Off Topic

Gym bag essentials!


Q: Defranco – my dream is to train at your gym but it looks like that ain’t happening do to a lack of money and i live about 4 hours away..i would seriously chop off my pinkie to train with you guys, you have no idea!! This leads me to my question- a couple of days ago i read an article on elitefts about things you should carry in your gym bag. my question to you is what should i have in MY gym bag if i want to have a Defrancos gym kinda workout at my local (shitty) gym?? any suggestions?? -Frank

A: Frank,

I feel bad that you don’t have enough money and you live too far away to train with us, so I’m going to help you out by taking you up on your offer! Here’s what I’m going to do for you…

Fed-Ex one of your pinkies to: 750 Braen Ave., Wyckoff, NJ 07481. When I receive your pinkie, I’ll know you’re really serious about training with us, so I’ll shoot you an email so we can schedule your sessions…

At the end of the 1985 season, Ronnie Lott faced a tough decision:
A) He could miss some playing time to have a complicated surgery that would restore full function of a mangled pinkie he suffered in a game against the Cowboys.
B) Have a portion of his pinkie amputated and play immediately.
He chose “B“.


(And for those of you who are shaking your head right now and saying, “No shit you’re kidding, Joe. You didn’t actually have to spell it out!” — YES I DID have to ‘spell it out’! TRUST ME on this one; nobody knows my audience better than I do!)

Ok Frank, time to get serious…

Before I tell you how to fill your gym bag, I want to make one thing very clear: There is NO piece of equipment that “defines” my gym or the style of training that takes place at my gym! In other words, buying a pair of chains doesn’t mean you “do the same stuff that DeFranco’s does”! (My biggest pet peeve is when kids say to me, “Hey coach, we do your exact same program at my school…we ‘do’ chains!”) Anyway, the foundation (equipment-wise) for any program should be your body, barbells and dumbells! We proved this with our wildly popular “BUILT LIKE A BADASS” program! The Badass Program is one (of many) programs that produce unreal results without the help of any “special” equipment. With that being said, utilizing “special” equipment is a great way to add variety to your program, while helping you break through sticking points! So without further ado, here are a bunch of “hidden gems” that are small enough to fit in your gym bag, yet they help produce BIG results…DeFranco-style!!!

A look inside Joe D’s gym bag…

#1) LACROSSE BALL – Every athlete should have a lacrosse ball in their gym bag! Period. The lacrosse ball should go hand-in-hand with foam rolling before every workout in order to improve the “quality” of soft tissue, decrease pain associated with “trigger points” and increase flexibility. Personally speaking – with the complications from all my back surgeries – stretching actually hurts me unless I “soften” the tissue first by foam rolling or performing some “self” myofascial release movements with the lax ball. I get MUCH more out of my stretches and mobility drills if I perform them AFTER foam rolling and/or using the lax ball. Simply put, using the lax ball and foam roller is the ‘warm-up’ before my warm-up! Most gyms now have foam rollers available, so I keep a lax ball in my gym bag because it takes up less space and they’re “less available” when traveling, etc.


#2) TRAVEL STICK – The “stick” is another “must-have” for serious athletes and workout warriors. It can be used pre-workout to help loosen muscles, improve tissue quality and decrease pain; it can also be used as a post-workout massage tool to help speed up recovery between sessions. Although the stick can be used on every single muscle, I personally focus on my forearms and calves. These are two muscle groups that I feel the stick “gets” better than the foam roller and/or lax ball. The “travel” stick has all the benefits of the original stick, but the added bonus is that it’s short enough to fit in just about any gym bag!


#3) AMPED WARM-UP Manual – YES, I’m plugging my newest product! Hey, it’s my website so I can do whatever the hell I want Smile! But seriously, the AMPED manual is really in my gym bag! (I didn’t just take the picture to make my bag ‘look’ cool.)

There’s a reason my first two gym bag “essentials” were “warm-up” tools; the longer you’re “in the game”, the more you realize the importance of the warm-up for longevity and peak performance! Smitty and I invested a ton of time on education and research regarding the best, most efficient, way to warm up. And I honestly feel that AMPED is an instant “classic” that should – and will – be a staple in every serious athlete or coach’s library (or gym bag)! Think about this: Every serious athlete or washed-up meathead carries their program or workout journal in their gym bag, but what about their WARM-UP? Is that written down with their program? Usually not! This is because most people either don’t warm-up, or they just kinda do some “stuff” that pops in their head once they get to the gym. But AMPED has now “changed the game”! After reviewing the AMPED DVD, throw the manual in your gym bag and keep it there…forever! This way you will ALWAYS have a plan…it doesn’t matter who you are, or what workout you’re performing; AMPED is like having your own coach in your gym bag!


