Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Benefits of Kettlebell Training

Many strength coaches and athletes alike are seeing the enormous benefit that kettlebell training brings.  Quite often, it's the simple tools that, when creatively utilized, bring about some of the highest levels of fitness.  And at the end of the day, the pieces that keep your interest and keep you reaching for them are the tools that you'll come to love and master.

The kettlebell is one of those simple tools with such amazing versatility, those that aren't training with them are really missing out.  We've got seven distinct advantages that put the kettlebell out in front and keep it there.  And the home gym equipped with even a small set of three kettlebells gets the job done well.

Here's 7 Great Benefits of Kettlebell Training:

  • Versatile - most any movement that can be done with the barbell can be done with a kettlebell.  In fact, the kettlebell brings opens up even more exercises that just can't be done with a bar.  Ever tried a kettlebell 'Figure Eight" or kettlebell "Halo" with a bar?  And Kettlebell swings just can't be done with a bar either.  The kettlebell is most certainly one tool you can use differently every single day.  That means you won't get bored easily and there's always something new to keep you challenged.
  • Portable - one of the best things we like about the kettlebell is it's portability.  Easy to bring out on the floor and put away when done and they travel easily for times you are away from the gym.  They take up the fraction of the space of other equipment which keeps your gym floor open for movement.
  • Great for Small Spaces - for those that are training in tight quarters or spaces with low overhead room, the kettlebell still offers an amazing workout and if you can fully extend your arm overhead without hitting the ceiling then kettlebells can go overhead, It's that simple.  Barbells require at least another 10" of overhead space.
  • Wider Range of Motion - with is much more compact design and small center of gravity, the kettlebell can travel most anywhere your hand can.  That's saying a lot.  From swings to cleans, passing or lifting, the range of motion is nearly limitless.  And that means you can pinpoint certain movements and muscle groups with a kettlebell.  Convinced yet?
  • Easier for Beginners - many of today's instructors train many of their new athletes with kettlebells because of many of the advantages listed above as well as the ability to better manage the amount of load on the athlete as well.  With the wider range of lighter weight available in the kettlebell, it becomes the smart choice to use when introducing movements to the beginner.  And since many barbell movements can be mimicked with the kettlebell, the athlete can learn more easily with less weight.
  • Great for Large Classes - when equipped with a barbell, an athlete needs a minimum of 72 square feet of space to move comfortably [about an 8'x9' area] and to keep themselves and others around them safe.  When class sizes start to squeeze in on available floor space, outfitting athletes with kettlebells instead of barbells can keep everyone well challenged in a much smaller footprint.
  • Zero Disadvantage - Although there are other tools out there for strength training, a properly equipped kettlebell gym can provide many of the same advantages as other strength gyms.  Heavy double kettlebell cleans and presses will most certainly tax the athlete in many of the same ways that heavy barbell movements can.
Ready to arm yourself with one of these great tools?  We've got great pricing on individual kettlebells and kettlebell sets right here.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Exercise Equipment for Low Ceilings

Many, including those just getting started, decide that a garage gym or basement gym is the right answer for their fitness goals.  But some basement gyms with low ceiling heights can present some challenges that might make you reconsider.  But before you rule out your basement as a great place to train, read on.

Training at home has the distinct advantage of convenience.  Whether it's at 5AM or 5PM or somewhere in between, the home gym is always ready and you'll never be late for the beginning of a class.  Since life always has bumps and twists, the convenience of making your own schedule is a powerful aspect of owning your own home gym.

Where some home gyms can fall short, so to speak, is in their available ceiling height.  A low ceiling can certainly curb our enthusiasm when we've got certain movements we want to train that just aren't possible without good overhead height.  But, even if you've got a handful of favorite movements that can't be trained in the home gym, here's some options to keep your gym open for business:

Barbell Work - Olympic Lifts are having such a tremendous comeback, it's hard not to want to jump on that bandwagon.  We're seeing an amazing level fitness being achieved with old school style movements and getting these types of lifts into your routine is a must.  Although the barbell clean can be trained anywhere that you can comfortably stand in, movements such as the snatch, jerk or even static overhead presses require a fair amount of overhead space.

In addition to needing your hands to clear the ceiling while overhead, the bumper plates on the bar require about ten more inches of clearance beyond the height of the bar.  That can add up to about two feet over your head for most.  And there's little compromise.  Even if your ceiling is just two inches short, getting the bar overhead with plates just won't work.  If your ceiling height is pushing down on you and keeping these movements out of your grab bag, we've got a few ideas to keep you working:

  • The Kettlebell - As one of the most versatile and effective tools on the market [and it's been around for hundreds of years], the kettlebell is a perfect solution to low ceiling heights.  Provided you've got enough room to clear your hands when overhead, the snatch and jerk movements are now easily trainable.  And don't think that kettlebells are too light, even 1-Arm kettlebell snatches at 70 pounds is more than challenging even for elite athletes.  And wielding dual kettlebells for the jerk is a challenge you might not want to soon repeat [that's a good thing].  And even more static moves like an overhead press or overhead squat are also at your fingertips with the kettlebell.  If your home gym isn't outfitted with a great set of kettlebells, it's time to pull the trigger.
  • Resistance Bands - Like the kettlebell, resistance bands provide fantastic resistance overhead at no higher than your hands.  They are amazingly portable, versatile and effective.  And even when outfitted with a few, they can be used stacked together to provide more than enough resistance even for the very strong.  They pack amazingly easy in your travel bag when you've got to go out of town and we promise they'll never break a toe if you accidentally drop them.  And even if you buy a set solely for overhead work, you'll be using resistance bands for countless other exercises in no time.

