The definition of fitness has changed and developed over the years. As children we kept fit just running around and playing, but somewhere along the way we lost these basic skills as our idea of what it is “to be fit” changed and usually involved plenty of machines to get those biceps pumped or thighs toned. However these days we have come full circle to where practical, everyday strength and agility is the measure of your fitness.
The human body is designed for movement, so it should be trained as one efficient moving unit to increase in strength, agility, and flexibility while maintaining a balance. How do you get there without completely revamping your tried and true routine? With functional training.
Using some pretty basic equipment, you can amp up your exercises by increasing your body’s movement capabilities and overall performance in sports and everyday life. Whether you want to jump higher, run faster, or lift more, adding pieces of functional fitness equipment to your workout will get you better results and this guide will help get you started with them and point you to other useful resources to take it further.
Medicine balls are no longer what you remember from gym class in grade school. Today, they are strategically weighted balls that are useful for building strength, balance, stability, and coordination as well as increasing the efficiency and efficacy of your un-weighted workouts. Plus, they also serve as a valuable way to help athletes recover from injuries.
Depending on what your specific needs are, you can purchase from a range of weights and materials. Some have handles to increase the strength of your grip and are great for balance exercises while others are smooth for tossing and passing. Some bounce for resistance training, others are simply meant to slam onto the floor to increase the power of your throws.
This variation makes using a medicine ball an excellent resource to evenly train and strengthen your body with activities that replicate how you move in the real world.
Once you have selected a ball, it can be used for both aerobic and anaerobic training as well as incorporated as a strength-training tool.
Not sure what exercises to try? Common ones include:
- Oblique Twists
- Reverse crunch
- Wall Toss
- Sit-up Passes
- Russian Twists
So while they may be some of the most classic workout equipment available, medicine balls continue to remain a consistently effective choice for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. Knowing how to properly select and use one can help you take your workouts from average to one for the ages. Therefore, take some time to carefully select your equipment and practice your exercises. You won’t regret the results.
Suspension Trainer/TRX Bands
Designed by a former Navy SEAL, suspension training TRX bands are a great strength and flexibility workout that uses just one piece of simple equipment.
Instead of using stacks of weights and rows of machines, suspension training uses just your own body weight and angles to engage and isolate muscle groups in your body. Plus, because it requires constant balance, using TRX bands gives you a bonus core work out on top of whatever other muscles you are working on building.
“TRX trains for reactive stability, says Chris Frankel, head of human performance at TRX. “If your core isn’t tight, you’ll lose balance on the straps. Bracing your core before you move becomes second nature. You’re relying on your own ability to marry your center of gravity with your base of support.”
Ready to give suspension training a try yourself? Try a few of these exercises below:
Introducing Whole Body Integration. This type of training was designed by ViPR systems (which stand for vitality, performance, and reconditioning) and according to their testing, “combines full-body movement with load, enhancing the vitality, performance, and reconditioning goals of clients and athletes.”
Although this piece of equipment looks like an unassuming plastic tube, because it is a piece of functional training equipment, it has the ability to overhaul your workout.
Instead of merely working individual muscles in isolation of one another, the ViPR approaches training as holistic task requiring all parts of your body to move in tandem mimicking the same movements you perform naturally in real life situations.
When you work all of your muscles together, your body is forced to harmonize and mobilize surrounding muscles, which ensures that you don’t under or over-train certain muscle groups as your work out.
To use a ViPR weighted tube properly, you should perform exercises that are similar to actions you perform in your everyday life such as lifting, flipping, rolling, and rotating. This simple resistance tool that encourages multi-directional movement requires such high levels of balance and agility and core engagement that you will feel your body being worked from the inside out.
Try some basic moves with a ViPR and see how it works for you.
Battle ropes have been called “wind sprints for your arms,” and that is a perfect way to describe this exercise. Incorporating battle ropes into your fitness routine will give you yet another option to get in some anaerobic and aerobic exercise simultaneously.
Besides, it’s really, really effective. Everyone from professional athletes to your weekend warrior can and should use battle ropes. Why? Because not only are they great training, but they are super simple to use.
All you have to do is grab a thick, long rope in each hand and move the ends up and down as fast as you can. In essence, you’re “battling” the ropes. Does that sound easy? Think again.
Using these ropes, even for short stints, strengthens your abs, arms, and shoulders while forcing you to engage your legs and core for a killer workout all in one go.
It’s no wonder that everyone is roped into using these things! Even Alonzo Wilson, founder and director of training at Tone House in New York City, thinks they’re smashing. He says, “They work every muscle group simultaneously and allow freedom of movement.” Plus he adds that, they can be adjusted to your fitness level—whether you’re a beginner or a pro athlete.
