Get More Minimal: Equipment Advances That Enhance Performance

Ryan Klocke@@RyanKlockeBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2012

Get More Minimal: Equipment Advances That Enhance Performance

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    Equipment—it's a necessity in sports. Like a microphone for singers or stage lights for theatre performers, professional athletes to high school jocks to your average Joe at the gym need the proper gear to make sure they're taking full advantage of the work they're putting in. 

    If you're going to get all sweaty and tired, you may as well make sure you're using the right stuff while doing so. There's a reason you shouldn't be doing squats in running shoes, for example. But unlike years past where we were bombarded with with nothing but over-the-top, 10,000 air-pocket canoes for athletic shoes, things have slimmed down now, becoming more advanced while retaining simplicity. 

    Lighter, faster, better—you're seeing more and more examples of this around the world of fitness and sports. 

Air Conditioned Shoulder Pads

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    The sweltering August heat (and humidity for those folks on the east coast) is bad enough, and it's even worse when you're stuck doing two-a-days. It's a combination that's dangerous and one innovators in the athletic realm have been working on trying to fix. 

    One example: air conditioned shoulder pads. They started popping up awhile back, and teams from the NFL to college were early adopters of a way to make sure players were able to stay cool during all those 7-on-7 drills during training camp and practice. 

    And it's working. 

    [A] study commissioned by NFL Charities revealed that blowing air inside the uniform rather than on top of it can help reduce body temperature and significantly lower a player’s heart rate.


Streamlined Swimming Suits

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    Anybody remember the Speedo LZR Racer? It was the swimsuit so good, it got banned.

    During the 2008 Olympics, world records fell like rain drops in Seattle with Michael Phelps leading the way. And while the suit isn't around anymore, the ideas it brought forth have continued as more streamlined suits have far and away replaced the briefs-style pairs worn by swimmers of past generations and those creepy guys at your gym. 

Space Age Golf Clubs

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    While everything in sports has advanced somehow over time—LeBron's not exactly dunking into a peach basket—one of the sports constantly looking to give its players an edge equipment-wise is golf. Just look at what our grandfathers (and legends like Jack and Arnold) played with compared to our parents and now us. 

    Shafts are made out of the same material that goes into Ferrari's. Drivers are now lighter than the head covers that protect the over-sized sweet-spots the size of Texas. And with people pouring money into the sport to try and shave a couple strokes off their game, don't look for this to change anytime soon. 

Breathable Workout Gear

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    While you'll never find me faulting someone for simply rocking an old t-shirt at the gym (it's what's in my bag right now), there's a reason breathable-style clothing has not only caught on, but blew up over the last few years. 

    Sweat, while a great indicator that you're pushing yourself properly, stinks. Literally. It's annoying and smelly and gets in the way. That's especially true if you're trying to run any kind of distance in this summer heat. But breathable material breaks through those previously impenetrable, 100-percent cotton saunas of workout gear and allows some much needed air into the mix. 

    There's a reason athletes and average workout types have embraced this type of clothing. 

Shooting Sleeves

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    All the rage in the NBA, and as such with kids in rec leagues and on local courts, shooting sleeves have become quite the accessory in recent years. While classic players way back in the day never wore such a thing and seemed to do just fine, they also were rocking shoes that now feel like bricks in comparison to what's being churned out right now. 

    If players like D-wade and Ray Allen use them, it's hard to argue with the results. 

Foam Rolling

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    You're seeing more and more of these simple yet highly effective cylinders pop up in gyms lately, and it's a great thing for all those sore muscles on athletic types. While this device isn't exactly an earth-shattering revelation to some in the athletic community, there are more traditional gym rats who may have never tried one of these out. 

    Do it. Especially if you're sore. The simple act of rolling out for a bit on one of these things will make you feel so much better, more limber and help get rid of all that buildup that could be holding you back. Oh, and if you're gym doesn't have one of these or you don't want to spring the 40-or-so bucks to buy one yourself, grab a lacrosse ball. One of those can work miracles. 

Knee Savers for Catchers

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    While it's hard to argue with the coolness of the catcher's mitt, there are definitely some big downsides to the position. Like, say, having to squat like that for multiple innings. Especially if you're just a kid.

    Enter knee savers, like the one's shown here. When you're young and catching a pitcher who can't exactly find the strike zone (which isn't exactly uncommon in youth sports), this is a saving grace for the one donning the Tools of Ignorance. 

Minimal-Style Shoes

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    Remember when having shoes with bubbles popping out everywhere was de rigueur because having pockets of "air" on your feet was the key to athletic success? So 1990s. Thankfully, we've evolved and realized you don't need a Pimp My Ride style shoe to have solid athletic performance. 

    Take for example the New Balance Minimus line. It's part of a growing trend of trail running shoes that are far more versatile than their intended purpose. While they're great for pounding the non-pavement, they're also great gym and CrossFit shoes as they're flat enough to help you stay on your heels when doing lifts like squats and deadlifts and cleans. 

    Let the dude next to you keep pretending it's 1995. He'll be the one who keeps falling forward when he puts some weight on that barbell. 

GPS Enabled Running Apps

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    There's never been a better time to be a runner. From breathable clothing to better shoes, technology has caught up to a sport that literally anybody can do. But one of the coolest advances of the iPhone generation has been the ability to map and time your run with your phone's myriad of apps. 

    After crushing a run, you can't argue with being able to see your time and splits and distance as you cool down. It's a great motivator to get better the next time around. 

Football Facemasks

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    Aside from the fact this looks absolutely awesome, Justin Tuck's facemask here serves a purpose. Fingers of O-lineman aren't getting through that phalanx of metal, and it also is safer than the more open style masks of years past. Anything to make America's No. 1 game safer is fine with me.