A Happy New Year to you all and welcome back to WG-Fit!
I’ll be opening the doors on Sat 5th and full service (Bootcamp, Lunches, evenings & Privates) all resume at full tilt as of Monday 7th.
Until then I’ve been thinking about a hierarchy of training equipment.
It’s a thought that started a few days ago when another coach reported that a team he’d been training were moving to another instructor to “do” TRX.
Now while I’ve nothing against TRX, as you’ll see below, I find the concept of centring a training program around a piece of equipment to be quite frankly ridiculous.
A training program should not be “Kit-centric” it should ALWAYS be “Results-centric” and the best equipment for bringing an athlete or a group of athletes closer to their goals should always be chosen.
The rider to this is for clubs or individuals who are limited by location and/or budget.
So if you don’t have access to a fully fitted training environment, what equipment should you choose?
- Your Own Body
I’m a huge fan of bodyweight training as it’s been a mainstay of mine since I started training a a kid. Since then bodyweight exercises have been a life saver for me when I worked 55+ hours/week in the Hotel trade, during the time I spent as a bum backpacking around the world and during the Private Security jobs I did before turning to full time coaching.
The idea of physical training is to improve the movement quality, strength, speed and power output of your body, so why not start at the root, by moving the body itself!
Any who have attended my Bodyweight Workshops (next one: Feb 23rd – Galway), or even attended my regular training, will have experienced the power of bodyweight training. This link will take you to an article I wrote on the topic.
Aside from the usual push ups and squats, we have the animal movements from Martial Arts training and not forgetting, Sprints, jumps and plyometrics.
Leading on from this we have our first actual piece of kit:
- A Pull Up Station
Either a simple doorway pull up bar or a free standing tower.
The big problem with just bodyweight training is getting enough load in the back, for this we need pull ups, chin ups and all variations of.
And before you say it, everyone is capable of achieving a pull up/chin up unless they have an injury preventing. I have a group of women, all in their 30′s and all in the 10 Chin Up club!
Very often I’ll be out in the park doing some training and I’ll do pull ups of the Goal Posts, the Swing Sets or even a tree branch. But for home or your club, you need a bar.
A step up is a rig like below that forms one of my lads home gym
This is where my own personal preferences come in a little, but I’m willing to back them up!
I’ve used just about everything going at this stage in my life, and I have to say the Kettle is still my favourite piece of kit. So why is this?
We can overload the upperbody quite adequately for most people’s needs with bodyweight training. One Arm and plyometric push ups are as challenging as many ca handle, and pull ups take care of the rest. But for the lower body we need something extra, as Pistol squats, while awesome are very skill oriented and take a lot of practice before benefits start to come.
With Kettles we can take all the movements normally done with dumbells, such as Lunges, Split Squats, RDL’s etc and add to them the ballistic lifts such as swings and snatches that tax the entire posterior chain, especially the low back, Glutes and hamstrings.
These ballistic lifts are fast yet repetitive with a heavy emphasis on the stretch reflex. they sit very close to plyometrics for training effect but without the impact.
The kettle is also much more shoulder friendly for overhead work, I for one can’t tolerate overhead pressing with a barbell, yet can press a pair of heavy kettles in relative comfort.
Just, be sure to get proper training before using a kettle.
- Rings / TRX
I only got my hands on a TRX unit for the first time recently, up until then I’ve been using gymnastic rings, and I have to say, i was underwhelmed, especially when I found out how much they cost!
The advantage the TRX does have over its cheaper counterpart is it’s versatility for the travelling man. It is also easier to adjust and the foot straps are quite nice.
However, using the rings or whatever suspension rig takes your fancy adds a nice challenge for dips, push ups and allows for horizontal pulling to balance out the vertical pulling from all the pull ups.
The plate loaded barbell is the centre piece of any real strength program. Without it you lose the ability to seriously load your Squats and Deadlifts.
We can of course perform unilateral versions of these with out kettles, but a bar allows for far greater loading.
The issue here is that to get full benefit you must also invest in a set of squat stands or better yet a power cage. For many years I trained without these and had to power clean the bar up to perform front squats, end result: a mean clean but relatively poor squatting ability.
I ummed and ahhed as to where these should go in the order and eventually decided that they go below the barbell, not above. It’s merely a question of loading.
Saying that, if you are on a budget, build yourself a sandbag! It’ll cost you around €20 and an afternoon of your time to build. I spent a bit more but that was all on extra duct tape!
Anything you can do with a barbel you can do with a sandbag, and then some. It’ll also feel significantly heavier than the equivalent weight on a bar. But I can’t see many people loading a bag up to 100kg, whereas you’d slap that on a bar in no time at all.
- A Good Training Partner
It doesn’t matter what kit you have to train with, what is more important is the intensity you bring to the game. Anyone can do their prescribed sets and reps in the gym, but when you have your mate beside you getting in your face, lifting heavier, pushing you, berating you and being there for you, the intensity goes through the roof.
Very often in my regular group sessions I pair people up for just this simple reason. I hear conversations within the group as one partner asks the other, “what are you going to lift?” then there’s the often unspoken exchange of “I bet you can do more” or “If you’re doing that, I bet I can match you”
Whether you’re pushing out an extra squats, adding a few kg’s to a bar or shaving a few seconds off a run, you’ll never hit it harder than when you’re mate is beside you.
The list could continue, I also rate Sledgehammers, Indian Clubs, Jump Stretch Bands, Dumbells and more. But non of these come across to me as essential.
And then you have the ridiculous, which is pretty much anything that is commercially advertised or available on the high street.
Items like the Bosu Ball and Swiss Ball are useful in certain settings, the ball more than the Bosu, but again, non essential. For a budget gym looking to get in some horizontal pressing (ie bench press) there’s no harm in getting is a few Swiss balls to press from as they are both cheaper and more versatile than a decent bench.
Tonight at 2100hrs over on the Facebook page I’ll be online for a live chat regarding Training Goals for 2013. Please come over and join the chat.