Welcome to part 2 of our introduction to functional training equipment. This section shall introduce (some of us) to the benefits of training with the Tire, the Prowler, ViPR, jump rope, the sandbag and the almighty macebell!
The tire flip is one of the exercises that made ‘The World’s Strongest Man’ famous. It has in recent years become very popular and nowadays you will find them at most hardcore gyms. They are excellent for enhancing strength, endurance, power, and conditioning of anyone who includes them in regular workouts. The flip is a tremendous movement for people who need explosive power and is one of the best exercises for athletes such as rugby players, wrestlers, MMA fighters and indeed anyone who will need to exert force quickly to move heavy opponents.
Additionally, If your strength training and progress has plateaued with regular strength-building equipment, integrating a tire into your workout will shock the body and force your muscles to work in a completely new way. There are a number of exercises that can challenge you in ways traditional weight training cannot. With proper technique, your functional strength can reach a level much higher than before.
Rather than pay out for an expensive training tire(very expensive!) It might be worth checking local tire shops that deal with commercial vehicles. If you are lucky you may even have a tire shop willing to part with these large tires to avoid recycling costs. Then the only issue you might have to deal with is storage, they take up a bit of space, so unless you have your own gym you may have to persuade your partner/housemate of the benefits of leaving them lying around the backyard!
Popular exercises with the Tire:
- The Farmer Walk
- Tire Deadlift
- Tire Flip
- Sledgehammer Smash
- Partner Work (Flips, back and forth pushes)
The Prowler is a versatile, easy to use, tool that offers many benefits and incredible results in a small amount of time. It can be used to help you develop strength or power; improve your conditioning; increase your muscle hypertrophy and is a great tool for fat loss.
The Prowler can be used to improve anaerobic abilities by performing sprints that are short in duration and high in intensity. It can also aid aerobic conditioning by performing reps longer in duration or reducing rest between sets.
The prowler is also of benefit in improving strength, power and speed. This can be achieved by adding weight (as much as possible) and explosively performing pushing/pulling drills. This is of obvious benefit in sports and movements where you are required to perform explosive and dynamic movements (sprinting, jumping, bounding, planting, rapid changing of direction).
Furthermore, the prowler can help establish proper motor patterns and strengthens muscles that are critical for running (the muscles in the feet and lower legs, quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core). It can also dramatically improve your ability to accelerate in all directions.
Another area the Prowler scores high in is injury prevention. This is due to how it mimics the lower body mechanics of running but with significantly less wear and tear on the body. This translates as a lower risk of injury for the body during exercise and faster recovery times. The Prowler is often used to help rehabilitate injuries and can help protect the body against chronic injuries. For example, such as Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, or other injuries that can result from weak feet and lower legs.
The obvious downside of the Prowler is that it isn’t as portable or indeed as space friendly as some equipment. However, as it is becoming more and more popular it is becoming more available in modern functional gyms.
Popular exercises with the Prowler:
- Backwards Prowler Walk.
- Overhead Prowler Drag.
- Chest Press pushing Prowler.
- Squat to Row using Prowler.
- Biceps Curl pulling Prowler.
- Prowler Crab Walk.
Jumping rope is a great cardio exercise that works your arms, legs, and core while improving your balance. With each jump, you are also improving your conditioning and coordination, which is beneficial in all facets of your life. Besides being fast and powerful as a workout tool, jump ropes are portable. It can easily be carried in a backpack, stashed in your car, or packed in your suitcase. As a result, it’s one of the easiest ways to get in that quick gym fix during a busy week.
The ViPR (Vitality, Performance, and Reconditioning) is a relative newcomer on the functional training scene. At first glance, this piece of equipment just looks like a large plastic tube with holes in. However, it is a very useful tool for functional training and has the ability to overhaul workouts. One of its many benefits is it allows you to lengthen both muscle and connective tissue. This can be the most effective way for developing strength throughout the entire body at the same time.
Much of ViPR’s training ethos is in line with functional training, avoiding isolation exercises and concentrating on whole body movement. Many of the ViPR’s movements require all parts of your body to move in tandem. Additionally, the moves mimic many of the same movements you perform naturally in real life situations.
When you work all of your big muscle groups together, your body is forced to recruit other surrounding muscles. This extra support ensures that you don’t under or over-train certain muscle groups as your work out.
The ViPR is very simple to use and is designed to be lifted, thrown, carried, swing and manipulated through multiple planes of motion. It comes in a variety of weights, so make sure you choose one that is challenging but doesn’t compromise your technique. With the ViPR’s various handles and grips, it is possible to recreate a variety of carrying positions which can result in stronger, more dense muscle and connective tissue which will help prevent injury.
Overall, the ViPR is an excellent way to increase strength, improve flexibility and burn calories all with one piece of equipment. It is relatively light and easy to store in the home (or even workplace).
Popular Exercises with ViPR include:
- Upper Cut Lunge
- Circular Lunge
- Squat Catch
- Rolling Pushup
- Sit Up Chop
- Thread the Needle
Using sandbags (or power-bags as some gym variations are often called) can provide an incredibly effective workout. Since a sandbag does not retain a solid shape, it is nearly impossible to settle into an easy groove in your body whilst lifting like you would with traditional machines and free weights. Due to this, training using a sandbag challenges the core muscles and supporting stabilising muscles in a way traditional resistance methods never could.
Ultimately this type of unstable resistance training provides a solid foundation for fitness and indeed everyday life. Furthermore, by incorporating more complex movement patterns into sandbag workouts, it can dramatically improve other facets of your training such as strength, balance, and stability.
Popular Exercises with the Sandbag include:
- Shoulder the Load
- Bent-Over Row
Mace and Club Training
A steel mace is a type of strength training equipment using long metal rods capped with a weighted ball. Maces have been used as weapons and training implements for thousands of years, and they were apparently a favourite tool of ancient Hindu warriors.
Types of Mace
- The Club Bell – Sometimes called heavy clubs or steel clubs, club bells can weigh up to 45lbs and are great for building strength and endurance, particularly with grip, forearms, and the core.
- The Mace – Maces are not too heavy (on average they weigh between 10/20lbs), but the real challenge comes from their length (they are roughly 4 feet long!). The main difference between the two is the length, the Mace’s lever is longer and so is more difficult to control, so you don’t need as much weight to have a challenging workout. The movement patterns are however very similar, so much of it comes down to personal preference.
Mace workouts will provide strong and healthy shoulders. Since shoulder girdle is the least stable joint in the entire body, it is highly susceptible to injury. Swinging a steel mace with the correct form through a full range of motion increases the strength of the muscles and connective tissue around the shoulder joint whilst increasing flexibility in the shoulder.
Many of the maces exercises swing the mace behind the head, which makes it a great for working the scapula and the upper back. Furthermore, both maces and club bells improve rotational torque and strength in multiple planes of motion, two qualities that traditional barbell resistance training lack.
Other benefits of mace training include improved grip strength (hand, finger, and forearm strength) an often overlooked but fundamental aspect of functional fitness since our grip strength determines many of the things we can or can’t do in life. Due to the mace’s uneven distribution of weight, swinging it requires a strong grip. Repeated swinging, especially over the course of weeks and months, can increase your grip strength to improve this aspect of functional fitness.
Mace exercises can also provide a decent core workout. Many of the mace exercises require cross-body swinging motions that require extensive core engagement, particularly of the obliques. The uneven distribution of weight along the steel mace requires greater core engagement to control successfully. The result is an excellent core and oblique workout, improved overall core strength.
Finally, while the obvious benefits of using a steel mace are upper body strength and grip strength, the mace can also be adapted for use as a total body circuit and/or cardiovascular workouts.
Bodyweight Functional Exercises
With the mention of all this fancy equipment, we have neglected the ever humble bodyweight variations, if anything even before we go anywhere near any equipment we should have these exercises perfected as they are our fundamental movements, push and pull etc. Even alone without any equipment, they are solid go-to exercises. Exercises that can easily be adapted to make them more (or less) difficult depending on how challenged we want to be.
Popular Bodyweight Exercises include:
- Air Squat.
- Kettlebell Deadlift.
- Half Kneeling Chop.
- Bear Crawl.
- Farmers Carry.
A brief overview of some of the functional training methods available. Many of these training methods target the muscles from different angles as opposed to more traditional methods of training and so incorporating them into your regular workouts can be highly beneficial. Furthermore, they focus on everyday movement patterns in a variety of planes and so are important to our everyday lives and have real-life value. They are also far more fun and interesting than traditional exercises which should make them more engaging and increase the likelihood of adherence.
There is numerous other functional training equipment available that definitely deserve a mention including pull-up bars, sledgehammers, plyometric boxes, gymnastic rings, stability balls and disks (all of which warrant a look). Finally, functional equipment and classes are very popular and widespread these days and so it should not be too difficult to find a gym or classes that contain this type of equipment and\or training, so get out there and have fun.