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2016 Christmas – Strength Training Gift Ideas

Old Saint Rogue - Christmas Gift Ideas 2016

Welcome to my 2016 Christmas gift ideas list. Every year I try to come up with a handful of products that may help you find the perfect gift for the gym rat in your life. Even if you don’t think that any of the suggestions I make are perfect for your friend or loved one, hopefully something will at least spark an idea, and perhaps point you in the right direction.

I’m only one guy here, so if you have a suggestion that you think may be helpful to others, please use the comments section below to share that idea with us. Be patient if you include a link, as I have to manually moderate those comments. Merry Everything!

Lifting/Training Shoes

Olympic WL, powerlifting, and CrossFit shoes

There are shoes designed to optimize comfort and improve performance for just about every possible sport and physical activity that you can imagine. It should come as no surprise that there are also shoes designed to do the same for strength training. Be it Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, or CrossFit, there’s a shoe for that. Even better, there are so many different brands and styles to choose from these days that you can actually train in style as well as comfort.

So where do you buy good weight training shoes? Well there are two great online sources for training shoes. Rogue Fitness has the biggest selection of CrossFit and Olympic WL shoes around: Reebok Nanos, Nike MetCons & Romaleos, Adidas Adipowers & Powerlifts, NOBULL Trainers, and many, many more.

Rogue Fitness Training Shoes - CrossFit and Olympic WL shoes

MaxBarbell is one of the only domestic sources (if not the only source) for SABO powerlifting and deadlifting shoes. SABOs are incredible lifting shoes, and compared to what Nike, Reebok, and Adidas charge for their weightlifting shoes, SABOs will seem like the deal of the century. MaxBarbell also offers Girevoy shoes, and Wei-Rui WL shoes, which are much more affordable than the mainstream AdiPowers and Romaleos.

MAXBarbell SABO Powerlifting and Deadlifting Shoes

So if your intended gift target is still wearing a crusty pair of Chucks or a pair of running shoes to the gym, maybe hook him or her up with some real training shoes. Of course when it comes to buying training shoes as a gift, in addition to their size you’ll want to know which lifting sport they participate in, but that shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.

Spud Inc Traveling Farmer Walk Handles

Spud Inc. Traveling Farmers Walk Handles

The farmers walk continues to be one of the most beneficial and under-utilized movements available to us. The farmers walk (or farmer carry) builds muscle unbelievably fast, increases strength and performance in the big-3 lifts, and improves endurance. It’s a simple but effective exercise that does require special equipment, but because of Spud’s constant creativity with industrial nylon, you no longer need a $200 pair of steel farmers handles or an extensive heavy dumbbell collection to get them done.

Spud Inc Farmers Handles are nothing more than a pair of heavy-duty nylon straps with rubber-coated, rotating, steel handles that you load up with the weight plates that you already have. Each strap can handle having up to 300-pounds or more of steel discs loaded, and while you may not get that much weight on, they are just as compatible with bumpers. Adding access to one of the best all-around exercises for only $69 seems like a pretty sweet deal to me. You can probably even squeeze these straps into a stocking.


WOD Dice Firebreather dice set

WODDice make a fun and affordable gift that can bring an unpredictable new dynamic to a training program. Like any roll of the dice, these act as a randomizing tool, but rather than just showing numbers, the options on each of these 12-sided dice are specifically programmed around the same methodology taught during Level 1 CrossFit certification courses. Everything from the allotted time, reps, and type of movement is determined by what is rolled, creating 2 million+ possible WODs for endless new challenges.

WODDice are available in three different set options. I’ve linked to the Firebreather set, and it contains six 12-sided dice. I believe the other two are smaller; with only three dice per set. $34.99

The Gold Standard California Bar

The Gold Standard Bar by American Barbell

American Barbell has gone gaudy with their best-selling WOD bar. Simply by changing the color of the finish on the California Bar they were able to create something that is functionally identical, but looks like a completely different product. They call this new bar the Gold Standard Bar.

As you can see, the idea is to give the bar the appearance of being gold-plated. While the finish is obviously not real gold (the bar is only $300), the gold-colored zinc finish is at least slightly convincing – in the pictures anyway.

