I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted a real entry, one where I’m not answering the same questions over and over. But I’ve been quite busy as of late. The biggest cause of busy-ness? My 6 month old daughter, of course. It’s been hard juggling work, writing, working out and family. So I’ve been following the training principles in Training for the Busy Bodybuilder to keep myself in shape.
If you have an extremely busy lifestyle, then having a home gym makes life much more convenient. I wrote about the basics for the home gym in a previous post, but I thought I’d follow-up with a post on “home gym extras.” These are pieces of equipment or exercises that, if you have the extra money and the extra strength, should purchase and perform:
1) Kettlebells- A lot of people go crazy bat shit over kettlebells. They think kettlebells cure everything from ectomorphism to obesity to cancer. But the bottom line is that kettlebells are tools, they are not complete workouts in and of themselves.
Not only this, but kettlebells are expensive. For a single expensive steel ball, you really can’t do that many exercises that you wouldn’t do with dumbbells or barbells. The Turkish get-up and windmills can both be performed with a dumbbell or barbell, without any loss of difficulty or effort.
People try to get fancy with kettlebells and perform some rather superfluous exercises when they should stick to the basics. The three main exercises that distinguish the kettlebell from other free weights are the clean and press, the snatch and the swing. The kettlebell versions of these exercises are very different in feel and difficulty from their barbell and dumbbell counterparts. These exercises have a profound effect on the musculature. You will thicken up quite a bit in the traps, anterior delts, forearms, biceps and back. So if you’re willing to shell out a lot of money for just 2-3 exercises, then get a kettlebell.
2) Chains- Because of joint angles, the force or difficulty of an exercise is less or more at certain points of the movement. For example, the top range of a squat, a press or a curl is much easier than the beginning and mid range portions of these movements.
To make these exercises more difficult throughout the entire range of motion, you can attach heavy chains to the barbell. As you lift, more and more links lift off of the floor and the weight becomes heavier and heavier. This is what is known as a form of “accommodating resistance,” and it is an excellent way of increasing your strength. If your train with chains for a few weeks, and then train without them for the next few weeks, your poundages will go up significantly.
You can purchase chains at a hardware store, but very few have the really big ones. I got mine at Osh Orchard Supply and Hardware.
3) Pull-up, chin-up tower or bar- The pull-up is completely and utterly unforgiving. You either can do a pull-up, or you cannot. Your chin passes the finish line that is the bar, or you hang there helpless. That bar is a clear demarcation of manhood. So if you want to have a big bad ass back, then you better do some pull-ups.
The great thing about a pull-up bar or tower is that this simple piece of equipment allows you to do a wide range of exercises, not just for the back. You can do hanging leg raises for the abs. You can do 9 different distinct variations of pull-ups and chin-ups, each with a very different feel, each emphasizing a different portion of your upper body musculature.
4) Heavy handles-
“Heavy Handles” are a rather unique training tool. It’s basically a double-pronged adjustable dumbbell handle. You can add weight to either of the threaded shafts, creating a dumbbell with an offset center of gravity. Thus you can change the angle of resistance for many conventional dumbbell exercises and make them much more difficult.
The Heavy Handle requires standard, one-inch hole plates and comes in 2 grip sizes: a one inch ergonomic handle and a two inch thick bar handle. The Heavy Handle also has a cable ring attachment for use with pulley machines.
I’ve definitely noticed a difference in using the Heavy Handle. Dumbbell flyes, rows, curls, laterals and triceps extensions all feel very different and more difficult with the Heavy Handle. I actually had to use weights lighter than I use with conventional dumbbells. I’ve also noticed that my upper body musculature has thickened up quite a bit, especially in my forearms and back.
The Heavy Handle cost $19.95 for one, $29.95 for two, which is a very good deal considering conventional cable attachments cost just as much. For strong bodybuilders and athletes, I suggest that you get the 2″ thick bar handle, since it costs just the same as the 1″ ergonomic handle. Overall, a great training tool for the strength athlete. Visit HeavyHandle.com to purchase a set.
5) One arm pushups- One arm pushups are an awesome way to thicken and strengthen the triceps lateral head. And it’s cheap… as in free! You can do it anywhere at anytime. Now if you can’t do a one arm pushup, then I suggest following this excellent primer: One Arm Pushups.