There are plenty of fitness trends that, well, just trend out. But others quickly show that they belonged in the lineup all along, and we were just waiting to realize it. All four of these tools have earned their keep by making plenty of aspiring strong people into the real deal. Do you have them in your gym bag or garage gym yet?
RockBand Elastic Bands
The tube-with-handles style of elastic band is rapidly becoming a thing of the past—and good riddance! Those things always flopped around too much, broke to soon, and never seemed to be the right length for anything. The increasingly popular closed-loop band, such as the RockBand, are more versatile, stronger, and easier to customize to the unique length of your limbs.
Wondering what they're good for? Where to begin. You can construct a workout on the fly—fitness models swear by these things on the road—add accommodating resistance to everything from push-ups to deadlifts, do 100 band pull-aparts every day like you read in that article one time, and learn all kinds of fancy mobility moves for the hips.
Conversely, you could also do the best three-move upper-body warm-up in existence, courtesy of Bodybuilding.com contributor and physical therapist Dr. John Rusin.
Dr. John Rusin Banded Shoulder Warm Up Giant Set
Watch the video - 1:02
The fit life is better with bands—and not those chintzy ones from the sporting goods section. Start with a couple of light RockBands, like the green or gray model, toss them in your gym bag, and you'll never look back.
Kettlebells are versatile implements that can be woven seamlessly into everything from presses to pull-overs, but of course they're better for some moves than others. And the things they're best for—and will always be best for—are swings, light deadlifts, and goblet squats.
The Kettleblock 40 by Powerblock—the company that makes those block-shaped adjustable dumbbells—is ideally suited for all three movements, allowing you to dial in the weight in 4-6 pound increments between 12 pounds and 40 pounds. You can use it as a light counterweight to hang out in the bottom of a squat to build mobility for minutes on end, or load it up to squat for reps. The handle is wide enough for two-handed swings (correcting a common flaw in fixed-weight bells), while also smooth enough to do single-handed swings without risk of a split callus.
The shape of the block makes certain movements, like presses and get-ups, uncomfortable on the forearm, so stick to fixed weights for those. Meanwhile, your lower body can get all it wants here.
Captains of Crush Grippers
Smart athletes and coaches know that the easiest way to get stronger, period is to strengthen two specific areas: the grip and the abs. How you tackle your midsection is up to you, but for the grip, there's never been an improvement over the bombproof Captains of Crush grippers.
Strength athletes of all types have been swearing by these things for ever, and there are even certifications and competitions for the true die-hards. For the rest of us, they're just great for working in reps throughout the day, or for some extra grip training—maybe alternating with abs?—on an active rest day. Either way, expect to be surprised at how tough this is.
Start with two models: one you can do for a few reps, usually either the 80-pound "Sport" model or the 100-pound "Trainer" if you're pretty strong already, and then another model you can't quite close yet. Give yourself something to aim for, and when you get it, don't be surprised if you see all types of PRs popping up right and left.
Rocktape Knee Caps
RockTape's Knee Cap is a solid entry-level knee sleeve designed to work equally well during heavy barbell lifts and unpredictable metcon routines. It's taller than most knee sleeves, which provides extra support and compression to the crucial knee-stabilizing vastus medialis muscle. That extra height also gives a little extra knee protection to your knees and shins during scrape-happy moves like deadlifts, lunges, or box jumps.
If you're a powerlifter looking for heavy-duty support on your way to the monolift, a more specialized option might be in your future. But these slender neoprene sleeves are more than up to the task of help you get maximum bang and minimally banged-up during a WOD or a squat-intensive program like Squat Every Day or Layne Norton's PH3.