5 Tools for Fitness
1. Your Own Body
Calisthenics, or bodyweight exercise, has experienced a resurgence in popularity. This is due to various factors, among them ease of use and ready availability. Unless you are very unusual, you always have your body with you.
A well planned calisthenic exercise program can provide both strength and conditioning and costs nothing.
Start with the basics: push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, squats and bridges. These five exercises will build strength and muscle while helping to maintain leanness and flexibility.
To jack up your heart rate and develop cardiovascular endurance and calorie- burning, try burpees, mountain climbers, and uphill sprints.
Parkour and freerunning also fall into the calisthenics category and are a great outlet for channeling your inner kid!
Read more about calisthenics here.
Pros: Always available, free, versatile, proprioceptively challenging, promotes good mobility
Cons: Some progressions can be challenging, not the best choice for mass building
2. Gymnastic Rings
Elite gymnasts have amazing bodies. Not only do they look ripped, but they have freakish levels of strength. Gymnastic rings and their more trendy cousins, suspension trainers, are a fantastic way to gain strength and muscularity.
In addition, using gymnastic rings is fun; like a playground for grown-ups!
Essentially consisting of a pair of straps with a wooden or plastic ring attached, they allow you to perform a vast array of powerful exercises such as muscle-ups, pull-ups, archer push-ups, inverted rows, planks, and the list goes on. Gymnastic rings are inexpensive, take up very little room and are easily transportable.
Get yours here!
Pros: Inexpensive, doesn’t take up much space, easily transportable, build massive strength to bodyweight ratio
Cons: Requires some set-up, not the best choice for lower body exercise
A round blob of steel with a handle, a kettlebell is a sinister-looking weapon to add to your fitness arsenal. It is not magical, but does have certain properties that make it unique.
A thick handle offset from the center of mass requires a strong grip. A strong grip, in turn, is conducive to greater strength in every other endeavor.
Kettlebells are also very versatile. The Swing, a staple kettlebell exercise, is renowned for forging steely hearts, lungs, and thighs. Turkish Get-ups with a kettlebell held overhead provide a solid core workout and enforce shoulder health and stability.
Kettlebells are available from a variety of sources. Look for unadorned iron with a thick handle, not pink or green navel-orange sized sissybells!
Pros: Small, heavy, can be used for strength and cardio, fun, indestructible
Cons: Some injury potential, steeper learning curve than other methodologies
An indisputable strength classic, the barbell is perhaps what first comes to mind when someone thinks of fitness. The beauty of a barbell lies in it’s near infinite adjustability. Weight plates can be added in small increments as your strength progresses.
Olympic-style barbells (the best kind to buy) have steel weight plates with a 2″ diameter hole. A standard 7 foot long bar weighs 45 pounds and can be used for many exercises without even adding weight. Other types of barbells have a 1″ diameter bar and the plates may be steel or plastic.
Special rubber bumper plates facilitate dropping the bar while performing overhead lifts.
Barbells can be used for the Olympic Lifts (Snatch and Clean and Jerk), Powerlifts (Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift), as well as the entire pantheon of bodybuilding type lifts.
For more about barbell training, click here.
Pros: Allow lifting of more weight than any other standard method, infinite adjustibility based on strength level, reasonable cost, durable
Cons: Require more space than all previous methods, difficult to transport
Sandbags are just what they sound like; a large canvas or nylon bag stuffed with sand or a similar loose fill material. They can be purchased commercially or simply homemade. The weight is determined by the amount of fill and size of bag.
The unstable nature of shifting sand makes lifting, carrying, and throwing sandbags a delightful challenge. Zercher squats with the sandbag in front of you horizontally cradled like a baby are a hellishly effective exercise for strength, endurance, and fat loss!
Carrying a heavy sandbag for distance is another tremendous way to re-acquaint oneself with the old-fashioned notion of hard work.
Sandbags are unique from the other tools herein mentioned in that they can be safely thrown, a ballistic exercise that’s also a lot of fun!
Pros: Cheap, won’t damage floors if dropped, can be thrown, great for grip strength
Cons: Unwieldy, best suited to limited range of motion lifting and carrying
Pick a Tool and Start Working!
Any one of these 5 tools will allow you to make solid gains in health and fitness. Pick one, work it like your quality of life depended on it (it does), and reap the benefits of a healthier, more supple mind and body!