Five Little Used Exercise Tools for Athletes
There are so many approaches to exercise these days that it’s strange to think that we tend to use the same ones over and over again. Whether it’s a reliance on exercise methods like running or rows and rows of elliptical machines at the gym, we’ve ignored or forgotten some of the best exercise methods around.
Fortunately, people are starting to rediscover many of these incredible exercise tools which can help you to get in the shape that you want without breaking the bank or putting you at undue risk. Here are five great exercise tools that aren’t getting as much use as they should.
Originally based on the kind of exercise that sailors running three masted ships would get while out at sea, battling ropes are so simple yet incredibly effective. The traditional version is just two two-inch ropes (that’s thickness, not length) tied to a tire or a post. In order to use them, simply pick up one in each hand and start waving them up and down to create undulating waves along the rope.
While this seems incredibly easy, you’ll soon find out how exhausting it can be. The ropes themselves are heavy, and the feedback from the post caused by the wave energy “bouncing” is difficult to fight if you want to keep the ropes moving.
If that wasn’t hard enough for you, you can also add additional exercises. For example, try doing lunges while still moving the ropes to activate your legs and core, giving yourself a full body workout.
The advantage to using Battling Ropes is that they work each arm independently. While working on a weight machine, for example, you might favor one arm over another just naturally, widening an already present strength imbalance. With Battling Ropes, each arm has to work its own rope, so you end up sculpting both arms evenly while you work.
The other great benefit is that if things start to get too easy, you can up the intensity by moving closer to the post. The more slack you have in the rope, the harder it is to get to move the way you want it to. Moving closer and further during your workout can be the difference between activity and recovery.
For decades trampolines were used in schools as part of the physical education curriculum. There were a lot of reasons for this, but the main ones were that they were fun and also a full body workout. Unfortunately, warnings from the American Academy of Pediatrics about the dangers of trampolining caused them to be removed from schools.
However, with recent safety enhancements, trampolines are now incredible ways for people of all ages to get an amazing workout without too much effort.
The trick with trampolines is that they force you to use most of the muscles in your body just to jump. Landing causes your back and core to tighten up in order to protect your spine (which isn’t in much danger because of the soft landing), then release when you jump back up. The act of jumping and landing activates your legs, thighs, and glutes. Swinging your arms or carrying some hand weights can get them in the action as well.
More than anything, though, jumping on a trampoline works your most important muscle: your heart. Twenty minutes of active jumping can be as effective an exercise as a full hour of running and keep your heart pumping the whole time. Since it’s a low impact exercise, it’s actually less damaging than running to your bones, joints, and spine.
If you don’t have access to your own trampoline, then you might want to consider a good pair of rebound boots. Much like the trampoline, they contribute to a low-impact workout, but unlike a trampoline, they are portable and can be used to augment other types of common exercise.
Basically, they are shoes with strong ankle support that lock the foot in place, not unlike rollerblades. Instead of having wheels on the bottom, though, rebound boots have a cleverly designed spring which compresses and expands as you move, giving you additional lift and absorbing the impact of hitting the ground.
For example, running with rebound boots on reduces joint impact by about 80% while also increasing the number of calories burned per unit of time, promoting faster weight loss.
Moreover, like trampolines, the up and down motion can strengthen your core while doing otherwise unrelated workouts, particularly helping to improve your back muscles. This results in better posture, improved spinal alignment, enhanced lymphatic function, and in some cases can be used to assist in physical rehabilitation from an injury.
Running Resistance Parachutes
Running Parachutes are equipment favored by sprinters generally, but can be an excellent approach to working out for anybody. They’re especially good for training which involves a number of repetitions.
The modern running resistance parachute is usually made from cloth or nylon and attaches to the runner by a harness. As you pick up speed, the parachute fills with air behind you, dragging you back and forcing you to work harder to get further. The faster you run, the more drag the parachute creates.
A good exercise to do with this type of equipment is to try 20-meter sprints. Start by standing still, then sprint forward 20 meters, allowing the parachute to fill up. Instead of stopping, merely slow down to a casual jog for 20 meters after that, then try sprinting the following 20 meters. Keep repeating this until you feel your legs start to fatigue.
If you feel up to it, try moving right from the 20 meter sprints to 100 meter sprints with 100 meter jobs in between them. Finally, finish up with a 400 meter run around the track, keeping a comfortably fast pace throughout.
Exercises like the one above, when combined with the running parachute, go from simply building up stamina to also increasing lean muscle mass and speed.
These are among the simplest and most versatile exercise options around. Frequently used by football players to build stamina and sculpt muscles, weighted sleds are very easy to use and get the most out of.
A weighted sled is generally just a metal slab on two runners which have been curved at the end to make handles. In the center is a metal rod for adding weights.
The weighted sled, once you’ve weighted it to your current levels of ability, can be pushed or pulled, attached to a harness, or used for weight training easily. For example, the simplest exercise is to add weights, bend low to the ground to grab the handles, then push over turf or grass for 25-50 meters. Repeat for 10 total reps of that in the set.
Weighted sleds can also be used to replicate the kind of strength training that you get from a weight machine as well. Just take a harness that you would use to attach the sled to yourself during running and instead push against it with your arms in quick bursts, moving forward after each rep for a set of 10.
You can even add difficulty by changing the ground that you use the sled on. Running attached to the sled might be easy on the grass, but try taking it to a paved track and see how much harder it is.
Find the Solution That’s Best for You
These are only some of the many exercise methods available to you. Instead of just jumping on the treadmill again, do some research and see if there’s a tool out there which will help you reach your goals faster or break a plateau. There’s no reason not to try a new piece of exercise equipment if it might help you reach and maintain the health you want.