The closest thing that I have as a "training crutch" is my gym bag. I find it very difficult to train without it. My gym bag is more than just a means of transporting workout clothes and a belt to and from the gym. It is a collection of tools and implements that I have at my disposal for use in getting the most out of my training sessions.
Even when I am training at home I still pack the bag and have it with me. Last year I was shopping for a new training bag having worn out the previous one when I came across a heavy duty tool bag at Lowes. The AWP construction bag is a heavy- duty tool bag that is used by construction workers, service technicians and mechanics. It was the perfect bag for me for me and at a cost of less than 30.00 which is about fifty dollars less than most upscale gym bags.
My workout begins the night before when I am packing my bag. I review my last training session, outline tomorrow's training session and then begin packing the bag with whatever I might need for the workout. This process normally takes about 5-7 minutes, but during this time, I get a clear mental picture of what I want to happen in the upcoming workout. Once this is done and my bag is packed, I can put the workout out of my mind until I am on the way to the gym. I had a teacher in high school, who was also the athletic director who used to tell me that when there was a competition at night following a school day that he could always tell which athletes were going to perform well. They were the ones who were relaxed, calm and were able to focus on their school work during the day. The athletes who were nervous, fidgety and were talking about and dwelling on the big game that night tended to have poor performances. I find this to be true about lifting as well. Spending your entire day dwelling on the evening workout will use up a lot of nervous energy as well as kill your productivity and focus for whatever you are doing. Here are just some of the things that I might pack in my gym bag for a workout:
Belt, which I use for weighted dips and chin shrugs
Chalk/Resin in a colored ziplock bag: resin works just as well as chalk and it much easier to conceal, but I have to admit that there is something unique about chalking up for a big lift. If you training in a gym that does not allow chalk you can do one of two things (1) Get permission in writing from the manager BEFORE you join the gym (2) ignore the rule, wear a white shirt, be discreet and be sure to clean up your mess. I was talking with a guy last week who was complaining because was thrown out of his gym for using chalk. I have seen this guy train-he uses about one block of chalk per week and spreads it all over himself, the bar, the equipment, and the floor. I would throw him out too. If you get caught using the chalk, just say "this is not chalk" this is magnesium carbonate. This will at least buy you some time to hide your bag of chalk.
Vice Grips/Allen Wrench: used for loosening or tightening collars, J hooks, etc.
Towels, I normally have 2 small towels, one for myself and one to wipe up equipment
Athletic tape: handy for wrapping wrists, fingers, etc.
Shoelaces: I like a tight shoe when lifting, particularly when doing squats.
Handles: I have a couple of custom made cable handles that I like to use from time to time. They fit my hands much better than a generic version.
Lifting straps: I use these for power shrugs and also for front squats
Extra cable with carbine clips: I use a cable that is designed to be a bicycle lock. This comes in handy when you encounter broken cables or simply need some extra cable length.
Tape measure: a small steel tape measure used to measure heights of power rack pins, etc.
Nail clippers: a torn fingernail can be a real distraction during a workout. They also can be used to trim calluses.
Analgesic: Though most analgesics do not have a whole lot of therapeutic value, they do provide a certain amount of heat and increased blood flow to the muscle. I prefer a brand called Sombra, which we also use in our clinic
Bands: I have several surgical tubing bands that I use both for stretching and to add some difficulty to some exercises.
Stopwatch: I will use a stopwatch when doing rest-pause training and also certain interval training where I need to measure the precise amount of time between sets.
Fractional Plates: It is rare for most gyms to have any less than 2.5lbs plates. I carry a pair of 1.25lbers that are spray painted yellow to avoid any confusion that they might belong to the gym.
Grippers: Ironmind's "Captains of Crush"
Collars: Whoever invented the small clip-on collars should be put in prison for life.
I am amazed that so many gyms carry them as their only collar safety device. I carry a set of Quicklee collars, which I also have engraved with my name and phone number.
Chemical ice pack: handy for immediate first aid on a pulled muscle, etc
Notepad and Pen: to record the sets, reps and notes of each training session
Travel size Windex/Squeegee: Used to clean the mirror so I can visually check separation and vascularity of my upper pectorals ( just kidding)
Always be prepared and always be well equipped.