Today’s post has been inspired by one of my fantastic readers, he wrote:
“I’m a 58 year old male who used to be very active but over time have notÂ made time to stay as healthy as I should. Â My question is, what kind ofÂ guidance can you give me on equipment to use? Â I’m curious about resistanceÂ bands and also TRX/body weight type equipment?
I have arthritis in my hands and have had shoulder issues in the past. Â Also, I’m curious about workout schedules.
I have enjoyed your information and appreciate you commitment to fitness.”
So the main thrust of the question is about what equipment to use but before I can answer that question I would need to know what the goals are. There are many health and fitness goals:
- Losing Fat
- Building Muscle
- Getting Out of Pain
- Improving Mobility
- Improving Heart and Lung Capacity
- Preparing for an Event
- Getting Better at A Sport
Once you know what the goals are then you can choose the correct equipment to get you there. Not the other way around!
One of the biggest problems in the fitness industry is that people get sold on a piece of equipment and then try and use it for everything
Lets take a look at some of the equipment out there and see what is best for achieving what results.
# 1 – Bodyweight Training – General Conditioning and Movement Skills
Never underestimate the power of bodyweight training.
I’m currently training a lovely chap that has had major back surgery and been in pain for years. The main goal we decided upon was to get him out of pain and off the pain killers. Well after only 8 sessions he was off the pain killers and out of pain, and he lost just over 6 kilos too 🙂
How did I do it? Bodyweight training.
There is nothing more natural than bodyweight training and if you use the correct progressions you can avoid using equipment for a long time. Make sure you stick to the natural movement patterns:
- Squats -Â (Y – Squats, Yoga Squats, Lateral Squats, Rotational Squats)
- Lunges – (Reverse lunges, Forwards Lunges, Side Lunges, Diagonal Lunges)
- Deadlifts – Â (Bridges, Single Leg Reaches, Single Leg Touch Downs)
- Pushes – (Plank and Push Up Variations)
- Pulls – (Bird Dogs, Cobras, Inverted Rows, Pull Ups)
Just put together a simple circuit including one exercise from each of the above categories. Aim for 8 – 20 reps and 3 circuits.
Only when you can handle your own bodyweight should you move onto using any equipment
# 2 -Â Resistance Band Training – Rehabilitation, General Conditioning, Speed Training
I use resistance bands for 4 purposes:
- Warming Up the Back Muscles
- Rehabilitation and focusing on certain stabilising muscles
- Adding Resistance to the movement patterns listed above
- Adding extra instability to core exercises (eg. side plank with band row)
There are certain exercises that resistance bands are amazing for. You will find it difficult when training with just your own bodyweight to address the pulling muscles. Resistance bands are great for rowing type movements.
There are lots of types of resistance bands available but the key is to find the correct resistance for the job in hand. Bigger movements like rows, squats and presses require more resistance than stabilisation exercises.
My advice is to start off light and work up to 20 reps per exercise before increasing the band.
# 3 – Stability Ball Training – Rehabilitation, General Conditioning, Â Core Training
I love training with Stability Balls or Swiss Balls. Â Once you have mastered basic Bodyweight training then you can add some instability to your training and really fire up those smaller stabilisation muscles.
You can also use a stability ball to help you achieve better movement skills, for example:
- Squats with a Stability Ball sandwiched between you and the wall
- Forward or Reverse Lunges with the Swiss Ball for balance
- Hamstring Curls to Activate your Posterior Chain (Hamstrings and Glutes)
- Bird Dogs Lay Over the Ball to Improve your Movement Skills
- Seated Hip Circles on the Ball for Improvement of Hip Mobility
If you are not used to training on a Swiss Ball then you may find it a shock to the system but providing you start slowly they are an excellent tool for most people of all levels.
# 4 – Medicine Ball – General Conditioning, Movement Skills, Core Development
Once you have mastered the 3 pieces of equipment above then you should be ready to start adding more resistance and movement changes to your workout.
Simply by running through the movement patterns, as listed with the bodyweight training, and by holding a medicine ball you will notice a big difference.
Being at an intermediate level you should start to add in some more tri-planer movements too:
- Rotation – (Squat with Rotation, Lunges with Rotation, Press and Pull with Rotation)
- Reaches – (Overhead Reaches, Lateral Reaches, Rotational Reaches)
Once you are at this level the fun really starts and you can challenge all the movements from all angles. Be warned medicine ball training can leave you feeling very sore due to the deceleration of many of the movements.
Medicine Balls come in all sizes and as with all training you should progress slowly. Never underestimate the ‘Power of the Med Ball’ 🙂
# 5 – Dumbbells – Muscle Building, General Conditioning & Fat Loss
If you want to build muscle and you have completed at least 6 weeks of Bodyweight training then Dumbbells will get the job done for you.