If you’re ready to slam yourself into top shape, try some of the below:
And if you really want to hurt, try this battlerope workout!
Why go against the grain when you can take all the grains and move them to your will? For thousands of years our ancestors lifted heavy objects to move them from one place to another and this kept them in shape. Why are we modern humans so very different? Well, we’re not.
While today we lift objects like sandbags, sometimes called Powerbags, as more of a recreational activity than a summertime job, it is nevertheless an incredibly effective workout. Since a sandbag does not retain a solid shape, it is nearly impossible to settle into an easy groove like you would with traditional machines and free weights.
This means two things:
Firstly, working out with a sandbag recruits a wide variety of stabilizing muscles which will concentrate in your core, helping you build a solid base from which you can further progress in your training.
Secondly, if you are looking to improve multiple facets of your training schedule like strength, balance, and stability, working with sandbags allows you to incorporate more complex movement patterns that can do this.
Although swinging around big metal spheres may seem like a challenging form of exercise to those who have never worked with kettlebells, using these swingable weights as a part of your workout routine is actually beneficial to athletes of all stages.
Adding kettlebell strength and resistance training to your aerobic routines not only helps tone your muscles more quickly, but it burns a ton of calories. In fact, according to the American Council on Exercise, the amount of calories that using kettlebells burns is amazingly high. The average person burns 400 calories in 20 minutes.
Kettlebells are great because they will make your workouts dynamic by simultaneously requiring cardiovascular endurance and muscular fortitude.
Don’t worry though, the beauty of kettlebells is that it is specifically geared for those wishing to add muscle tone and not bulk.
So why not give it a go? With a correctly designed kettlebell workout and some consistency, your exercise routine will go from a workout to full-body toning training. Plus, because these workouts are quick, you will be finished and off to take on the rest of your day feeling strong, energized, and focused.
“You don’t need fancy equipment to get strong, sculpted arms and shoulders,” says trainer Todd Durkin, “You just need the right moves.”
Why not try:
Jump ropes are nothing new, and for good reason. Do you remember playing in the school yard blasting your jump rope in circles as fast as you could manages only to be out of breath as soon as you had begun? That’s because it was an incredibly effective workout.
Jumping rope is a great cardio exercise that works your arms, legs, and core while improving your balance. Consistently skipping a cope is more challenging than you might think. With each jump you improve your conditioning and coordination, which is beneficial in all facets of your life.
Besides being fast and powerful as a workout tool, jump ropes are portable. Carry it in your backpack, leave it in your car, or pack it in your suitcase because it is one of the easiest ways to get in that quick gym time and build cardio, strength, and agility on the go.
So check out our guide to getting started with skipping, or if you feel more confident, try out some of the exercises below:
Resistance bands are a strength-training classic. Just like free weights, they come in a variety of “strengths,” but the difference is you are lifting your own body weight rather than additional weight when you use them.
The most common types of bands include tube bands with handles, loop bands (that look like gigantic rubber bands), and therapy bands. Each type of band performs a slightly different function, but they all work towards increasing your strength and toning your muscles.
When training with resistance bands, every part of your body involved with the exercise meets resistance, which results in a better range of motion strength and more complete stimulation of the muscles.
Plus, these bands are highly portable making them a great addition to any workout routine on the go.
Give these bands a try with some of the exercises below:
Functional Training Rigs
Ready to put it all together? With a training rig you can turn your fitness area into a playground. Rigs use bodyweight as resistance to free-form moving objects to help you develop a sound, athletic body with minimal injury.
Specifically designed for functional training, rigs are the modern version of the old-school multi-gym. With many attachments and accessories available, what a training rig can be used for is only limited by your imagination.
Move your feet in multiple directions, lift objects, slam ropes, and resist counter motions. With a functional training rig there is no need for expensive fitness equipment to meet your goals. Plus, these systems are easily interchangeable which will minimize monotony and maximize your motivation.
Functional training helps you increase the strength, stability, power, mobility, endurance, and flexibility that you need as you live your life. Using basic functional movement patterns and equipment you can mimic the actions that you perform every day in order to improve you general fitness and well-being in your day to day life. Using the right equipment with the right movements helps enhance your performance and give you an edge as you work to achieve your fitness goals safely and effectively.
Are you interested in learning more about functional training equipment? Click on any of the above equipment directly and you can gain further insight into their individual benefits. Do you know any other great pieces of functional training equipment? Comment and let us know, we’d be curious to learn!