Do you want to maximize muscle growth during your bodybuilding workouts? External resistance is still the foundation of building muscle, but the right piece of equipment can help you achieve your goals faster. Here’s our recommendations for the best bodybuilding equipment and fitness gear.
Blood Flow Restriction Bands
If you watched the Netflix documentary, Ronnie Coleman: The King, you might have walked away from that believing you need to squat 800 pounds to grow. While studies show that heavy load training is superior for building muscle strength, there might be a better solution for increasing muscle size.
Blood flow restriction training (BFR) focuses on using light weights while limiting the circulation of the working muscle. BFR has been scientifically proven to promote hypertrophy (muscle growth) without the high impact that is common with heavy load training.
In fact, some studies suggest that using 10% to 30% of your 1RM with BFR is comparable to the results you would achieve using 80% of your 1RM with traditional weightlifting. 
Blood flow restriction bands are specially designed to limit blood circulation while promoting your goals of muscle growth safely and effectively.
Safe to say that dumbbells and barbells are probably the first thing that come to mind when you think of bodybuilding essentials. But resistance bands can also play an important role in your muscle building journey.
Resistance bands are an excellent burnout tool when you want to perform those final sets that bring your muscle to absolute failure.
What’s more, resistance bands can add a unique stability and endurance challenge to exercises you’ve become comfortable with. The best example of this is the resistance band barbell back squat.
Resistance bands also make an ideal pairing tool with blood flow restriction bands.
As mentioned above, BFR training requires a fraction of your normal one-repetition maximum – usually around 10% to 30%. Resistance bands fit that bill. You can pair resistance bands with your BFR bands to maximize your muscle size gains while maintaining a low impact on connective tissue and joints.
A squat pad can save your neck… literally. Ergonomically designed to allow for even weight distribution across the shoulders, a squat pad is going to be your best friend during heavy lifting days.
Squat pads are necessary for two key reasons:
First, squat pads protect the bone and sensitive tissue on back of your neck. Although the proper form of a squat puts the barbell across your traps, we’ve all had those “whoops” moments where the barbell slips. A squat pad can prevent the barbell from doing damage.
Second, squat pads can relieve neck pressure from a loaded barbell. This allows you to focus on your form and execution.
You can also use the squat pad as a hip pad for exercises that require placing weight across your lap such as the bridge.
Bodybuilding can put a lot of strain on our knees, especially if you’re using more than 80% of your one-repetition maximum on a regular basis during squats, step-ups, and lunges. Knee sleeves can be a valuable addition to your workout gear.
Knee sleeves are a form of compression material. When you put them on, you’ll immediately notice there is a tightness to them, but it’s not uncomfortable. This compression helps to increase blood flow. As a result, your knees will warm up faster, preparing you for the workload to follow.
If you currently have knee pain, knee sleeves can help to alleviate swelling and knee pain, allowing you to get through an entire workout.
Even if your focus is on light weight and blood flow restriction training, it’s useful to go through a periodized format of weightlifting. Endurance, hypertrophy, strength, and power are all goals that you can cycle through to promote your ultimate goal: building more muscle.
Lifting straps will be a useful piece of fitness equipment during those weeks you’re focusing on increasing strength and power.
Weightlifting straps allow you to reach your repetition goals during notoriously heavy and difficult exercises: squats, deadlifts, rows, shrugs. In other words, all exercises where your grip might fail before the working muscle groups.
Alpha Grips (Thick Grips)
Thick bar training is pretty much what you’re thinking. This is when you use a barbell that is uniquely designed to be thicker than the traditional Olympic barbell.
The benefits of thick bar training include improved grip strength, increased forearm and bicep size, and improvements in overall upper body performance.
Problem is that a thicker barbell can be a hit to your wallet. Luckily, there’s a way to get the same benefits as thick bar training at a fraction of the cost of a thicker barbell: alpha grips.
Also known as thick grips, alpha grips allow you to convert any barbell or dumbbell into a piece of thick grip equipment.
Waist Trimmer Belt
Whether you want to step on the bodybuilding stage or look good for summer, leaning out will eventually be on your to-do list. In lieu of taking your chances with diuretics, use a waist trimmer belt.
A waist trimmer belt promotes weight loss to your abdominal area, helping you ditch the love handles and lower back fat. But you can also use it on other trouble areas as well including your arms and legs.
We recommend using the waist trimmer belt as a part of your workout program. Research shows that warming up an area and then exercising that muscle group can promote a higher level of fat burning.
You can read more about it in our article on spot reduction.
What Fitness Equipment Do You Use in the Gym?
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Loenneke JP, Abe T, Wilson JM, Ugrinowitsch C, Bemben MG. Blood flow restriction: how does it work?. Front Physiol. 2012;3:392. Published 2012 Oct 4. doi:10.3389/fphys.2012.00392.