When you go to the gym, you have choices: machines, dumbbells, kettlebells, cardio…the list seems endless and sometimes overwhelming.
Regardless if you’re building an at-home gym or just want to know what to do once you get to the gym, we’ve done the legwork for the best types of equipment to bring you endless options for improved strength and performance. (Hint: There are more creative ways to use the same old equipment than you think!
Kettlebells: Perhaps one of the most versatile pieces of equipment, kettlebells can be lifted, carried, used for core, or high intensity workout. Here’s a few of our favorite creative moves:
Golf Swings: Perfect when warming up on shoulder day, grab a light kettlebell in both hands and stand as if holding a golf club. Using your legs and core, swing kettlebell up and toward right shoulder, as if striking a golf ball. Continue with this back and forth movement, and then change directions for reps.
Chest Press to Partial Turkish Get-Up: Begin on your back with a medium kettlebell in left hand, left leg bent, right leg straight, right arm braced on floor. Press the kettlebell up over chest, as if performing a chest press. Lean over on right elbow and press to right hand to lift hips off mat. Keep pressing kettlebell up as you contract core and press through left and right heel. Slowly lower back to butt and then all the way down. Complete reps on one side before switching.
Clean and Press to Step-Down: Begin with two medium kettlebells facing feet. Squat down to retrieve them, thumbs facing back. Clean kettlebells to your shoulders by pulling elbows into ribs. As you extend both kettlebells to a locked overhead position, step back with left foot and lower to left knee, then do the same with right. Step forward with right foot back into a low squat and then with left, arms still extended. As you stand, clean kettlebells back to your shoulders and then lower back to feet. That’s one rep.
Dumbbells: Though dumbbells have been around for ages, we often forget how versatile they really are. Instead of just curling or pressing, use dumbbells in these new and exciting ways:
Single-arm Farmer’s Carry: With a very heavy dumbbell in one hand, walk down and back an open length of gym, keeping torso upright, abs contracted, and then switch arms to complete.
Single-Arm Snatches: With a heavy dumbbell on the ground between feet, squat down with a flat back to retrieve it. Using a swift movement, pull yourself underneath the weight by performing an upright row and then punching the weight straight into the air overhead. Lower slowly and repeat before switching sides.
Bear Crawls: Using two moderate weights, begin in a push-up position on the floor with weights in both hands. Drop the knees about an inch from the ground to make a table-top position with body and then begin to crawl forward, moving opposite arm and leg. Pick up the weight with every move forward. Crawl forward ten paces and then reverse movement back to start.
Rubber Bumper Plates: While plates are ideal for loading onto barbells, they can often be used as a central part of your fitness routine:
OH Carry: Begin with a heavy plate in both hands and press overhead. With straight arms, walk down and back. Repeat for as many rounds as possible.
Halos: Begin holding medium-sized plate in front of hips. Circle the weight around and behind your head and then reverse the movement to complete one rep.
Plate Push: Begin on a slick surface, like a wooden floor or turf. Place a heavy plate in front of you and drop down with hands gripping both sides of plate. Driving through legs, push the plate across an open surface and back to complete one round.
Bars+ Racks: Perhaps one of the most useful combos in the gym, heavy lifters and novices alike can gain strength while meeting and exceeding goals. Besides squatting, deadlifting, and pressing, here are a few more movements to add to the arsenal:
Bodyweight Rows: Rack a barbell at hip height. Grip with both hands and slide under until body is in one straight line. Using the back, row yourself up to the bar until your chest touches bar. Slowly release and repeat for reps.
Triceps Push: Rack a barbell at navel height or a little higher and then press up until you are balancing on the bar with just your hands. Lean forward slightly and bend arms to lower your upper body down until you hit chest height. Using triceps, push back to start and repeat for reps.
Bob and Weave: Rack a barbell at chest height and stand parallel to it. Drop down into a semi-squat and bob under the bar to pop up on the other side. Immediately drop back into a semi-squat and bob to the other side, completing a fluid bob-and-weave motion from side-to-side.
Benches: While we usually lay or step on a bench, there are other ways to build in intervals and different movements with this single piece of equipment:
Bench Hops: Stand to one side of a bench and grip both sides with hands. Using your core, hop your legs up and over to the other side without ever touching the bench. Repeat for reps.
Single-Leg Hip Thrust: Lay longwise on a bench with just your shoulder blades touching. Make a reverse tabletop with your body, then lift your left leg straight out. Lower your butt almost to the ground, squeeze and lift hips back to top and contract the back of right leg. Repeat for reps and then switch sides.
Walk-Out: Begin in a push-up position with only feet on the bench. Walk yourself back until you are forming a V with body. Slowly walk back out to push-up position, then walk back to return to V formation. Continue for reps.