Here are 3 basic rules to building muscle:
- Building Muscle takes volume (3-5 sets) and volume with a good level of resistance
- Focus on a 6 – 12 reps of each exercise and stop 1 rep short of failure
- Slow down your exercise tempo to 3-5 secs per repetition
For building muscle super-sets are the most efficient way of working, here’s a simple workout:
- Forward Lunges – 12 reps each side
- Bent Over Rows – 10 reps
- Repeat 3-5 times
- Deadlifts – 6 reps
- Overhead Press – 8 reps
- Repeat 3-5 times
For general conditioning you are better focusing on full body workouts using all the movements as described in the bodyweight training above. Try to keep rest periods to a minimum and repetitions of each exercise as high as 20 reps each.
Here’s a simple General Conditioning Workout for you:
- Reverse Lunge With Rotation – 20 reps
- Renegade Rows – 20 reps
- Squat and Press – 20 reps
- Rest 60 seconds and Repeat 3 circuits
The weight of dumbbells that you select will depend on your goals. If you are looking to build muscle then you will need to find a weight that enables you to lift no more than 12 reps. For general conditioning I would choose a lighter eight and one that enables 20 reps.
# 6 – Sliders – Movement Skills, General Conditioning, Core Training
Sliders are basically a slippery pad that you place under your feet or hands that enable you to glide across a wooden or carpeted surface. The main advantage of this piece of equipment is that they add an extra dimension of instability to your training.
Here are my favourite exercises with the sliders:
- Reverse Lunges
- Side Lunges
- Plank Variations
- Fast Mountain Climbers and Squat Thrusts
With sliders you are starting to get very dynamic with your movements. They are particularly demanding for core training so please start off slow and progress sensibly.
# 7 – TRX / Suspension Training – Dynamic Conditioning and Core Training
Placing your hands or feet into suspension straps offers a complete multi directional demand on the body. Your core has to be in tip top condition in order to handle this type of dynamic instability.
Unfortunately most people are not ready for this type of training and just taking one look at their body position during the exercises confirms this.
However, suspension training can be excellent for assistance type exercises like:
- Practising Single Leg Exercises like Pistol Squats
- Standing Rows with a slight decline
If your dynamic core stability is bang on then suspension training is an amazing option. Especially for exercises like:
- Dynamic Push Ups
- Dynamic Rows
- Bulgarian Lunges
When you are ready then this type of training is very inexpensive and highly portable. Great for hanging from trees or door frames.
# 8 – Kettlebell Training – Strength Endurance, General Conditioning
Having run kettlebell classes and trained hundreds of clients and Personal Trainers with kettlebells I know the huge advantages they have to offer. Swinging a Kettlebell puts large demands on the stabilisation system of the body as well as the Â cardiovascular system.
Swinging Kettlebells is dynamic in nature so the same rule applies to kettlebell training as TRX / Suspension training. You must have rock solid core stability. Kettlebells will find out a weak link in your body very quickly.
Saying that there are some more basic movements that make excellent starting points for beginners:
- Turkish Get Ups – bullet proof your whole stabilisation system with one exercise
- Windmills – increase mobility and shoulder stability in one movement
- Single Leg Deadlifts – learn to integrate the top half of the body with the bottom
If you are injury free and move like a child then kettlebells are a great tool for achieving some great results but if you are not ready for them then can undo you very fast.
# 9 – Olympic Barbell Lifting – Strength, Power, Muscle Building
If you are ready for it then nothing gets more done than Barbell Lifting. The beauty of this type of training is the pure ‘bang for your buck’ that you get with the exercises.
There are only a few core exercises but they hit practically every muscle in your body:
- Clean & Press
I know that the Squat and Deadlift are not Olympic lifts but they deserve a place amongst the most beneficial exercises. If I only had to recommend one exercise to get the most done it would be the ‘Deadlift’
Although even beginners can and should start off with the deadlift and squat pattern they should not be lifting heavy weight straight away. The key is to get technique bang on first and then progress slowly by adding approx. 5% extra weight each week.
Both the Snatch and Clean & Press are highly dynamic and with heavy loads being lifted the potential for injury is high. That being said the results on both your strength and cardio system from these types of lifts is huge.
So now you have seen the various pieces of exercise equipment available it makes it easier to answer the initial question:
- Begin with Bodyweight Training and follow the movement pattern circuits
- Progress to some Stability Ball Training to condition the core stabilising muscles
- Start adding resistance through bands, medicine balls or dumbbells to achieve your chosen goals
- Exercise the full body 3 times per week and adjust according to fatigue
And finally no exercise program is complete without a suitable nutrition plan. If you are training for fat loss then exercise makes a smaller contribution than you may think.
Try out my all natural nutrition plan below: