What is the opposite of swole? Because that’s what a lot of us achieved in 2020 when all of the gyms shuttered due to COVID. Instead of making gains, most of us were gaining weight while we tested out our latest carb-loaded creation in the kitchen. Never fear, though. Mike Torres, a StrongFirst Certified Team Leader & Elite Instructor—and unofficially certified great guy—is sharing his tips with us on how to trick out your home gym so that you’ll be motivated to leave the sanctuary of your couch and get back into the movement groove.... more
For $25, this heinous tool of torture can be yours. Ab wheels have gone from “must be a fad” several decades ago, to “must have” equipment for anyone interested in building a rock-solid midsection. Start slowly though, ab wheel rollouts are much harder than they look—and if you progress too quickly, you won’t be able to laugh without pain for days. Start on your knees and make everything tight (abs, lats, glutes, grip) before rolling out & back, and only go as far as you’re comfortable. A few sets of 3-5 reps are all you need.
My friend and mentor Pavel Tsatsouline, the person chiefly responsible for popularizing kettlebells in the West, says that the kettlebell is an “ancient Russian weapon against weakness… compact, inexpensive, virtually indestructible, and can be used anywhere.” A single kettlebell can replace an entire gym if you know what you’re doing. If you can only get one thing, opt for a kettlebell and take the time to learn how to do “ballistics” (swings, snatches, cleans) and grinds (presses, getups, squats) with single or double kettlebells. Find an instructor on StrongFirst.com to get started—strength is a skill!
The original innovators are still the best adjustable dumbbells on the planet. While many have tried, no one has reached the level of convenience, build quality, or extensibility of PowerBlock. You can start with a less expensive PowerBlock set and add to it with expansion kits as you get stronger. (Side note: their adjustable kettlebell is cute, but I’d opt for the real thing).
Make it semi-official with a nice folding gym mat to move on top of. Most mats will do just fine to protect the carpet or hardwood floor, but it’s nice to have one that folds up into a corner or under a bed if space is tight.
An inexpensive ($25-$50) way to start introducing both relaxed and active hanging from a bar, which will improve your grip strength and your midsection. Progress over time to flexed arm hangs, and then to pull-ups, chin-ups, “muscle ups”, hanging leg raises, and more. There are higher quality bars available (see: Rogue’s options) but this is a good starter bar for home use.
I think of band training as a “spice” and not the “main dish,” but when used correctly you can do a lot with bands. A good set of bands can be used for mobility, warm up, power production, and strength development. They can either be used standalone or with other tools like dumbbells or kettlebells. There are looped resistance bands (linked here), elastic band tubes with handles, and mini-bands.
If you are going to do “cardio” at home, the Concept2 Rower is my method of choice (well, second only to kettlebell swings). The Peloton is an amazing invention, but it’s (very) expensive and nowhere near the full-body movement that rowing is. Rowing is very metabolically efficient thanks to the number of muscle groups used, so you can get more done in less time. It’s low-impact, safe, inexpensive, and is both a strength and an endurance exercise. This Rower is so durable, it might even last longer than you do.
Rucking is basically walking or hiking with additional weight added, and GoRuck packs are the best for it. Not exactly for the home (though it can be used to add additional weight to ab wheel rollouts or pull-ups), this pack is a great addition to a fitness routine nonetheless… especially during warmer months. I prefer the plate carrier with a 20lb or 30lb plate for urban rucks.
The grip can tend to give out first, cutting your training short and limiting your gains. To get around this, IronMind has a best-in-class set of hand grippers with various levels. This set also include hand expanders, which help counteract all the gripping (and are great for elbow tendinitis). Note: the grippers can be very hard to close if you don’t have much grip strength to start—if you’re new to grip training, or you’re just not that strong yet, start with the IronMind Egg (Blue) first, and then move to their Zenith grippers which are easier to close.
Forget Fitbit, the Oura Ring is my choice for activity, sleep, and overall readiness tracking. Oura measures your pulse from the finger, not the wrist, and it’s been used in COVID-19 trials to detect the virus early based on an increase in nighttime body temperature. The Oura app integrates with Apple Health as well, so it will take into account all of your activity when determining your readiness. Knowledge is power, and I use this device to inform me of how recovered I am—and when I need a day off.
Everyone knows about foam rolling, but very few people do it correctly. I have all sorts of rollers, everything from cut PVC pipes to fancy vibrating rollers, and I always come back to the Gator when I need to move better without restriction. The Gator is “one of the only massaging rollers on the market optimized for cross frictional massage—mimicking the way massage therapists use their thumbs or fingertips to apply short, firm strokes across the muscle fibers.”
Made by Jill Miller’s Tune Up Fitness Worldwide, these balls are made of a special rubber that ‘grip’ the skin and relieves tension. They are great for short mobility sessions, reducing stress and helping you to relax. I use these on my neck, shoulders, and even my face/jaw to prevent tension headaches. Jill’s book, “The Roll Model”, is an incredibly comprehensive 430+ page instruction manual (and more) for this awesome method.
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