Bored of barbells and dumbbells?
We, as humans, are all creatures of habit, we like what we know and we know what we like. For many in the gym, that’s barbells, dumbbells, cable machines, pull up bars and a treadmill and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. However, if you’ve often walked past all the weird and wonderful alternative kit we have at Workout and thought “that looks fun” but have continued to avoid it as you are unsure of how to use it and as a result continued right on past back to the bench press, then this list is for you!
Here are my 5 best alternative pieces of kit we have at Workout and why you should give them a try.
1) Kettlebells – the “does it all” piece of kit. The kettlebell has its origins in 18th century Russia. This oddly-shaped piece of kit resembles a cannonball with a conveniently placed handle at one end. Kettlebells are genuinely one of the best and most versatile pieces of kit out there and they can easily replicate the stimulus you get from barbells and dumbbells for strength and hypertrophy gains whilst providing so much more. For example, take the kettlebell’s most famous exercise, the swing. With a heavy kettlebell (or two), the exercise is a perfect tool for developing strength and power in the posterior chain (back of the body). At a medium weight, the exercise can induce considerable hypertrophy gains in the hamstrings and glutes. Whilst at a light weight and with higher reps, the swing can be a great tool for muscular endurance, fat loss and cardiovascular improvements. Not to mention, the coordination, timing and continued mental focus needed to swing a kettle and avoid launching it into the wall in front of you! If this short introduction has you convinced, why not have a look on our member support group for various kettlebell workouts, or if you’re in need of further guidance, why not try one of our Kettlebell X classes!
2) Sandbags – everyday functionality at its finest. If you’ve walked past our sandbags and thought “that looks like an awkward piece of kit to use”, then you couldn’t be more right. As their name suggests, they are literally bags filled with sand, sand which is free to move around constantly, meaning the weight distribution never stays the same and every tiny stabilising muscle in your body is forced to work harder to maintain control of the sandbag. Don’t believe me…? Next time you’re in the gym, grab two dumbbells and press them overhead, then (after cleaning the dumbbells of course) go and do the same with the sandbag and you’ll understand what I mean. They can replicate your standard rows, squats and overhead presses with a more uneven weight distribution which therefore has more of a functional carryover to lifting objects in everyday life. Sandbags are also great because they are durable, they can be dropped on the floor, launched through the air and as most of our members who have attended our Bootcamp-FXT classes will agree, the sandbags survive (most of the time)…
3) Gymnastic Rings – the bodyweight training upgrade. Located on the top floor in the functional area, if you’ve never seen gymnasts perform routines on the rings, have a look on YouTube and you’re in for a real treat. If you still remain unconvinced that bodyweight exercises can build lots of muscle, again, have a look at the size of most gymnasts’ upper bodies. Now, we’re not suggesting that you try to replicate the routines they perform on the rings, however, next time you’re in the gym, replace your standard pull up, dip, row and press up with the versions performed on the rings and you are in for a challenge. Again, instability is your friend in terms of increasing the difficulty of movements and providing your body with a new stimulus and the rings will do just that. Once you’ve mastered the basics, the great thing is that there is always more to learn on the rings, such as muscle ups, L-sits and lots more.
4) Atlas Balls – the everyday gym’s answer to strongman. Located in the basement next to the bumper plates. If you’ve ever happened to stumble across World’s Strongest Man on TV and marvelled at these enormous humans picking up Atlas stones, well consider the Atlas Ball as the stones’ mainstream younger brother and the sandbag’s older, more challenging brother. At Workout, we have a variety of atlas balls ranging from 20kg up to 50kg, some of which change shape slightly as you use them and others which, similar to the stones, are solid throughout. Regardless of the type, this piece of kit provides an increased level of awkwardness and challenge when performing standard exercises such as squats, lunges, carries and presses. Also, a lesser known exercise which works pretty much every muscle in your body- the atlas ball ground to over shoulder or clean, which involves squatting down to pick up the ball, resting it on your knees (if necessary) and then pulling it up and over your shoulder, alternating shoulders each rep. Try this exercise with a heavy weight for some functional strength gains or with a lighter weight for some serious cardio gains.
5) The Assault Bike – the best worst cardio machine. Also known as the devil’s bike and for good reason, located again, in the functional area (there’s a trend developing here…). This piece of cardio equipment is just brutal and soul destroying, yet hugely effective for cardio and fat loss when short on time. Someone, somewhere realised that riding a standard exercise bike wasn’t hard enough, as your arms are just sat there doing nothing, so they decided to add handlebars for your arms to push and pull back and forth whilst your legs pedal. This combination is made worse by the fact that the bike is powered by a fan, meaning the harder you push, the higher the resistance gets, meaning it doesn’t get any easier, just more painful. If this hasn’t put you off and you fancy trying a new piece of kit for some intervals (it’s not really a suitable piece of kit for steady-state exercise), then jump onto the assault bike, set a timer for 10 minutes and perform 20 seconds as hard as you can, followed by 40 seconds rest for 10 rounds and then you’ll know why it is called the devil’s bike.
By Luca Samara