Everyone has those few trusty pieces of training gear—that pair of compression shorts you hand-wash at home so you can wear every time you train; the kicks you can’t lift without; the wearable you juice up at the office to make sure you track every bit of your workout.
Those top-tier pieces of apparel and tech don’t just keep you accountable, they keep you firing on all cylinders to smash plateaus and create new limits.
Here are 14 pieces of training gear we’re obsessed with right now. We put them through the wringer, testing them in a rigorous session at Performix House in New York City. Meet your new gym essentials.
Sleek, seamless, and sensibly designed, Aer’s sling backpack is our favorite office-to-gym caryall. The designated shoe compartment keeps your sweaty, dirty (gym floors and city streets are pretty filthy, after all) kicks off your valuables. The front pocket lets you slip in your phone, cards, and keys for easy access, so there’s no need to rifle through all your belongings when they inevitably drop to the bottom of the bag. We also love the ballistic nylon exterior and YKK Japanese zippers; the bag feels premium and durable, ready for years of use.
Wolaco’s addressed the main pain points when it comes to compression. Their North Moore Short 9″ hits just above your knees, perfect if you want a little more coverage. The polyester and spandex are tight enough to support your body without riding up or constricting your waist and quads (no one wants to feel like a human Kielbasa). And the two water-resistant pockets are a godsend. Pop your phone in one and keys in the other if you run to the gym. They won’t jostle around or fly out mid-stride.
Training shorts of yesteryear usually meant long, slippery basketball shorts. They’re cumbersome and get in the way of your workout. Rhone’s Mako Short boast a modern cut and style with all the specs you require for an intense session. They quickly wick sweat, have a lined waistband to eradicate irritation, and have gusseted seams for greater mobility during sprints and squats.
If Metcons are a bit too stiff for your liking, the Metcon Flyknit 3 is a great alternative for heavy lifting and HIIT. Engineered yarn in the upper make the shoe more flexible, light, and breathable. Flex grooves in the forefoot—combined with a knit collar—provider greater range of motion and comfort. The firm rubber heel will keep you feeling grounded during deadlifts and the like, and you still have that added durability in the toe and sides of the shoe for rope climbs.
Whoop likes to keep its bells and whistles out of sight (i.e. in its comprehensive app). The discrete Strap 2.0 is pegged at optimizing performance by educating you on how your sleep, workouts, and overall lifestyle are straining your body. Heart rate variability clues you in if you’re primed for a grueling workout (or if you should dial back). Over time, you can see trends—like if specific workouts are getting easier for your body to handle. We like how the app asks about your habits before bed and how you feel in the morning, then gives actionable insights as to what’s hindering or helping your progress. The membership will run you $30/month with a six-month minimum commitment to begin. You’ll get the hardware, app/analytics, and the opportunity to join teams and challenges through the Whoop community.
[From $180; whoop.com]
Nike’s newly launched Tech Pack injects style into sport-ready essentials. This long-sleeve training top has a trim silhouette crafted from nylon and spandex that stays close to your body without clinging or feeling too drapey.
Everyone has a favorite iteration of the Nano. Some redesigns have flopped in ways, but the Nano 8 Flexweave hits all the right marks. For one, they’re way more flexible so you can hit the treadmill without wrecking your feet. There’s also more cushioning in the forefoot, though it doesn’t sacrifice the shoe’s stability. Like the Metcon Flyknit 3, these have a more breathable upper and flex grooves in the forefoot so the shoe doesn’t inhibit your movements.
If you like to train in full-length tights, or like to run to the gym, layer the Lululemon Surge Light Tight 28″ under your shorts. They’re lightweight, quick to dry, and have panels behind your knees for greater breathability when your workouts turn particularly sweaty. You’ll also appreciate the side pockets, stay-flat waistband, and specially designed gusset for greater range of motion.
If you like your training tees to look like a standard T-shirt, but trust they can handle a serious beating in the gym, Ten Thousand’s Essential Shirt is your best bet. It’s made from anti-bacterial-treated Pima cotton that’s said to be softer and more resistant to tearing and pilling. (Luckily that treatment doesn’t render a weird chemical smell.) We appreciate the minimalist design and color options (seven variations of grey, black, and blue), and the laser-cut vents under the arms, which help dump heat in the thick of a workout.
A sharp jacket to keep you warm on your commute to and from the gym is always a must. Hill City nails it with this zip-up fleece. The front panel is water-repellent and insulated, and the zipper comes up nice and high on the neck, so you can pop on the hood and shield yourself from light rain.
Nab a water bottle you can refill all day at the office, gym, and home. S’Well’s 17-oz Current bottle is the perfect size for stashing in a backpack. The stainless steel construction has three walls of insulation, so it’ll always stay free from condensation as it keeps your water cold. The new pop-top sports cap also lets you chug without splashing water all over your face.
Muscle stimulation—small electrical currents that cause your muscle fibers to contract—was typically only used in physical therapy, but now athletes are using it to prime their bodies for a workout, hasten recovery, and, yes, help heal injuries. PowerDot 2.0 is one of the most intuitive devices on the market. It magnetically connects to the electrode pads, making it much easier to attach to your shoulders and back. The app shows proper electrode placement, taking all the guesswork out of the equation. You can choose from active/light/extended recovery, massage, and warmup/potentiation programs.
[From $199; powerdot.com]
There are two main percussive therapy devices on the market made by Theragun and Hyperice. Theragun was first to introduce these handheld massage guns. Their new version, G2PRO, is quieter than the first (which many complained sounded like a jackhammer) and lets you adjust the angle for greater ease of use when you’re massaging your own body—but it’s still a steep price point: $599. Hyperice’s Hypervolt is a bit more affordable and has four head attachments and three speeds to break up knots, alleviate stiffness, and improve warmups and cool downs.
If you want your tracker to fit a bit more seamlessly into your day-to-day life, there’s no denying the popularity and functionality of Apple Watch. The partnership with Nike, however, gives you greater training perks. Aside from themed watch faces, Nike Run Club app is pre-installed and accessible with the touch of a button so you can track your runs and view your workout history instantaneously. You can also track HIIT sessions, yoga, rowing, swimming, cycling, and more. We recommend the Sport Loop. It’s more comfortable for all-day wear, especially when you start to sweat, and it’s way easier to get on and off.
[From $399; apple.com]