Creative and Unconventional Workouts to Maximize Effectiveness

There are many benefits of changing your workout routine and keeping things fresh. One thing you don’t hear much about are the benefits of unconventional training and odd object training. This post was fired up when I was showing a couple of new athletes the dreaded hanging dumbbell chain bench press. One of them asked me, “Do you just think of this stuff as you go?” I started to say no, and then my brain started churning and I said, “Well, sometimes”.

Not in the case of the exercise we were doing, but there are an infinite number or training tools and there is no way you can fit them all in one gym. So you need to get creative. Many of you may have witnessed my night-long project of the banded dip resistance, or even last night with my “human crucifix hold” (successful and perfected, I must say).

What is the point of all this? And more importantly, what is the benefit of all this? Well, there are quite a few so lets get into them.

Point #1 – Lots of my workouts for athletes involve “odd objects”. I enjoy odd objects because they are likely not going to have a center of gravity, they force you to use more stabilization, and they will improve your coordination.

Point #2 – Building off point number 1, this stabilization is going to force you to dig in and stay firm, which will improve your core strength.

Point #3 – Standard weight training usually involves one plane of motion. Slamming, throwing, flipping, pulling, and even grabbing are going to train several plains of motion.

Point #4 – Odd objects get rid of the “how much can you ____” aspect that I can’t stand at the gym. An athlete who can curl more weight than someone else means absolutely nothing when it comes to transferring strength and skill to a playing field.

Point #5 – This again ties into #4. Let’s compare to a squat. Let’s say you can squat 225 for 10 reps. How do you make it harder? Easy, add a couple more lbs of plates. Now let’s say you are training with a 115 stone and loading it onto a box. You can’t just add a few pounds to a stone, so you need to bring other aspects into it. These can be time, distance, sets, reps, etc.

Point #6 – Studies have shown that young athletes respond better to odd object training than they do to standard weight training.

In addition to these points, most of these tools are free and fun to work with!

When I am training for a contest, event training begins to take up the majority of my training sessions. This can not only get boring but these days are usually very heavy days and you can’t lift heavy every day. When my workouts need to be toned down a bit, and I need to keep my head right, my non-event days are dominated by odd training tools that are challenging and effective but not overly massive loads. This will allow my body to be able to adapt and recover to the intense training, especially when I use a recovery boot. I am attaching a video below of some of the things I added into my training during my prep for the last contest.

The video contains some Stone Presses, Inverted Kettle Bell Presses, Single Arm Keg Presses, Heavy Single Arm Keg Presses (in addition to heavy, these are unstable, and almost impossible), Sledge Decelerations, and careful Sledge Levering (don’t try this one at home). It is easy to see how much stabilization, grip, and multiple muscles are used in these movements. These objects provide a challenge, change, and will increase the benefits to your training, so start using them, and reap the benefits.

Back to Basics: Hang Clean

Few exercises carry over to sports performance better and to more sports than the hang clean. It is also famous for being one of the most frustrating lifts to master by means of both weight and technique.

Video of Hang Clean

Plateauing in the hang clean is a common issue at any level. It is also something I have discussed at length with other strength coaches across the country. Everyone has their own tips, secrets, and ways to try and break through barriers, and ways to recover from a hard workout with the hang clean. One of the most popular methods is using a leg compressor machine at the end of the workout.

I am not, nor do I have time to discuss all of the methods I have heard about, and I am not going to tell you that any of them are wrong. The best I can do is offer you some advice as well as some things that have worked for me and many of my athletes over the years, to help burst through some barriers. Results don’t lie.

One thing everyone out there can agree upon is this: The Hang Clean is a very technical lift. Even the slightest flaws or adjustments in technique can hurt or help your Hang Clean a great amount. So working on technique is one thing that can’t be ignored. Furthermore, the more fluid and technical you are on this movement, the better you will be at it.

Now here are some things that have always helped both myself and my clients.

