By Ross Enamait – Published in 2006
I’ve created this article and the accompanying video (see below) to provide readers of this site with more ideas for low-tech training options. Each day I receive emails from aspiring athletes who have limited equipment, yet a strong desire to improve. Unfortunately, the marketing giants of the fitness industry have misled many to believe that the latest and greatest training gizmos are necessary to succeed. This could not be further from the truth. The tools that you use are not the deciding factor in your success as an athlete. What matters is how you use and then apply each tool within a logically planned program.
As most of you know, I’ve always been a proponent for bodyweight exercise. Bodyweight workouts are both convenient and effective. In addition to bodyweight exercise however, I also enjoy mixing it up with free weights and odd objects. These modalities can be both inexpensive and highly effective.
The video below combines several low-tech modalities. Exercise descriptions are also provided, along with links to many articles that include more detail regarding the specific tool or movement.
The video starts with a strength and power combination that integrates overhead pressing with a snatch. The first overhead press is a high tension strength exercise. The entire body is tense as the complex starts with an emphasis on strength. The next pressing movement becomes more explosive. Lastly, you finish the mini-complex with a snatch. As you can see, the complex starts with strength, then shifts towards power, and finishes with a full body power display.
These mini-complexes are excellent for explosive strength development as you are able to exploit the effectiveness of high tension strength work. Such high-tension exercise renders a positive after-effect in the central nervous system, enabling tremendous increases in strength and speed. In short, the explosive work becomes more effective when performed after the strength movement. This coupling of strength and power movements is often referred to as complex training. One common example includes the integration of a bench press with a plyometric pushup. The dumbbell example offers a nice spin on complex training however, as you do not need to move from one station to the next. You perform the entire sequence without putting the dumbbell down.
Dumbbells are also highly effective as the non-dominant side must fend for itself. The dominant hand (ex. my right hand) must sit and watch, offering no assistance to the non-dominant side. Dumbbells are inexpensive, easy to store, and highly effective. For more information regarding dumbbell training, check out Infinite Intensity.
Next, I demonstrate a one-arm dumbbell bench press. Although I feel that the bench press is overemphasized in many strength programs (particularly amongst combat athletes), I do enjoy the one-arm bench. This movement requires balance and core stabilization. It is also convenient for those athletes who train alone. You do not need a spotter to perform this movement. The freehand essentially becomes your spot.
Following the one-arm bench, I proceed to several low-tech speed and power exercises that can be performed with little or no equipment. Many of the pushup variations are discussed in the Never Gymless text. These movements are not intended for beginners. A strong foundation is required to perform any explosive strength exercise. As for dangers, I’ve been performing these movements for most of my life. If you prepare the body properly, almost any exercise can be safely performed. Ultimately, you must know your body, listen to the feedback that it provides, and then adjust accordingly.
For those not interested in the pushup movements, I also demonstrate two medicine ball exercises that can be performed without a partner. Simply lie on the ground and toss a 10 pound medicine ball into the air. I demonstrate both a one and two arm variation.
Next, I shift gears to conditioning. The first exercise is a sledgehammer swing. If sledgehammer training is new to you, check out the article below:
If you do not have access to a sledgehammer and tire, you can perform slams with a homemade medicine ball. Check out the link below for instructions (along with several other homemade equipment sites):
Next, burpees are demonstrated with a weighted vest. Burpees have long been a favorite conditioning exercise of mine. If you come to train with me, there is a good chance that you’ll spend some time performing burpees. And for a greater challenge, you can add a moderate weighted vest. The vest shown in the video is a 20 pounder that was purchased for around $45 at Walmart. It is an inexpensive vest that has held up nicely.
Personally, I own 8 vests which are used by myself and clients. I can’t say that the Walmart vest is my favorite, as I prefer the V-max vest from weightvest.com. V-max is an expensive vest however, so the Walmart version (Gold’s gym brand name) is certainly a nice investment if you don’t wish to break the bank.
Moving right along, a jump rope demonstration is provided next. The rope seen in the video cost a mere $5. This lightweight speed rope is an excellent addition to any training program. I particularly enjoy rope work for conditioning, as it is not a mindless activity. You must concentrate as you work through the drill, which makes the rope particularly effective for competitive athletes. As fatigue mounts, you must continue to display agility and coordination. In the video, I demonstrate a double-under (2 rope turns per jump) which also includes a criss-cross motion. The addition of the criss-cross will force you to concentrate.
Next up is the dumbbell swing. Dumbbell swings are an ideal full body conditioner. You’ll feel this exercise working from head to toe. I often use this movement as a finisher at the end of a strength workout.
Following the swings, I demonstrate a sled pull and drag combination. This exercise makes for an intense conditioner. I use a homemade sled for this drill. Pictures of the sled are provided below.
As you can see, I use a snow sled to hold the weights. It is a metal sled that cost around $20. For resistance, I simply add 45 pound plates, and top off the recipe with a heavy sandbag (click here for sandbag construction instructions).
I secure the bag and free weights with a tight bungee cord. A 25 foot manila rope is then attached. There are endless workout combinations that can be performed with this simple contraption. In the video, I demonstrate a sled pull, followed by a backward drag. Continue this sequence for a few three minute rounds and you’ll know that you’ve been working!
To conclude the video, I finish with a car push for time. Pushing a large SUV makes a great finisher to any workout. You can push the car for distance (as demonstrated), or you can work with more intense bursts where you push the vehicle as fast as you can for brief intervals. Whichever option you choose, you can expect a full body challenge.
I hope you enjoy the video demonstration.
Train hard, and do not put limitations on yourself due to a perceived lack of equipment. You can do a lot with a little. Think outside the box and always strive to improve!