(Also Known As: Finally A Fitness Post!)
Ever since becoming a bit of a “Gym Rat”, I’ve tried different things to see what works best for me in the gym, and have come to find 5 things in particular that have served me very well. The equipment in this post is pretty universally good for you and can be used by anybody at any skill level, so feel free to read on and check out my favorite work outs too and let me know what you think!
The kettlebell is awesome. It’s my (new-ish?) favorite piece of equipment. Simple, straightforward, and easy to use; if you’re doing it right you can kill plenty of birds with just this one powerful little weight. Timothy Ferriss, in the Four Hour Body, discusses in detail how to use a kettlebell to build “the perfect posterior.” This is important because the posterior chain is actually your entire back, from the base of your neck all the way down to your buttocks, and having a good, strong posterior helps: 1) regulate your hormones, 2) keep your metabolism in check, 3) help you maintain good posture, and 4) provide your entire body with good balance and support. Now, one of the best kettlebell workouts to build your perfect posterior is the Swing.
Basically, stand with your feet shoulder width apart, facing forward. On the first rep, squat down, and swing forward. For all succeeding reps, when you bend back down to let the kettlebell “swing” slightly between your legs, you have to make sure your shoulders never cross over your knees and that your knees never cross over your toes, and that you are keeping your back nice and straight. Every time you swing forward and up, use your core to thrust your hips, and tighten your butt. You can do this with either one hand, or both hands. Personally, I like to do all three. I do 3 sets of 25 each. So that’s 25 reps right hand, 25 reps left hand, 25 reps both hands. Repeat 3 times. Timothy Ferriss suggests you do 75 total, straight, without stopping, but I still like to stagger them.
This is actually my favorite workout of all my workouts at the gym. I do it at least 3 or 4 times a week if I can, and it always makes me feel like I’m burning up halfway through. If you’re anything like me, when you’re first starting out, you may feel a burning/heating sensation in your lower back. It doesn’t hurt, it just feels odd: don’t worry. It’s probably just your metabolism kicking in. You’re burning fat! You’re getting fit! Keep it up!
Another work out I really enjoy with kettlebells is squats with lifts.*
Just to clarify the photo: YOU ARE DEFINITELY NOT SUPPOSED TO TOSS THE KETTLEBELL UP IN THE AIR ON THE FINAL STEP OKAY? It just looks like that because I was lazy to draw hands.
Anyway, that being said, this is (again) really straightforward and VERY GOOD for your back, pretty good for your arms, great for your quads, and especially good for your butt. Mix this up with other workouts and do 3 sets of 15 and you’re good to go! Sometimes I throw in dips or “dead lift” style lifts with kettlebells but I don’t actually enjoy those as much as these, I just do them for a more complete workout.
The BOSU Balance Ball/Trainer and I weren’t actually friends at first. We were kind of like frenemies in the way that I totally knew she was going behind my back telling all the her other BOSU buddies about what a weakling I was…but these days we’ve really grown in our relationship. 😉 Among the things I enjoy with this odd half-moon shaped piece of work are:
Both these exercises are great for core (obliques especially for the latter), and for arm strength too. I like to mix them up with “burpee-esque” moves so that I end up doing sets like this: hold sides, in squat position, hop back into plank, push up, hop back into squat position, let go of sides, spring up from squat, squat back down, hold sides, repeat. I do 10-12 reps of this for 3 or 4 sets. 🙂
Possibly the most challenging – but effecting, core workout I’ve ever done with one of these is this though:
My trainer back home introduced me to this earlier this year, and I hated it. I could hardly do it, and it made me feel horrible, but really persistence is key*. That said, I was recently finishing the Four Hour Body and whaddya know, this is yet another exercise Timothy Ferriss advocates. Guess this means we’re right on track?!
Moving on now…
Now, what gym rat doesn’t love free weights? You’d have to be a fool not to! Fully customizable, handy, and completely no-frills, these are my go-to for general arm work outs. I like to do everything from bicep curls, to tricep lifts – and plenty of sets and reps of each. In fact, today was arm day for me so here’s an example of what I did:
10 2-arm bicep curls on one leg (right) (NOTE: Keep core tight, and balance!)
10 2-arm bicep curls on one leg (left)
10 one-arm tricep lifts (right)
10 one-arm tricep lifts (left)
10 lateral flies
10 sumo squats with hip-to-shoulder lifts (basically hold the weights down where your hands stop just below your waist, and then curl your arms up as you go down into the sumo squat)
I do 3 or 4 sets of these before moving on to the machines/other tricep exercises like dips, etc. Which brings me to my next best friend:
Now, the Pull-Up Bar, unlike the BOSU, is one of those once a frenemy, always a frenemy things. But. It serves its purpose. Also, it speaks for itself, so I won’t even go into it anymore. Basically, though, pull-ups are fantastic for your core strength, upper back, lower back, shoulders, chest, biceps, and triceps. I use the pull-up machine to do dips and pull-ups in succession. They’re always assisted, of course (about 19kg worth of assisted weight lifts me up), but don’t let your pride get in the way of a good work out. A completed assisted pull-up is still a full pull-up. One of these days, though, I do wish to develop the strength to do a couple of unassisted ones in succession. 🙂
And now that brings me to my final friend:
Now, I know you’re going to say, “well there’s floor everywhere! what’s so special about gym floors?” Well, I actually don’t have a good answer for you except that, what percentage of you guys out there actually work out on your own floor without the motivation of gym music, equipment, and fitness buffs around you reminding you of all the cellulite you’re not going to miss?
I rest my case.
I’m all for home workouts, and if you’re disciplined enough to pull off a regular routine, by all means, go ahead. But personally, I enjoy the gym floor or the yoga studio floor or the dance studio floor. There’s just something about these places that thrums with physical energy and makes me feel as kinetic as everything else around me is.
That said, I wouldn’t even be able to crack the surface on the number of workouts I love to do on the floor: from yoga poses and stretches to push ups, from v-ups and russian twists to hip thrusts and supermans, there are just so many ways to make use of that space. My suggestion for anyone not yet confident enough to try their own combos on the floor: get Nike Training Club on your SmartPhone, or watch some LeanSecrets videos on YouTube for more info. If you’re more hardcore and just looking for ways to change things up, go to BodyRock.tv and eat your heart out.
Otherwise, it’s getting very late and if I want to have the energy to see any of these 5 friends of mine tomorrow (after the work I put in today), I’m going to need at least some beauty sleep. If it’s night time where you are, you should do the same and take the time out in the morning (or after your 9-5’s) to pay the local gym a visit and meet some of these wonderful buddies yourself!