Sunday, November 30, 2014

Great Uses for Your Lighter Weight Equipment

We've written before on strategies for making the best equipment choices for pieces like Kettlebells, Medicine Balls and Dumbbells.  With all the different sizes available, it's not always easy to figure out what choices are the best. And as your strength improves, you need to adjust how you use these tools for them to continue to be effective or you'll leave them sitting in the corner collecting dust and no one wants that.

A little reprisal on our guide for selecting the right sizes is that there are three main points on your body that you can move weight to - the hip, the shoulder and overhead and the further you get away from the floor, the more challenging the movements become typically.  And this little axiom holds true no matter what tools you are using - barbells included.

Your strongest movement, especially for the beginner, is almost always the deadlift.  This movement from the floor to the hip is the shortest distance from the floor and to keep yourself challenged here, you need some of your heaviest tools.  There aren't a ton of variations in how to move weight to your hip - the deadlift being the most popular - and it's important to keep the deadlift in your game.  Just ask any strength coach.

Our moderate weight involves moving the equipment to your shoulder and the great news about this middle piece is that there are a ton of different exercises that you can do utilizing the kettlebell, dumbbell, or middle weight medicine ball.  Some of the off stream movements such as the Turkish Getup, SOTS Press or Kettlebell Halo can be really fun to mix into your routine to keep yourself motivated.  If you haven't tried any of those, look them up on You Tube and get them in the mix.

Since not everyone has the budget to outfit their entire gym all at once, many decide to build their gym a piece at a time, getting the most useful equipment first and that's smart.  Our advice is to invest in the pieces that are challenging to bring to your shoulder. 

No matter the size, medicine balls can challenge you
We suggest that for two main reasons.  First, that moderately heavy load will by far have the most usefulness.  The medium weighted kettlebell, for instance can be used for cleans, rows, swings, turkish get ups, renegade rows and goblet squats just to name a few.  And second, as your strength increases, you will be able to use that moderate weight more and more for movements that begin to go overhead.   If you were to start with a lightweight kettlebell or dumbbell, then it would not be as challenging as you progress.  Moderate weight is best to invest in first then buy heavier as you get stronger and more skilled.

If you are finding that some of your kettlebells, medicine balls or dumbbells just aren't getting the use they once were because they no longer challenge you, here's a few ideas to get them back into the rotation.

Learn a New Movement - The number one killer for any piece of equipment is limiting it's use.  If all we ever did with the kettlebell was the two handed swing, we may only grab it twice a week or less and that's not making efficient use of that great tool, or our investment for that matter.  Instead, find a new way to put that old tool into action.  Here are some of our most popular blog posts on different movements with medicine balls, kettlebells and gymnastics rings.  Learn a new movement and get it into the rotation.  And new movements keep your workouts exciting which increases your motivation to train.

Non Weight Specific Movements - If you are out of ideas for new movements with the same pieces, there are a few very challenging exercises that can be done with some of your equipment regardless of it's size or weight.
Deficit Pushups can be done with many tools
  • The Elevated Plank Pushup - Adding a medicine ball [or two] to the pushup is a great way to keep all of your equipment in the rotation.  Try this pushup variation with one medicine ball for each hand or both hands on one with your feet on the floor or elevated.  The instability of the medicine ball will make gymnastic ring pushups look like child's play.
  • The Deficit Pushup - Similar to the medicine ball pushup above, instead use one kettlebell for each hand.  The kettlebells provide a more stable surface but also get you up off the ground so that you can really get low in your plank.
  • Pass Throughs - While you're in that plank push up position with one hand on each medicine ball, move your feet from behind your hands to in front of your hands in one motion then back again.  This also works great with kettlebells, bumper plates and plyo boxes.  And the great news is that it just doesn't matter what weight any of these tools are.
  • Elevated Lunges - great with either the medicine ball or a stack of bumpers, perform elevated lunges with one foot elevated.  Crank up the difficulty by adding a pair of kettlebells or dumbbells held in each hand at waist level, at the shoulders or even overhead.
  • Elevated Split Squats - just like the elevated lunge, the elevated split squat begins with the rear foot elevated on a medicine ball, plyo box or stack of bumpers.  And adding weight in each hand or even a barbell across your back can add intensity.
  • Barbell Roll Outs - If you thought toes to bar or long plank holds worked your core, we've got an exercise that you might develop a serious love/hate relationship with.  Grab a pair of bumper plates or steel weight plates and your barbell.  To start, kneel on the floor and bring the barbell to your quads.  While keeping your knees stationary, roll the barbell forward [don't let go of the bar] as far as possible then return to the starting position.  Again, this exercise is completely independent of what weight you stick on the bar.  One tip to make this exercise the most safe for the beginner is to position the bar near a wall such that when you roll it forward, the wall will stop it's progress forward.  As your core strengthens, move further away from the wall, then eventually you won't need the wall at all.
We've got a bunch of new products and package deals for the commercial gym and garage athlete alike and many of them ship free.  Add a few pieces to your gym and keep changing up those workout plans to stay motivated and successful.