Sunday, 6 November 2011

thinking outside the 'fitness' box

Take a look on any strength and conditioning or fitness website and there are thousands of tools available for you to use to help you achieve your goals. Fitness goes much further than just the weight room and rows of cardio machines! There are tyres, sleds, prowlers, battling ropes, TRX, valslides, speed ladders... this list could go on and on. Some of them look great fun to use, but unfortunately may be unavailable due to cost, time or poor weather conditions (for the outdoor activities). Although these are superior forms don’t worry, there are still hundreds of similar alternatives that can be done in the gym environment. It just calls for you to think outside of the ‘fitness’ box. The following few examples take a look at some of my favourite strength and conditioning tools and present a feasible, easy to learn gym-based alternative.
·         Prowler sprints
What are they and what are they good for?

A small metal frame work that can be loaded with plates to add resistance it has 3 runners that are in contact with the ground.  They are fantastic for adding leg mass, improving overall fitness, strength gains, speed gains and inducing nausea!



…and the alternative:
Stand on a switched off treadmill and place your hands on the top of the machine (above the settings buttons) using the weight of the belt as resistance  lean forward slightly and sprint as fast as you can for 10-20 seconds.

·         Gliding fitness slides/ valslides
What are they and what are they good for?

2 ‘shoe sized’ pieces of plastic with a grippy top and slippy bottom. They can be used for pikes, mountain climbers, seal walks and even sprints if you place your hands on them and sprint forward on carpet or wooden flooring. They are generally great for getting a core workout and general fitness. Without slating any of these popular products as they are fantastic, they can be expensive. £40+ for 1 pair is of the norm!  

…and the alternative:
Furniture slides! Designed to put under furniture making it easier to move, they are perfect as a cheaper alternative. For £6 I got 8 slides! The picture below shows an example exercise you could use them for – pike. Great for hitting the lower abs region.



·         Backwards sled drags
What are they and what are they good for?

A metal sheet with a singular vertical-pointing pole used for adding weight plates. They are commonly dragged by a rope or TRX for a set distance. They are great for leg development, particularly the vastus medialis of the quads (the tear drop shaped muscle above the knee).

…and the alternative:
Using a cable machine attach a rope and set it at knee height.  Holding on to the rope squat down until your quads are parallel to the ground. Forcefully walk backwards keeping your toes up on the knee extension. You’ll be surprised how far you can walk back before the weight stack hits the top.  When you can't go any further back, stand up and under control walk back to the start. Repeat for reps.

I hope this post encourages you to think outside the ‘fitness’ box. If there’s an exercise or conditioning tool that you would love to try, but is unavailable then dissect the movement down. What muscles are you using? What plane of movement are you working in? What can I use in the gym that will be a similar movement? The possibilities are endless…