AB Gold Standard WOD Bar

Now I’m not quite sure how I feel about this garish new color (it seems so out of place on a barbell), but at least the bar performs the same as its predecessor. The Gold Standard has they same 190,000 PSI shaft, dual-marks, chrome sleeves, and industrial composite bushings. Basically for an extra $20 you can add some bling to your California bar, and to your workouts.

Oddly enough, the Gold Standard Bar is only available as a men’s 20 kg version; there is no 15 kg women’s version. I feel like that is a real missed opportunity on American Barbell’s part, but maybe they have plans for one that we don’t know about yet. We’ll see!

Rogue Stainless Steel Ohio Bar

the Stainless Steel Ohio Bar - the ultimate gift

If gold isn’t your thing and you’re looking for something a little more serious, boy do I have the thing for you.

The new Stainless Steel Ohio Bar is arguably the nicest mid-range, multi-purpose Olympic bar currently available. Not only is stainless steel the absolute best feeling and naturally secure material to use for a bar shaft (among both finished and unfinished bars), it won’t rust, fade, or chip away over time. When stainless bars are given a good knurl (this bar has a great knurl), there’s just no comparison at all, save for unfinished alloy steel – which of course rusts.

Rogue Ohio SS Bar knurl pattern

The best thing about the new SS Ohio is the price. For years we’ve been paying out the you know what for stainless steel bars. Options have been limited, and the handful of companies that even offered it have been scoring quite the margin from us. Enter Rogue with a $350 stainless Ohio Bar that is not only just nominally more expensive than the zinc and oxide finished Ohio bars, but actually has better specifications as well; higher tensile strength, better bushing system, chrome sleeves, and of course a superior knurl.

If you don’t want to spend $350 for a gift, I completely get it. I promise you this though… no one will be unhappy about getting one of these for Christmas, so your money would definitely not be wasted. If nothing else, buy one for yourself! [Side note: I’ve actually reviewed this bar, you can read that here if you’re interested.]

Childrens WOD Toys

Children's WOD toys at Rogue Fitness

I can’t decide if these WOD toys are really meant for kids, or if they’re meant to entertain the parents. Either way, they are kind of cute, and if I had a child to buy them for I probably would. They can be hard to catch in stock at Rogue, but Amazon has a pretty good selection of WOD toys as well. Also check out the selection of adorable children’s shirts! Awww! I hope this stuff really does inspire children to train when they get older.

KK Animal Face Kettlebells

Animal Face Kettlebells by KettlebellKings

Kettlebell Kings has a small collection of animal face kettlebells that could make a fun and functional gift. There are five total including a Koala (8kg), Black Panther (12kg), Wolf (16kg), Lion (24kg), and Bear (34kg). Some are are cute, a couple of them are sort of creepy, but I suppose that’s all subjective anyway.

They are a little pricey compared to standard training kettlebells, but they are a novelty of sorts, and the claim is that they are all perfectly balanced; though I can’t personally attest to that.

 Light Reading Material, Rippetoe-Style… again!

mark Rippetoe books - Starting Strength, and Practical Programming

That’s right, I stole this from last years guide because it’s worth mentioning every year! I’m always recommending Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe. I think it’s an amazing book not only for novice lifters who want to learn proper execution of the major barbell lifts and get on an easy to follow, linear program that all but guarantees immediate gains, but also for experienced lifters who want to get educated on the physics and mechanics of these lifts. Everyone should own a copy of this book.

I also wanted to re-include Rippetoe’s other best-selling book, Practical Programming for Strength Training. Where Starting Strength left off, this one takes over. This book is just as good for different reasons and it has a place right next to Starting Strength on my bookshelf. I’ve stolen the summary from Amazon:

“Practical Programming for Strength Training 3rd Edition addresses the topic of Training. It details the mechanics of the process, from the basic physiology of adaptation to the specific programs that apply these principles to novice, intermediate, and advanced lifters.”

I highly recommend both of these books. They both have perfect 5-star reviews on Amazon, and for the size of them and the amount of information they contain, they are a steal at only $20 each. Everyone should own these two books. Even if you don’t care for Mark, he’ll teach you a thing or two.

Vulcan Slim Fit Wall Mounted Rig

Vulcan Slim Fit Wall Mounted Rig for space saving garage gyms

The Vulcan Slim Fit Rig is one of the beefiest space-saving wall racks on the market. It’s constructed with 3″x3″ 11-gauge steel, can be installed either 18, 24, or 36-inches from the wall, comes in three different heights to accommodate any almost garage, and since it’s not a folding rack with hinges and moving parts, it has no real weight limitations. This rig also comes with an overhanging kipping/pull-up bar that puts plenty of space between your body and the wall, even if you go with the 18″ cross-members.

The unit comes with a pair of J-cups, and optional equipment includes a dip horn, safety spotters, and plate storage horns for storing weights on the inside of the rack. Base price is $599 which is reasonable enough, but as you fiddle with options and accessories of course the price goes up.

Slim wall racks are the way to go if you still need to park your car(s) in the garage at night. They eliminate the whole “we just don’t have the space for a rack” argument. Of course, folding racks do as well, but folding racks are loaded with limitations, and they require a more complicated installation. True, folding racks take up even less space when stored than slim rigs do, and they are neat and all that, but I just don’t take racks that have no safety options very seriously, and I doubt you do either.


Give supplements or food gift cards as a Christmas gift

Never dismiss gift cards for supplements or food as a solid gift to a weight lifter, especially if we’re talking about a young, struggling student. College kids tend to live pretty hectic lives and they eat like crap – lots of fast food and cheap ramen. Help them get all the gains they deserve with a gift card from the local supplement store, Chipotle, or even a grocery store gift card.

If you want to buy some protein powder for someone, you can almost never go wrong with Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Whey. It’s tasty, high-protein, loaded with BCAA’s, and is an isolate which makes it safe even for the lactose intolerant. It’s my favorite (Banana, if you’re curious.) Pre-workouts and creatine also make for a considerate gift as well.

Training Apparel

Buy some apparel as a gift - keep it trendy and caliente

You can almost never go wrong buying someone some t-shirts, tanks, or shorts to train in. It doesn’t even matter where you buy the shirts so long as they use high quality shirts. If you know that the gift recipient is a fan of a certain equipment manufacturer like Eleiko or Vulcan or whatever, buy them some shirts from that company. Almost all these equipment vendors sell t-shirts.

If you don’t know where to buy decent, high-quality training apparel, just go to Rogue. They have far too many American Apparel graphic tees to choose from; and loads of shorts, sweats, socks, and pretty much everything but underwear (I don’t think they have underwear anyway.) Most Rogue apparel is 3-ships-free so that helps with the shipping. You might also check out Hylete. If you are familiar with them, let me know what you think of their stuff (I’ve yet to give them a try.)

Man I am really wishing that I had some Garage Gym t-shirts right now… you could have some cool shirts, and then maybe I can buy something from my list. ;)

Need Help Picking Out a Gift?

Read this.


{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Tony December 8, 2016, 12:26 am

    This is a great list. I’ve been eyeing the farmer walk handles for a long time.

    Here are a couple of things I’d add:

    -A nice ab-roller is a good low-cost gift. Those things are awesome. The Rogue one looks great but too pricey at $60 imo. At $40 or less it’s more competitive.

    -Vulcan Alpha bumpers. Even though I never train outside, I really like the idea of being able to. Plus, everyone could use some more weight, right?

    -Strike Movement shoes (Chill Pill Transits) are stylish and gym-ready. I’d get them for travel so I could do everything in one pair of shoes and not have to worry about packing an extra pair for the gym.

    -As far as novelty kettlebells, I prefer the Onnit designs over the KK ones by a lot. I know you dig KK but the primal bells are just badass imo.

    – Garage Gym T’s! I know you’d print them on quality shirts too. Let us know when those come out.

    • jburgeson December 8, 2016, 10:47 pm

      I’m happy to report that I have ordered a bunch of blank tee’s and hoodies for comparing quality, fit and sizing accuracy, and so forth. Step 1 – check!

      And crap, I always forget about Onnit! poor Onnit haha. I’m even in town with them!

