It used to be that just the boutique gyms had all the trendy toys. In fact, many small gyms built their training platform around tools categorized today as ‘function fitness.’ But tires, ropes and medicine balls are all conventional tools for weight loss. Now that these fitness tools are part of the HIIT (high intensity interval training) repertoire, exercisers must take the time to learn how to properly use them. It is easy to say it is the responsibility of the instructors leading classes to impress upon the participants proper technique. Honestly, at some point the exercising consumer, must take responsibility for themselves. I will give instructors and trainers the benefit of the doubt that each time they describe an exercise, they are demonstrating it with correct form and highlighting the most critical cues for proper execution. But knowing that it is hard to remember every detail in your first couple classes, it is in the exerciser’s best interest to look up a couple ‘how tos’ online to maximize the benefits and avoid injuries.
I have highlighted the most popular exercise tools used in HIIT style workouts, boot camps and functional training gyms. I hope the visuals I created help you to better understand how to avoid injury and the awful form I reenact makes your face cringe like mine.
Battle Ropes have become quite mainstream. They are another piece of fitness equipment that incorporate the entire body. We have used heavy ropes at my facility for many years and I personally enjoy seeing how many people have adapted them for a wide range of sports training. As with many exercises, I find that people ignore the fact that technique is required when throwing the ropes around. It seems like a harmless exercise at first, but in order to maximize the benefits, you need to learn how to coordinate the legs’s thrusting power with the arm movement. Whether you are building into a plyometric exercise or not, your movement needs to dynamically move from your legs. Your legs launch the energy into your arms. Avoid your arms from isolating the movement. If you do not return your weight into your legs after each movement of the battle rope, you will find yourself off-balance throughout the entire exercise.
TRX Training is in every gym I can think of. One of my favorite tools is the suspension straps. As much as I love to come up with my own variations, I love seeing the tricks that others create. But before adding tricks to your TRX training you have got to learn how to properly do a body weight row. Begin with good posture. The idea of having posture on a strap while leaning back may seem odd, but if your upper-back ‘girdle’ (or area) is not engaged properly, you are getting very little benefit from this exercise.
When you do a body weight row it will be easier to pull back (or retract) your shoulder blades. Then lengthen your spine or think about your body being long. Avoid, rounding your back and shoulders. Although your rear end will feel like the heaviest part of your body, keep it lifted instead of sagging. My personal secret that saves me when I am fatiguing is – look up the straps towards the anchor.
Tire Flips are an awesome raw exercise. They make you feel like the Hulk. I find it a little funny that they have become so popular and people actually pay for discarded tires. They have been part of so many boxing program for decades. However, tires are part of boxing training because they are generally free and few boxing programs have had a budget for strength equipment. Most boxing coaches just end up getting them somewhere, from someone.
Tire flips are a solid functional exercise. We all need to bend down and lift something awkward and heavy (i.e. kids!) on a regular basis. So reinforcing the need to lift from the legs has great value. But do not bend over! Avoid hinging from your hips when doing this exercise. Keep your weight back, lift your abs up and look out in front of you.
Medicine Ball throws offer amazing sport specific application. Today, they also come in a wide variety of styles and sizes (besides weight). I mostly use the rubber medicine balls that bounce. One of my favorite exercises is rotation with a throw and catch. The biggest mistake that I see with all medicine ball training is – misjudging the ideal distance from the wall for the exercise being performed. Gauging your distance before all types of exercises is the key to maintaining the correct posture. When you do medicine tosses avoid bending forward and allowing your head to get too far in front of your knees. This will place unnecessary pressure on your lower back.