Let’s say you had a long day at work and you’re beat by the time you get to the gym…NO PROBLEM; turn to page 21 and perform the “Bitch-Slap Your CNS” warm-up. Or maybe you’re fired up for a max-effort squat workout, but your low back is tight as hell from sitting behind the computer all morning; instead of stressing out and having to spend time and energy thinking about what the hell you should do when you get to the gym – just turn to page 22 and do the “Loosen Your Low-Back” warm-up. It’s all spelled out for you – every exercise, every set, every rep, every situation. It’s that simple! Having AMPED in your gym bag just may be the best “training partner” you’ve ever had!


[GRIP ACCESSORIES: Anyone who reads this website knows that I’m a huge advocate of training with “thick-handled” barbells and dumbells to improve hand and forearm strength! I truly feel that athlete’s that don’t train their grip will never reach their true strength potential — in the gym or on the athletic field! Unfortunately, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any thick-handled equipment at most “regular” gyms. Instead of purchasing a thick barbell or two, most gyms would rather invest a couple thousand bucks on another elliptical machine (because apparently having 30 of them isn’t enough)!  The good news is that I’ve found two extremely effective tools that fit in your gym bag and will help you develop a vice-like grip at virtually any gym!]

#4A) FAT GRIPZThese bad boys are a must-have! They attach to virtually any barbell, dumbell, pull-up bar or cable attachment and immediately make the bar twice as thick! They are made from military-grade, high-density compound so they don’t compress at all! They are also extremely easy/convenient to use – you can literally clamp them and remove them in seconds if you’re performing supersets, circuits, etc. Wanna know how much I like these things? I have every thick barbell and cable attachment known to mankind at my gym and I still have 6 pairs of these (for when I’m training larger groups)! Get a pair for your gym bag NOW!


#4B) GRIP 4ORCE – These are also a must-have for your gym bag! They can also be used on all barbells, dumbells, cable attachments and pull-up bars; simply adding Grip 4orce to any bar will further stimulate your CNS, recruit significantly more muscle (throughout your entire body), and develop a bone-crushing grip! The unique aspect of this product is that they have an opening so you have to squeeze them together throughout the exercise! They are a BEAST! I highly recommend getting these – even if you have a pair of Fat Gripz – to prevent adaptation and improve several physical grip qualities simultaneously! Get a pair for your gym bag NOW!


#5) BLAST STRAPS – When you have a pair of blast straps in your gym bag, you will never get bored…or weak! If you’re really serious about training, you’re definitely going to want to incorporate some kind of unstable, “suspension” training into your program. The blast straps attach to any power rack, pull-up bar or cable cross-over unit and can be used for countless exercise variations to develop strength, conditioning, balance and stability in “three dimensions”! If you’re serious about your training, these things are a no-brainer!


#6) MINI BANDS & LIGHT BANDSUnless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you probably already know how valuable bands can be when incorporated properly into a strength & conditioning program. From rehab/prehab exercises to developing maximal strength and explosive power; bands are definitely an ALL-STAR in the strength & conditioning game! You can use the bands alone by performing exercises such as pull-aparts, triceps pushdowns, good mornings, etc. For advanced trainees, you can attach the bands to a barbell when performing such exercises as bench presses and squats to develop maximal strength & explosive power. Unlike chains, bands are much more practical to carry around in your gym bag and they don’t create the noise (so you won’t get kicked out of your health club)! If you want to add a TON of variety to your health club workout, as well as get brutally strong, GET SOME BANDS NOW!!



ALL of the above items can easily fit into any gym bag with plenty of room to spare! No more excuses. With these 7 items in your gym bag, you should never be bored – or weak – again!

-Joe D.



The wait is almost over…

I am extremely excited to announce that the first batch of FOCUS FOOD protein-energy bars are being manufactured as I write this! We are almost there! Check out the video below to learn more about what’s been going on regarding this incredible product…


Due to the overwhelming amount of interest in this product, we’ve decided to take pre-orders for our loyal followers. Here’s the deal: We will start taking pre-orders on Monday, August 16th at 1:00pm EST! To place your order, you must goto the following website…


All pre-orders will ship on September 1st, 2010! After September 1st, all FOCUS FOOD orders will be placed through the GI NUTRITION website.

Hope to see some of you guys at the UFC FAN EXPO in Boston on August 27th & 28th!!!

-Joe D.


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