  1. Just do them. Here is something I notice every year: when it comes to hang cleans, there is a large spectrum of time it takes to get the movement down. I have had athletes pick it up faster than I ever thought possible, and I have athletes let their frustration win the battle for a very, very long time. What I have noticed almost universally is this: the more you do them and try to do them right, the faster the movement is going to click with your mind and your body. Power Cleans are a variation that will help as well. If I had to list my top three supplementary exercises to improve your hang clean, the power clean would make the list.
  2. Squat and Deadlift. I am convinced that these two exercises can and do fix almost every issue out there. I once had a heavy deadlift day cure my male pattern baldness. When I see people get strong in these two movements I see them get stronger in almost all movements across the board. So keep these two movements in your program at all times and do the heavy variation. To expand on this further- executing Speed Pulls (Deadlift Variation) is another great movement to improve your hang clean.
  3. Rack Cleans. See the video below (and these are my first rack cleans in 5 years, literally, so while it may not be perfect, it is close enough). Rack cleans are an awesome way to improve your technique. So let’s briefly talk about technique here. What does the hang clean train? Well, it trains your body. I don’t like describing it as a lower body exercise because of how many muscles are actually involved in it, but for the sake of this article it is. Yes, you have heard me say, or if you haven’t, I often do say, let your legs do the work. I say this for 2 reasons: first it is your legs and hips that will be doing the majority of the work, and secondly, people who struggle with this movement try to make it all about their arms and pulling the weight up. Do not pull the weight up, explode the weight up. The bar should should float to the top position and at the top position should feel weightless. Rack cleans will force you to jump when cleaning the weight as well as getting a good shrug at the top. It will help teach you and your body to use your lower body power to move the weight. Master this and the full hang clean will become much easier.
  4. TLC. When you are training, your goal should be to get better in every aspect that will help you achieve your goals. This is great and when you see progression in everything, you feel great and you know things are going well. Everybody at some point or another is going to find a weakness in their training. Do not avoid this, do the opposite. Turn your weakness into your strength. If the hang clean is a weakness, make it a priority. This may mean your gains in other areas will suffer temporarily. In the short term, and to address an area that needs attention, this is ok. Let it happen, the gains will come back quickly in the areas you already excel at, so give a little extra focus to the hang clean.
  5. Clean up your technique. Can’t say this enough. Odds are you are not going to be able to do this working out on your own so find a coach or trainer that can help.

Video of Rack Clean

Road Map for Personal Fitness Development

Fitness Assessment

When starting a new fitness program, the first thing that should be done is get a fitness assessment. Fitness testing includes a series of measurements that help determine the health status and physical fitness of an individual.

A fitness assessment helps to determine current health conditions, risks or limitations, as well as identify their fitness goals, interests and motivation for exercising. The following areas to should be measured:

  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Fat
  • Cardiovascular Endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Muscular Strength

After determining an individual’s goals, it could be that one-on-one coaching will help them achieve their best results. It will certainly help them get there faster and safer. Coaches can provide dynamic workouts that combine resistance training, cardio workouts, functional fitness, core training and flexibility. In each personal training session, a coach should utilize a variety of highly effective methods to get results.

fitness training

What to expect from a good coaching program:

  • One on One with Fitness Training Specialist
  • Session times and days are scheduled to accommodate Individual
  • Fitness Assessment will be performed at the beginning and throughout the program
  • Personalized Program
  • Phone and Email Support

Whether your goal is to improve speed and agility, pack on lean muscle tissue, decrease body fat, boost strength and power, or make your way back from an injury, a coach can provide you with the right plan to achieve your goals. Nearly all high-level athletes work with a coach or trainer. It’s a partnership that allows the athlete to focus on training and competition while the coach handles the workout details.

People have many reasons for starting a fitness program including weight/body fat loss, body transformation, preventative health, functional training, and corrective/injury prevention exercise or just to get in the best shape of their life! A coaching program is for those individuals who are capable of training on their own, but need professional assistance in having a training program designed for them.