Showtime!: Implementing Training Tools Into Programming Part Un
Prowlers, TRX: suspension trainers, kettle bells, bungee cords, sleds, harnesses, leashes, slam balls, med balls, dynamax balls, Indian clubs, sand bags, Vipr’s.
If you haven’t been paying attention to the fitness industry lately, than you haven’t witnessed the newest explosion in gadgets and gizmos that have overtaken the landscape.
As always, some of the new toys will fizzle quickly (no Viprs at this year’s Perform Better Summit in RI), others will gain only minimal traction, and others will add a component to training that enhances the game and brings about serious improvements to training.
This is your guide
Prowlers and other sliding metal
This isn’t a new tool, in fact, if we just call it a sled I don’t really think it has ever gone out of style. The newest iterations have been known to invite stares and mass vomiting. However, prowlers and sleds are great methods to invite a ton of new iterations to your training programs.
Want bigger legs? Think of the Prowler as a functional leg press. You are working a ton of muscle at high tension and only working the concentric portion. This all invites the prowler into the room for big bang work with various uses. Furthermore, some Prowler-esqe devices come with harnesses and straps that you can use to pull like a traditional sled.
This is good.
We now have the makings of hundreds of variations that improve performance and can be inserted into nearly every segment of our programming
· Warm-up: Not an awesome option, but light pushes can be used to get the heart rate up. Additionally, we can use the Prowler and the straps to do standing Y’s, I’s and T’s. This quick shoulder warm-up is useful.
· Power/Speed Development: Yup. Sled Sprints can be inserted here with a decent weight. Not to mention any other movement you want to load.
· Strength: From Concentric Presses and pulls, to walking lunges, the prowler can be utilized in a variety of fashions to improve a number of different strength components. It isn’t the bread and butter of the program, but it is a viable alternative exercise.
· Endurance: This is already a sacred cow. Push till weary. Repeat.
Overall, the Prowler is a great option for a number of different purposes. You can use it in nearly any area of a sound program and not look like a total idiot.
TRX and other suspension trainers
Go into big box gyms and check out the group ex classes, chances are somewhere they are using these yellow and black devices to do pretty much 100% of their programming.
A training toolhas become a training system.
Don’t get me wrong, this is like a Swiss army knife of tools, but even a Swiss army knife has its limits.
Suspension trainers have introduced a way of creating a progressive loaded row variation that engages the core and allows for in the moment manipulation of loading, something that no other device truly and effectively can duplicate.
Even having friends strip the weights for drop sets isn’t faster than taking a simple step back and banging away at a set of rows.
We can use suspension trainers to create new ways of producing old techniques, though not always the most effective.
· Warm-up: Suspension trainers can be used to slowly move into a number of different movements. Using them for a Y,T,W,L circuits allows loading of that pattern while allowing for the benefit of in the moment weight adjustment. Additionally, we can get into greater ranges of motion in a squat, have support for single leg variations and activate the core musculature.
· Power/Speed Development: Suspension trainers are great speed and power development tools. However, with careful thinking and a little creativity we can create some movements that have big carryover benefit in sport
· Strength: Try loading a vest and chains on your chest and hips and go through some suspension rows and tell me you aren’t fired up. Most of the patterns used in suspension are better body weight and strength endurance exercises than anything else, but there are a few gems that we can use the suspension system for. Additionally, you can use the suspension trainers slapped to a prowler or punching bag and you have great concentric only work waiting to be tapped.
· Endurance: Moving seamlessly from one exercise to another and back with variable load and complete control and safety makes suspension training a great tool to help with body weight circuits and metabolic conditioning.
Like I have said before, let’s not make a tool into a system, I don’t run a computer on Microsoft Word, even though it is a fantastic tool. The system needs to be more inclusive than the tools that run it.
Enter the Kettlebell, and idiots who don’t use them right
Want to see something dumb and useless. Pick a kettlebell you can front raise with your shoulders and start showing me how well you “swing” a kettle.
People who don’t actually train people or understand the uses or a tool begin to make something that can load the hips and create explosive power in the hips into something of a joke.
I have had power lifters come in and I’ve asked them to swing a kettle and they laughed. They grab this tiny bell and start throwing it above their heads.
100 lb kettle
No more laughing
The kettle bell is a very useful tool that can create loading and explosive movements on the hips that you can’t really find in any other tool. Sure it also can be used in place of DBs for lunges and presses and a variety of other substitutions, but those are just lateralization’s of the same movements.
Instead, Turkish getups, bottoms up kettle movements and hip swings of various need are all wildly effective at contributing to their desired result. Problem is understanding the tool and how it benefits the exercise first.
· Warm-up: Turkish get-ups are a great warm-up for some more advanced athletes and trainees. It allows you to establish stability, mobility, organization of the core and basic movement prior to heavy loading or training. In addition, the Get-up can be loaded like crazy and become a tremendous workout in itself. The get-up is an article in itself so I won’t get into its finer points here
· Power/Speed Development: Explosive hips? Check. Violent use of the stretch shortening cycle? Check. Kettles offer an additional resource to teach explosive movement around the hip while also establishing the foundations for future Olympic lifting. You can read more here
· Strength: Find a heavy kettle and swing it. Use kettles for lunges, presses and other variations as well. It isn’t my go to strength builder, but it isn’t something that is a waste of time in strength development either
· Endurance: Swing a kettle you think you can swing 100 times and swing it 50 times. If you aren’t breathing heavy you either weren’t trying to swing it hard or it wasn’t heavy enough. The kettlebell offers a great way of causing a huge disturbance in the body. It isn’t specific conditioning, but can be great for general populations just looking to stay “fit”
This is just part one of my series on tools and how to use them. The best way to learn what you like or don’t is to seek out someone who knows the tools and have them teach you. Things don’t need to get weird, but throwing just a slight variation in training can have a huge impact on results.
Stay tuned for the next installment where I will bring up slide boards, medballs, plyo boxes and more
Bill Rom is the top strength and conditioning coach on Long Island.