Have you ever seen one of the people at the gym that uses only one piece of equipment? They only ever touch the Cybex machine circuit, or they use dumbbells for every exercise that they know, or rely only on body weight because it’s ‘truly’ functional. Those people are missing the ball. Varying the equipment that you use can give you better results, faster results, and keep your mind engaged in your progress to prevent boredom and burn out.
As an example, I used 5 different pieces of equipment (6 including body weight) during my upper body workout yesterday. I didn’t plan on this just for varieties sake, but I chose equipment that was the best option for each given exercise I was going to use. Floor presses were done with a barbell, while I used my TRX for face pulls, inverted rows, and push-up iso-holds. A dumbbell worked best for supported bent over rows, while I used my body weight to perform push-ups, handstand push-ups, and one handed push-ups. At the end of my workout, I used my ropes and 20kg kettlebell for a short but difficult finisher of slams/alternating waves and snatches. A workout doesn’t need to utilize a great deal of equipment, and I could have used a single piece of equipment to train my entire body with a great training effect, but having options makes it possible to have more productive workouts. Sometimes you just need to have more tools in your toolbox.
While basic movement patterns and exercises remain the same, the variety of ways that you can load those movements makes a huge difference. In the gym, people have a tendency to marry specific tools instead of realizing that there are some tools that are better for different jobs than others. Sure, you could use the handle of a screwdriver as a hammer, or the horns on the back of a hammer as a screwdriver, but wouldn’t it make more sense to have both and use them when appropriate?
If you’re not using a variety of equipment, I think that you’re missing out when it comes to training. There are certain advantages that dumbbells have over barbells, and certain advantages that a cable station has over free weights. Kettlebells can be a very useful tool, you can use just bodyweight to exercise practically anywhere, and chains/bands offer variable resistance to tweak different exercises. I love suspension trainers such as the TRX or the Blast Straps from EliteFTS because you can regress body weight exercises for the deconditioned and/or elderly, as well as making them difficult for those looking to be challenged. You don’t need a big assortment of equipment to exercise and increase your fitness, but having access to it can certainly help you get the most out of your body.
Most people don’t have access to sleds, ropes, and odd implements, because most gyms around the world don’t have that equipment. The fitness industry tends to push people on to fixed axis machines for their strength training, and into rows of treadmills, ellipticals, and bikes for their cardio. You’re a paying member at a facility that allegedly cares about your health and well-being, right? So demand better equipment. It’s not difficult, but with a few like minded people, you can get great gear that will go a long way for improving the quality of your workouts.
Don’t have access to a gym? Find one.
Exercising at home can be great for a hectic schedule, and you’ll save some money on a gym membership, but it’s unlikely that you’ll invest that saved money in effective exercise equipment. No, the Shake Weight doesn’t count. Belonging to a gym isn’t a cost, it’s an investment in your health and future. Would you rather have a few extra dollars in the bank when you’re older, out of shape, and feel like crap, or would you rather head to your local gym a few times a week, and look great, feel great, and be old without feeling old. Makes sense to me, and I hope it makes sense to you.
In reality, you only need a few types of exercise equipment to have a great workout. Basic equipment goes a long way when you use it correctly, but having access to a variety of equipment can help you stay motivated, offer your body a variety of challenges, and pique your interest to help you train smarter, stronger, and longer. However and wherever you exercise, try out some new equipment and realize that incorporating it into your routine can be a change for the better.
Until next time, have a happy and healthy 4th of July Weekend!