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Working out is HARD. It requires consistent dedication to the cause both in and out of training sessions. It also requires variation in order to continue seeing growth and progress. Your body quickly learns and adapts to a training method and after a while, your progress will plateau and you will no longer see the gains that you used to. This is when your workouts need to be spiced up to engage both mind and muscle to overcome new physical challenges. But fear not — I have you covered.
If you read a previous post of mine about whether to use weight-lifting or callisthenics as the form of resistance in your programme, chances are you are here because you are wanting EVEN MORE from your workouts in ways that may not have even crossed your mind. If you didn't, then why not check it out? The link is just below:
Weight-lifting vs Callisthenics
If you are here because you have been working out a while but your workouts become more of a chore than enjoyment, then this may be the perfect solution for you.
For all of these methods, there is a very small (if any) financial investment that will basically pay for itself through usage and effectiveness in your programme. You will also need a decent space in order to use them, ideally a large open space like a field or garden.
1. Tyres (and Sledgehammer)
This form of exercise is possibly my favourite in terms of shaking up a routine. Old tyres can be often picked up for free from garages and storage sites since it costs them to dispose of them they are often happy to give them away.
These are highly universal in their purpose, and dependant on the size of the tyre can mean a greater difficulty for you and your body. I like to use standard car tyres and a lengthy piece of rope for resistance sprints (only about 40-50 yards) dragging the tyre behind me. It is a great way to build up speed and power, and send your body into overdrive in terms of energy use and recovery.
Large tractor tyres are by far the best (in my opinion) for their effectiveness in training. Tyre flips are a great compound exercise, working your legs, back and shoulders, along with core stability and arm strength. When performed at a high intensity, tyre flips are a great anaerobic exercise that forces your body to work at a far higher rate than it is probably used it. Due to the unbalanced nature of the tyre, it also works stabiliser muscles in a way that standard weight-lifting may not.
If pretending to be Thor is your thing, then sledgehammer tyre smashes are an awesome way to burn some serious calories and de-stress at the same time. I mean, have you ever seen a stressed person smashing the living daylights out of a tyre? Probably not.
There is a tonne of exercises that can be done with tyres, and it doesn't cost you anything to get them. So if you have the space to use them, I seriously suggest picking up a few and getting to work. Creativity also goes a long way in how you use them, too.
2. Battle Ropes
Battle ropes, like the ones used in tug-of-war competitions, are another super-effective way to add that variation into your workouts. They come (usually) in 9, 12, and 15-meter lengths with widths of either 38 or 50 millimetres. Naturally, as length and width increases, the weight also does, but a 15-meter length and 38-millimetre diameter rope will work well for most people. But doing your own research into the most suitable size for you is always the best way to make sure you get the most out of them.
Due to the large diameters of the ropes, grip strength will be tested during their use and no doubt it will improve over time. Alternating-arm rope slams will destroy your shoulders in under 60 seconds, and when rested on your shoulders, single leg lunges become even tougher than normal.
The list of exercises is simply crazy, but to give you a few starting points:
- Alternating-arm rope slams — or two-arm rope slam. Wrap the rope around a central pillar (i.e a thin three, a bollard, lamp post)
- ILateral rope swings — the action looks similar to someone trying to cut a hedgerow with a giant pair of shears
- Rope pull — lay the rope flat on the ground in a straight line, and (whilst standing still) drag the rope from one end towards yourself until the opposite end reaches you. To make this more difficult, attach a tyre to end furthest from you for additional weight.
- Alternating-arm windmills — Holding the rope at near-shoulder height, "draw" circles in the air.
To engage more muscles, perform these exercises in a squat position to work the leg muscles as well as the upper body. Battle ropes allow you to get creative in how you work out and if you think you could do something new with them, you're probably right. And at the end of it, there will still be the option to have a game of tug-of-war will your mates.
Commercially sold as "Power Bags" the benefits of training with sandbags are well known. The most notable benefit of it is the destabilising effect of the sandbag that helps build strength that is functional to the real world. Often when you lift something even remotely heavy in the real world, the weight isn't usually evenly distributed and sandbag training will help prepare you for such eventualities.
Sandbags can come in two forms — homemade and fitness-industry sandbags. Homemade sandbags, whilst less fancy than their commercial counterparts, are a great, cheap way to utilise sandbag training in your training programme. Hessian sandbags cost pennies and sand from a DIY store or builders merchant can cost very little too.
Fitness-industry sandbags are a lot more practical but the practicality comes at a greater cost (usually at least £20 in the UK, but sometimes in excess of £40). It all depends on what you want from the sandbag training really, and how much your willing to invest. If you feel that the fitness-industry sandbags are worth the investment then by of course invest in one. But if you would rather a cheaper, more primal way to train, hessian homemade sandbags work just fine. Ultimately, it is down to individual preference as 10kg is 10kg regardless of the sandbag-type it is contained in.
Whatever you choose, though, an additional benefit of sandbag training is the flexibility in the weight used. Sand can easily be removed or added to change the training stimulus. This is great for a beginner who will likely make huge gains in strength and will quickly "out-grow" lighter bags. The movement of the sand itself within the bag creates unequal weighting during movements, forcing the more functional, stabilising muscles to take action in conjunction with the prime movers.
Sandbags can be used entirely as a workout themselves or weaved into existing workouts and add variation. This makes them a highly versatile tool in your training toolbox.
So that's it! Three killer ways to fire up your workouts and add the spark back into your training programmes that will guarantee you to see the results that you want.