Have you ever looked around the gym and wondered what all of those torture-like devices are used for? Believe it or not, each one of those tools has a specific purpose, and when properly used, can help you get into amazing shape. Here are a few of my favorites:
A cast-iron weight (resembling a cannonball with a handle) used to perform ballistic exercises that combine cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training.
Purpose: By nature, typical kettlebell exercises build strength and endurance, particularly in the lower back, legs and shoulders, and increase grip strength.
Exercise: Kettlebell Swing. Hold the kettlebell in both hands with yours arms straight down in front of your body, feet hip-width apart. Perform a squat and upon rising “swing” your arms forward until they are parallel to the ground. Return to the squat.
This conditioning tool lays flat on the floor with 10-20 rungs, 16” wide, spaced approximately 17” apart. It can be used indoors or outdoors.
Purpose: The versatility of agility ladders make them ideal for improving foot work, agility, quickness and coordination. Quick to set-up and take down, agility ladders have become a popular agility training tool for athletes.
Exercise: Lateral Shuffle. Stand to one side of the agility ladder with your hips and shoulders perpendicular to the ladder. Get in an athletic position. The lead foot will be the one closest to the ladder. Place the lead foot inside the first square. Next, bring the trail foot into the first square, while at the same time laterally moving the lead foot to the outside of the first square. Take the trail foot that is in the first square and move it forward to the second square. Bring the outside (lead) foot into the second square, while moving the inside (trail) foot to the starting side of the ladder. Continue to shuffle laterally through each square of the agility ladder.
A ball constructed of soft elastic with a diameter of approximately 35 to 85 centimeters (14 to 34 inches) and filled with air. It is most often used in physical therapy, athletic training and exercise. It can also be used for weight training. The ball, while often referred to as a Swiss ball, is also known by a number of different names, including balance ball, birth ball, body ball, ball, fitness ball, gym ball, gymnastic ball, physioball, Pilates ball, Pezzi ball, sports ball, stability ball, Swedish ball, therapy ball or yoga ball.
Purpose: A primary benefit of exercising with an exercise ball as opposed to exercising directly on a hard, flat surface is that the body responds to the instability of the ball to remain balanced, engaging many more muscles. Those muscles become stronger over time to keep balance. Most frequently, the core body muscles—the abdominal muscles and back muscles—are the focus of exercise ball fitness programs.
Exercise: Hip Bridges. Lay face up on the floor with your ankles on the ball, legs extended and arms at your sides. Keeping your head, neck and shoulders on the floor and your legs straight, lift your lower body off the floor. Return to start and repeat.
A highly portable performance training tool that leverages gravity and the user’s body weight to complete hundreds of exercises. Randy Hetrick, a former Navy SEAL and Stanford MBA graduate, developed TRX equipment and the associated Suspension Training bodyweight exercises in the 1990s and started marketing it in 2005.
Purpose: The field of suspension training is a form of resistance training that includes bodyweight exercises in which a variety of multi-planar, compound exercise movements can be performed. These are done with the aim of developing strength, balance, flexibility and joint stability.
Exercise: Rows. Stand directly in front of the TRX and hold on to the handles while placing your elbows in at your sides. Walk forward until your body is at a slight incline, keeping your hips under your shoulders. Slowly straighten your arms until they are completely extended. Holding your alignment, pull yourself up until you are back to the start position and repeat.
Battling ropes is a unique conditioning and strength training method designed by John Brookfield. He is the writer of several bestselling books and holds multiple world records for his feats of strength.
Purpose: Battling Ropes are an essential tool for full-body strength and conditioning. They are designed to be heavy so that they take effort to control and move. They come in many different styles and lengths, but there are two primary styles available: 25mm and 45mm. Most ropes usually come in lengths of 5m, 10m and 25m. While battling ropes will increase core stability, they also increase grip strength and upper body muscle endurance. Battling ropes are great for burning fat as well.
Exercise: The Wave. Anchor the rope by looping it around a non-moving object. Hold each end of the rope in your hands. Perform a continuous “wave” for 30 to 60 seconds.
A BOSU Balance Trainer, or “BOSU ball,” is a fitness training device consisting of an inflated rubber hemisphere attached to a rigid platform. It is also referred to as the “blue half-ball,” because it looks like a stability ball cut in half. The name is an acronym that stands for “BOth Sides Up,” a reference to the two ways a BOSU ball can be positioned. The device is often used for balance training.
Purpose: When the dome side faces up, the BOSU ball provides an unstable surface while the device remains stable. This combination of stable/unstable allows a wide range of users, from the young, the elderly or the injured to the elite level athlete. With the dome side up, the device can be used for athletic drills and aerobic activities. As the name suggests, the device can also be flipped over so that the platform faces up. In this position, the device is highly unstable and can be used for a wide array of exercises as well.
Exercise: Squats. Stand on top of the BOSU—dome side up—with your feet placed evenly around the “bulls-eye.” Sit back, as if lowering yourself into a chair, until your legs are at 90 degrees. Come back to standing and repeat.
Resistance bands, or exercise bands, are elastic bands composed of either natural rubber latex or synthetic rubber. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, natural rubber latex is preferable to synthetic rubber. Synthetic rubber is less elastic, and tends to become harder over time than natural rubber latex.
Purpose: Once intended for use by older adults in nursing homes, exercise bands are now widely used for resistance training by all segments of the adult population. Exercise bands add variety to your workouts and can target the same muscle groups as free weights and exercise machines.
Exercise: Bicep Curl. Holding onto the handles, stand evenly on to the band with your feet hip-width apart. Hold your elbows at your sides and perform a curl.