      • M December 10, 2016, 7:55 pm

        I have never bought any logo ware but might make an exception here, particularly if you make it look like we’re advertising our OWN garage gym…and it’s 100% cotton. Cotton doesn’t take silk-screening as easily but it’s a lot more comfortable to wear than poly-cotton, especially when you’re sweating, which is the plan, right?

        Spent nearly $500 at Black Widow items for Black Friday, looking for best deals on slam balls and bounceable medicine balls to fill out my collection. Not the biggest gym end-year-sales year but some useful stuff.

        • jburgeson December 11, 2016, 4:08 pm

          What did you get from Black Widow for $500?

          • m December 13, 2016, 11:53 pm

            Got the two fat bar sizes for pulling/grip and to share with landmines, three sizes of pulling handle pipe-grips, and the three-handle pulling dumbbell this time. I already have almost all their landmine stuff.

            For Christmas, I might suggest Spud knee sleeves — just noticed these and if they fit well enough the 2-ply are 0.25″ thick and are about the first I’ve seen that make sense. 15% off everything coupon going for two days here, too. (“XMAS15” Dec. 14-16).

      • Skyler December 14, 2016, 11:40 am

        Next Level t-shirts are fantastic. My all-time favorite t-shirt is the 50/50 from American Apparel. I think the AA 50/50 combo is more rugged and drapes better than the Tri-Blend from AA. This is advice from your 6’3″ friend with a long torso, so you know that I’m only recommending shirts that don’t turn into belly shirts after the first run in the dryer. Ain’t nobody got time to be hang-drying their workout t-shirts.

        • jburgeson December 14, 2016, 2:01 pm

          Yeah I dig the American Apparel 50/50 shirts, but any AA shirt is just too expensive for a small-time guy like me to be printing on. It’ll probably have to be Next Level.

          I myself am about a quarter inch shy of of 6’4″, so believe me I know how ridiculous some of the shirt sizing is. Us tall guys have waists that are small enough for a medium, but a medium is way too short – especially after that first wash and dry like you said. A large has the extra length, but looks like a parachute on athletic and slim guys. I am definitely working under the assumption here that anyone who would wear a Garage Gyms shirt is more likely to be in shape than fat, so I want to use shirts that have sizes that favor an athletic build rather than some of the more common brands that actually use more fabric in each size and have more of a pear shape to them simply because so many people are overweight.

  • M December 11, 2016, 12:35 pm

    Oh, also got to Rogue for 4 fatbells and their ab roller in “hot deals” on “five ships free” — that was decent and it’s good stuff again.

  • Sam Perkins December 19, 2016, 8:47 pm

    Do you have a recommendation of a solid weightlifting belt? Inzer is sort of the gold standard from what I’m told and a little out of my price range. I checked Rogue and they have quite a few Rogue Leather Belts that are pricy also and then they have the cheap 5 inch $20 Nylon Belt that I guess are more geared toward crossfit to give a little support but also allow for mobility?

    Check Amazon also and there are a ton of cheaper belt there, but you can never trust the reviews because many of the foreign manufacturers load up the reviews and make them all 5 star and leave fake reviews.

    Do you have a recommendation for Belt specifically for Oly Lifting? Power Lifting and maybe Crossfit Belt? My brother is really into crossfit and I was thinking about get him a belt for christmas.

    • jburgeson December 19, 2016, 9:13 pm

      Pioneer (General Leathercraft) makes great belts, and they’ve got 2″, 2.5″, 3″, 4″ and the standard 10 cm wide belts in 6.5 mm, 10 mm, and 13 mm thicknesses, including some tapered belts. Their prices are typically less than Inzer, but not as cheap as the nylon belts like those from Spud Inc, or junk on Amazon (you’re right about those reviews – I’m looking for a new laptop and am blown away at how useless the reviews really are on Amazon). It’s hard to find anything overly competitive with Inzer that is still a good belt, because Inzer prices really aren’t that bad all things considered. Leather costs what it costs, and that’s why belts from like Rogue or Vulcan don’t seem all that affordable despite not being colored suede and not having levers.

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