Train Like No One Else: Unconventional Gear Training

Train Like No One Else: Unconventional Gear Training

By Ror Alexander

With CrossFit and functional training all the rage, the use of barbells, pullup bars/rings and bodyweight has never been higher. But is this enough? Or can we take it further, and more functional? After all, unlike a dumbbell, or barbell, most things we pick up in real life are not evenly weighted, with perfect handles, and soft knurling to assist in a tight grip. Maybe it’s time we steal a page from strongman and Navy SEAL inspired training!

Once we have realized that real life does not often emulate the typical tools we use in the gym, we then must realize that we need to incorporate more unconventional training tools into our regimens. This is where the use of items like kettlebells, kegs and sandbags come into play. Below, ASPATA gives you a quick breakdown of some great functional tools, and what makes them important to add into your programs or your clients programs.

Medballs allow for uninhibited movement which can really help with teaching complete hip extension, as there is a lot less in the way to get in the way of complete extension, because of this there is also no deceleration phase as you can literally throw the ball, helping develop power. Slam, bang, and throw, single arm, both hands, you can’t go wrong.

Functional Fitness

Sandbags/Waterbags (Slosh Bags)
Sandbags and waterbags are great at developing power endurance, pressing from a fist (wrist strength) and excellent for alternative movements under weight (duck walks, lunge walking). The sand or water in the bag shifts every time you move it, which makes this workout challenging and effective. You can go heavy or light, you choose. Heavy, slower more controlled movements; or lighter, with more speed and reps! Sandbags also allow you to practice such exercises as clean and jerks, and variants with less of a chance of injury.

Strongman Logs
Strongman logs allows you to really develop overhead strength. The grip is more ergonomic on the wrists as your palms will face each other in a more natural position. The circumference of the shape also makes you change your lifting technique a bit, by focusing on additional thoracic extension, additional emphasis on bracing the core, and involves the chest more than a standard O-bar.

Kegs filled with water are one of the best when it comes to increasing carrying power and overhead press strength. Incorporating sets of military presses and overhead farmer walks with the keg stimulates many stabilizing muscles of the shoulders which leads to increased strength in those muscles. When you go back to the classic military press after adding some keg training, your pressing strength and stability should have increased significantly. And just wait until next time you have to carry something like a big screen TV!

Excellent for developing power, endurance, complete hip extension, core stability, unilateral and alternating movements. The kettlebell shape allows the body to perform a multitude of ballistic and grind exercises in a natural, fluid motion. Although most kettlebell exercises can be performed with a dumbbell, performing a snatch or a swing is much more cumbersome with a dumbbell. The kettlebell handle lets the hand hold it loosely so that the bell can float and swing outward due to the hip thrust, providing more momentum for both the upward and downward swings. The offset weight of the ball forces more muscles to stabilize and allows for the body to take each exercise through a longer range of motion. The increased range of motion will improve flexibility as well as improve the strength of deeper stabilizing muscles. Its also fairly low impact if done correctly with smooth. soft angles.

TRX RipTrainer
The TRX Rip Trainer allows users to engage in unlimited movements which, when performed properly, enhance fluidity and range of motion and decrease the risk of injury. Whether used for high speed striking movements or slow speed strength and stability exercises, the Rip Trainer is an excellent training tool for fitness enthusiasts. Rip Training utilizes the same asymmetrical loading we encounter every day. Whether you’re carrying groceries, picking up your child, throwing a ball, or performing athletic movements such as swimming, running, and biking, your body is always producing rotation or controlling externally-induced rotation.

Fat Gripz
Thick bars spread the weight over a larger area of the hand (just imagine bench pressing with a thick bar compared to a standard skinny bar). Many trainers credit this with making training safer and less likely to cause injury. They also make the forearms extensors (the muscles on the top of the forearm) and forearm flexors (the muscles on the bottom) work more evenly which can help avoids imbalances, weaknesses and injury.

Hammers/Clubs & Tires
If a hammer is good enough for Thor, it’s good enough for you! Adding tires to your training program provides a great opportunity to increase power production and endurance. Tire flips can be done for a few repetitions with a heavy tire or for many repetitions with a lighter one.
Tire sledgehammer training is great because of the opposite movement of hip-driven power production. Many other power exercises generate power from the legs to the arms, whereas tire sledgehammer work generates power from the arms to the legs.
Feel inspired? Get your own Thor’s Hammer at:

Pullup Globe
Want the ultimate grip maker? How about a ball instead of a bar to do pullups on. Believe us, it will definitely fix a weaker grip.

The use of sleds in athletic training is not new, and for good reason. The sled comes in various shapes and, which enable a diverse range of exercises to suit the athlete’s needs. They can be pulled, pushed or dragged. In the case of the prowler sled, weight can be added to make the exercise more targeted—whether for power development, muscular endurance or aerobic training. Check out the Prowler 2 sled, the #1 selling sled. Or just simply run with a tire tied to your hips.

Atlas Stones/Heavy Slam Balls/(H2O Atlas Ball)
Atlas stones are most commonly associated with the World’s Strongest Man competition, though they need not remain in the exclusive domain of the strongman. Their awkward shape and unusual center of gravity when lifted allows them to promote the need for strong stabilization and dynamic re-centering of an athlete’s balance throughout the range of motion of an Atlas stone load. Try adding a water ball to the mix, and it adds an even higher level of toughness.

To find out more about functional training, make sure to check out and sign up for our XF Coach course or Advanced Barbell (for some interesting non-typical use of barbell exercises). And keep an eye out for some interesting workshops and new courses coming soon.