nice big softball to sit on to get at your hamstrings properly.
Lifting straps. I never use these for deadlifts and you can never really see them in my videos, but I use them regularly for high-rep sets of heavy rows and ESPECIALLY my beloved RDLs (kickstand and regular). I have these, but there's no real need to spend this much money on them.
A pop socket that looks like a weight lifting plate. Can potentially also double as a tripod!
A cute case cover for their Airpods. I'm in love with this one that looks like chili cheese Fritos.
Fractional plates. When I started lifting, the smallest plates my gym had were 5lbs each, which meant I could only make ten-pound jumps in my lifts. In retrospect, that was pretty ridiculous. If I'd had a set of 2.5lb plates, or even better, two sets of 1.25lb plates, I could have kept them in my bag easily and blasted through my early linear progression days. And THAT is what small weights are really for.
Resistance bands. Theraband, a favorite brand of physical therapists, makes loop-style resistance bands, she of so many booty exercises. Will these give you a huge butt? No. But do I use them for my own exercises, including clamshells, crab walks,, glute bridges, and so forth? You betcha.
Smartphone tripod. A core part of strength training is checking on your form by taking video of yourself, and I've made a phone tripod out of everything possible—shoes, plates, water bottles, protein shakers, socks. I literally do this for a living and I could always use a better tripod. Give your favorite lifter the gift of a good tripod.
Water bottle. If you are like me, you have a lot of shitty water bottles but no really nice water bottle. My daily driver is an absurdly large 40oz Hydroflask, and I would suggest you get a more reasonable size. 20-ish oz is probably good, plus it will force you to stand up more often and go get water.
A good notebook (Composition notebook, Paperage, Leuchtterm). I’m an absolutely massive proponent of recording your training sessions; it’s barely possible to understand or enjoy lifting without it. I actually use all of these types of notebooks for different things, and my preferred lifting notebook is a cheap composition book that can take a beating. But some like to treat themselves to something a little fancier, and who am I to stand in their way?
LIFTOFF: Couch to Barbell. I'd say more except the website will tell you everything you need to know.
A pull-up bar. I own this specific pull-up bar, and it’s great. It’s useful not only or doing pull-ups, but can be turned into an anchor for doing lat pulldowns or standing straight-arm pulldowns when you can’t make it to the gym.
Superbands. People frequently ask me which superbands I use for doing banded pull-ups and the like. I have Draper Strength ones, but Theraband is also a trustworthy brand that, in my experience, most PTs use. If you or your lifting friend have cheapy ones, they sometimes tend to get crusty, sticky, or peel-y with time; new ones are always welcome.
Bumper plates. This is a little known fact, but learning to do deadlifts is very tricky before the time you are able to use full-size, 135lb plates, because the bar is not at the right height (and it’s tricky to warm up to a weight around that, because you have to load 65, 85, 115lbs on the bar using only little plates). This is where some light and sturdy 10lb bumper plates come in suuuper-handy. In my perfect vision, a kindly gym staff would either store these for you or you could keep them in your car. There are a few different brands, including these, which are $99 for a pair but only $30 each if you buy them separately, for some reason.
A bougie supplement. I bought some of this preworkout for myself recently, because the packaging is cute and it's overpriced but you know what? I do have to look at it every day. And the gummy peach ring flavor was in fact very good. It would be dumb to continually buy this for myself, but it makes a nice treat from a supportive friend. There is also bougie protein powder.
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ (but, you know, good stuff)
Tracksmith Twilight split shorts. These are the shorts people always ask me about, because I'm always wearing them when I lift. I know they are expensive for light little shorts, but I own exactly two pairs and have worn them near constantly over two years, and they've held up perfectly.
Lifting shoes. I have worn Chuck Taylor All Stars since I was knee high to a grasshopper. When they wear out, I buy a new pair. Simple as. You can wear any similar flat-soled shoe, such as Vans. Do NOT wear running sneakers. If you must, lift barefoot.
Superfresh Baggies sweatpants. These are the other sweatpants I am always wearing (and they are on the cover of LIFTOFF!). I love them, but the brand does sort of arcane-to-me streetwear-style drops, meaning they don't keep running stock, but do limited releases of different colorways. If you want to get on top of this, the best way is to follow their Instagram for updates.
A subscription to the only newsletter than many, many people can stand to read about health and fitness stuff. Hello :) Unfortunately there is no easy way to do this through my platform, but I feel sure you can find a classy way to tuck some money into your favorite would-be lifter's pocket with a card and let them handle the signup part.
A lever belt. I actually have not one, but two of these. They are easily resellable and even though I fluctuate up and down about ten pounds, I've only had to adjust the lever by taking out the screws a handful of times in several years. These are way, way better than prong belts.
Adjustable dumbbells. The adjustable dumbbells of choice of the Beasties Discord are the Bowflex Selecttech 552 dumbbells and the Powerblock Sport 50. Yes, they are wildly expensive. Look for a used pair, in my opinion, or assuage your price guilt by telling yourself they are cheaper than... [does quick mental math] seven to nine years of a Planet Fitness membership. You can always resell your own.
Knee sleeves. I've never had any sleeves other than the SBD ones, in part because few other sleeves are as widely federation-approved. The A7 brand sleeves are a recent exception; they even have IPF approval.
Squat shoes. I have the Nike Romaleos 2. These come in all shapes and sizes so this is more of an ideological suggestion than a specific product rec, however, they are super-useful and last forever. I've had my pair for like five years now.
What subscribers will be receiving this week: A reader asked what they’re supposed to do if they really, truly cannot get attached to exercise, which means it’s time to excavate the psyche of the lucky people for whom “motivation to work out” seems to come so easy.
Usually, I promise links, but I think frankly that gift guide is plenty to keep you for your holiday weekend.
If you ate a lot of food yesterday and have never tried this, and if you’re not too hung over, I swear, go to the gym today. You will feel a power you’ve never felt from all the carbs.
I love you, thank you for reading, let’s go—
Some of these are affiliate links from which I may earn commission. Frankly, almost all of them were like, 50 cents; I am unsure why I bothered with this. ↩