Fitness can be (made) very complex.
There are a dizzying array or various pieces of equipment that you can purchase, or that you’ll see in most commercial gyms.
Whether it’s big pieces, like treadmills or ellipticals, all the way down to small stuff like resistance bands and foam rollers, it gets confusing.
This is yet another reason that Starting Strength is (IMO) the best model. It’s simple. Sometimes mind-numbingly simple.
There is rarely a need for obscure pieces of equipment other than in special cases.
You need a squat/power rack, a bar and a few hundred pounds of plates.
But most any gym should have that, so we’re going to focus on the few things that you need personally and why.
Please note that there are affiliate links in some recommendations below. It doesn’t cost you any extra and helps me defray the costs of this website if you purchase through those links. Thank you!
1) A Notebook
Yes, there’s a Starting Strength app you should use. Yes, you could use something like Evernote or another program on your phone to track your workouts, but there’s nothing like a good, old fashioned, analog notebook.
This thing will be your historical record of all your workouts. You’ll always be able to flip back a few pages and see where you were a few weeks or months ago and be able to see what kind of progress you’re making. It’s far less complicated than scrolling or trying to open up an old file on your phone. Want to know what you squatted 8 months ago? Just flip back to that page.
We’ll talk about this more another time, but the notebook helps keep you on track. You don’t want to wander into the gym and not know what you’re doing next time. Starting Strength programming is pretty darn easy initially, so you can write out your next workout before you even leave the gym.
So just go to the store of your choice and spend $.99 to get a real notebook.
Related: Bay Strength – Training Log 101
2) Proper Weightlifting Shoes
This is something you are unlikely to see in most gyms that you go to. I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve seen in my local gyms with weightlifting shoes.
But these are very important for your lifts.
These shoes do a couple of things for you:
- They provide a solid platform from which to perform your lifts
When you start squatting heavier weights, you don’t want to be using shoes that deform under the load. It’s a little like standing on a padded floor or a mattress. Squatting in running shoes makes you less stable, because the shoes aren’t providing a solid base of support under heavy loads.
- The slightly raised heel puts you at a beneficial angle
Tilting you slightly forward helps keep you balanced over the middle of your foot, which is critical for efficiency in the majority of the lifts. Now, we’re not talking anything extreme here, just 1/2″ to 3/4″ in height. You’ll barely notice it when walking around the gym, but the benefits are big enough that it’s recommended you have these shoes from Day 1 of the program.
This is definitely more of an expense than the notebook, but look at it as an investment in your health. In addition, you should really only wear these shoes at the gym (as in, you change into them after you get to the gym), so they should last considerably longer than your typical pair of shoes.
They range in price from around $80-$200+. Here are a couple of options:
A) Adidas Adipower – These seemed to be the most common and most recommended by the staff coaches at the seminar that I attended. They go on sale periodically, but run somewhere around $120-$150 (depending on the size, color, etc).
B) Inov8 Fastlift – I bought these initially because they were cheaper than the Adidas (price varies wildly on Amazon!). They are more geared toward Crossfit style lifting where you might need to do something silly like 1,000 snatches and then sprint somewhere, but they still have a solid heel and will absolutely get the job done. I’ve used them for 7 months now.
Nike and a few other brands also make lifting shoes that are perfectly suitable as well.
Another good place to look is Rogue Fitness.
3) A Weightlifting Belt
Another very important piece of gear, albeit one that is surrounded by loads of misinformation.
I’ll lift a quote from an article by Starting Strength Coach Niki Sims, about the use of the belt (note that it is covered quite a bit in the Blue Book as well):
a belt protects the spine by increasing the pressure of the abdomen with a harder abdominal contraction provided by the tactile feedback of the belt to the abs.
A belt is NOT something that allows your abs a break, in fact, it is quite the opposite. The myth that using a belt will make your “core” (forgive me for using that word) weaker is only true when the wearer fails to create an abdominal contraction under load.
Many people think that the belt somehow helps you “cheat” and be able to lift more weight. Not true.
As mentioned above, it protects your spine and actually makes your abs work harder.
She also mentions that unless you have existing back problems, you probably don’t need a belt until the weights start getting heavier.
I’ve been using the Inzer Single Prong, 10mm Forever Belt since I started:
I’m also interested in the lever style belt:
I have a 3.5″ Best Belt as well, but it took over two months to receive because they make them all by hand.
Another suitable option that is slightly cheaper and faster to your door is the Rogue Ohio Belt:
The width of the belt is going to depend largely on the length of your torso and your height. Most people squat in a 4″ belt, but that can be too big to deadlift in. If you can, try different sizes out.
Conclusion and a Bonus Item
So those are the only things you really need to get started on the program, and the belt may not even be necessary from Day 1.
Go ahead and get your notebook and shoes so we can hit the gym and start getting you strong!
And now the bonus item…
This isn’t really optional either, but I almost assume that you’ve purchased the 3rd Edition of Starting Strength already. If not, go get it now. This is the distillation of like 40 years of Rippetoe training lifters and contains the in depth reasoning that underlies the entire program. It might be better to get it directly from the Aasgaard Company at the time of this writing, because a revision will be coming out very soon, and Amazon won’t have it until all the current copies are exhausted.
Let me know if you have any questions on anything!