Gymnastic Ring Work - Ok, you're ceiling height is a little low for the muscle up?  No problem.  You might have to let that one exercise go until you can get outside and hang your gymnastics rings from a tree or the swings at the park, but don't let that stop you from putting one of the most amazing strength training tools in your home gym.

Even if your overhead height doesn't allow for a ring muscle up, not having a set of rings in your gym is like throwing the baby our with the bathwater.  Nearly any movement you train on gymnastics rings will benefit your muscle up even if you can't train it as often as you like.

  • Gymnastics Rings Exercises for Beginners - we use the term "Beginners" loosely here as any of the beginner movements we've listed can be intensified by changing the height of the gymnastics rings.  And the best part?  All of the movements we list can be done in a space with a low ceiling.
  • Gymnastics Rings - Get Built Like a Gymnast - Need a little inspiration on how to get started?  Here we outline a simple yet effective training program with four basic gymnastic ring exercises you can do right at home.

The Pull Up - arguably one of the best bodyweight exercises out there, the pull up is a fantastic measure of upper body strength.  For those with less than ideal ceiling height, executing a full range pull up can be a challenge.

We haven't got much magic here.  But we can say that even if your overhead clearance doesn't allow for your feet to hang free when grabbing the pull up bar, don't let that stop you from adding it to your home gym.

It's true that a kipping pull up just doesn't work if your feet touch the floor, but building pulling strength without the kip is arguably better.

We believe that having a good mix of regularly attending an instructor driven class and training at home is key.  Those instructed class settings push us out of our comfort zone while supplemented training at home allows us the flexibility to program our own movements, work on the things we need to or the stuff we really like.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Home Gym vs Gym Membership

So, you're at a crossroads...  One of the most popular debates among those that want to live a healthier life is whether the should invest in a home gym or a gym membership.  The home gym has the distinct advantage of convenience, the gym membership provides added motivation and an immense resource of equipment that you wouldn't normally be able to afford.

It's certainly a tough decision as both options are great.  Well, let's start by getting the obvious stuff out of the way.  The bottom line is that neither decision is wrong, it's just about which will work best for your goals and personality type.  Both the home gym and the commercial gym thrive because they both work.

Investment -  The home gym requires the larger upfront investment since you've got to get started with at least a few tools.  But when compared to a monthly investment in a commercial gym membership, that initial budget for outfitting your home can quickly get overrun by recurring monthly dues.  One additional point here is that in order to keep gains and interest at home, you'll either have to keep things mixed up with current equipment or add pieces from time to time.  The more you invest, the more variety you'll have but you may find yourself spending enough for more than a few years of gym membership.

Convenience - According to IRHSA's [International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association] data ranging from 2005-2012, there are around 30,000 gyms around the US.  With those kind of numbers, you've probably got two or more fitness facilities at a 10 minute drive from your home.  Walking down the stairs to your basement or garage gym will always trump getting in the car no matter how close the commercial gym is, especially in foul weather.  Convenience can be a stumbling block though for those without proper motivation as it's easy to put off training until later since it's just a few steps away.

Programming - One of the most important aspects of your fitness training is knowing what to do to reach your goals.  Without proper guidance here, all the hours you devote to your fitness could lead you to over training, injury or lack of progress.  The commercial gym has trained coaches and personal trainers that have worked with hundreds of clients and have the know how to keep you on the right track to pursuing your goals.  That's not to be set aside lightly.  Working at home without a plan will drain you of success and motivation.  You'll need a guide and one that's well trained and goads motivating you the right way.  At home fitness has seen a tremendous rise in popularity and results through many at-home training DVDs [such as P90X] that deliver fantastic results with minimal tools.  And there are more than a few programs out there for different goals and levels of fitness.

Motivation - Critical to success is the motivation to be consistent in training and to push beyond your current limits.  For some, the commercial gym class-type setting provides the extra push to keep them working hard and to keep showing up.  Other members and coaches are great motivators that can give your goals a distinct advantage.  Some, in the absence of a personal trainer use a gym timer to keep them motivated to push on.  Repeating workouts on a rotation while recording previous times and weights used can be a great motivator to improve your next attempt.  And when you see the results of a faster time or higher weight used, it spurs you on.

We believe that any gym, be it a commercial facility or a home gym, can be a great place to train provided that it has all the above.  When properly motivated with the correct programming and high quality fitness equipment, you'll see the results you are after.