People often ask me about workout regimes, training protocols and etc. But most frequently I am asked about my favorite fitness tool. I believe it is because people are in constant search of the best way to improve their conditioning.
Of course, that is a good thing. But unfortunately, there is no easy answer.
I prefer cross training, experimenting with new methods, finding what works and what doesnt, by my self. And I never focus on a single piece of equipment or method. Each one has its own merits.
You could do a lot with barbells.
You can choose between bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic lifts or conditioning circuits, depending on your goals and time schedule.
As long as you have an access to a gym or you invest in a home made squat rack, bench and 200 kg of discs.
Barbell lifting is one of the basic training you cant do without.
But limiting your self to barbells, could be great for some athletes, while not so beneficial to others. Specific training for certain individual and group sports is still required. And the barbell lifts cannot really translate in wrestling. Why? Because of dynamics, speed, load and angles change in the grappling sports, opposed to static, one dimensional barbell lifts.
Of course you should raise your strength levels through barbels! But that should be done in off season periods and with very specific goals. After that, the grappler should use other methods and tools.
The kettlebells have become very popular during the last two decades.
In my opinion, its mostly due to been exotic and “eastern”, so people connect them with their image of hard nosed Eastern Europeans.
While that might me true, I think about the kettlebells as something you use to train a few times a week for some circuits, and for the rest of the time, they will serve as a weight to tie my dog to, or keep the room door open.
They are common thing where I come from and are seen just as old school work out tool. Most of my friends back in Bulgaria have no idea how to use them actually. My grandfather, God rest his soul, use to throw them around in a few quick clean and press circuits, before pining the nylon sheets of his green house orangery with them.
In general, the kettlebells are one of the best fitness tools to come by.
You dont need a gym they can be just rusting in your front yard, always ready for 20 min of swings and snatches.
They come in only 3 sizes (yeah, I know you have bunch of different pink variations in your gym, but we dont do that in Bulgaria). Beginner starts with 16 kg, normal athletes work out with 24 kg and the freaks of nature throw around 32 kg kettlebells. That it. Keep it simple.
You can exercise pretty much all parts of the body with some simple and more complex routines. You can do strength endurance protocols, ballistic movements, great anaerobic protocols. You can also use them to maintain your form, if you dont have an access or time to go to the gym.
Whats the downside?
Well, it hurts if you slip your mind for a split second! Please, if you have an iron ball, flipping above your head, concentrate on it, because in bones vs iron contest, the iron will always prevail.
Second, they are not that easy to come by and definitely not easy to carry around.
I will concentrate more on the Bulgarian Bag here, since in my opinion, its the best sandbag existing, having added handles and offering wider variety of exercises. The bigger sandbags should be put together with wrestling dummies.
The Bulgarian Bag is the best friend of any grappler, providing him with the possibility to exercise with movements, closer to the dynamics of his sport, focusing on core, shoulder and grip coordination.
It is also best suited for the general population of fitness maniacs, who lack the time to visit the gym.
You could really get your self exhausted within 20 min of sandbag workout. completely frying your arms, shoulders and legs.
The Bulgarian Bag is also easy to carry with you for outdoor exercise sessions or picnicks.
The only con, worth mentioning, is that the weight of the sandbag is not enough, if you are looking for some serious hypertrophy, but my guess is that if you are into bodybuilding, you will be spending many hours in the gym anyway, so why not use the Bulgarian Bag on your days off?
OK, so you dont have time to go to the gym, you dont have money to buy your self some home equipment, but you really want to get in shape.
Well, there is solution for that situation bodyweight exercises.
You can always do single leg squats, push ups, burpees, pull ups, dips and all kind of other movements, covering the whole range you need to get that desired shape.
A lot of gymnasts are actually achieving all of their results and great form, through bodyweight exercises.
They require nothing else, but your own will!
Elastic bands training:
Maybe one of the best ways to train with resistance!
They come in different types, colors, density and shapes, but they are all great!
You can easily change angles, work with higher volume, rest- pause protocols… You can strap them everywhere you want and take them on a business trip to exercise in your hotel room.
Training with a partner:
Thats not really common thing to see outside of wrestling and judo gyms, but its amazing way for strength training and conditioning, that should be used by general population too.
And nothing beats the looks you are going to get, if all of a sudden you start flipping your girlfriend on the sidewalk.
There are many other fitness tools- there are dumbbells, Trex, battle ropes, Iranian clubs and all kinds of machines.
You should go out there and try them all, to find what suits best your goals, time schedule and budget.
After you have done that, you will find that the question in the title of this article, could have many different answers. And all of them would be right!