Here is a list of what we think is the top ten functional fitness tools. This, of course, is an opinion, and yours may vary. but we give the reasons for our choices for each piece of equipment. And functional fitness is the main reason for all of these tools. Bodybuilding equipment and mindset are not included in this list.
1 Sandbags We will admit a bit of bias here. But it is a fact that sandbags are much
more difficult to lift than barbells or dumbbells. The shiftng sand forces the body's stabilizer and prime mover muscles to work together in a way that supports athletic training. And that is what it is all about: performance. No matter if you buy ours, somebody else's, or make your own, sandbags are the best tool for functional fitness training. If you must make your own, here is a previous blog post on how to do that.
2 Weighted vest You can either buy one or make your own. I own a weight vest from these people. If you buy one from them, tell them I sent you through this link and that I would appreciate a link back. Here is why a weighted vest ranks so high on our list. They turn any bodyweight exercise into an extreme exercise. Just
walking with one on elevates it to a workout. Climbing stairs or stools or stadium steps becomes a superman workout. Doing pushups, pullups, stepovers, and many more exercises becomes a superhuman workout. You can make your own weight vest using chain. Get 5/8" hi-test chain, a pair of spring clips, and some pipe insulation. Have the chain cut to be about 55" long. That is, if you are over 6' tall like me. Make it shorter to fit you. Cut the pipe insulation to be about 20" or less long and duct tape it together around the middle of the chain. That is your shoulder padding. See the picture to the left as an illustration.
3 Power tower / chin/dip bar Pullups are a must-do exercise for functional fitness. So are dips. A power tower
combines both moves into one piece of gear. A hanging chin bar does not. However, if you use a hanging chin bar, all you need to do dips is two good, sturdy chairs. Sit them back to back with about 22" between them and put some sort of padding on the top of the backs. Do your dips between the backs of the chairs. Pullups are the best back exercise there is. Dips are one of the best chest / arm exercises there are.
4 Climbing rope Rope climbing is one of the best upper body exercises there is. It combines back muscles and arm muscles into a superman move. Use a 1.5" manila rope. If you have a porch with some place to hang the rope from, there you go. A good source for a 1.5" manila rope is McMaster-Carr. Get it in the length you need.
5 Pair of Basketballs & a pair of 7" stools Pushups are one of the best upper body
exercises there are. And you can transform pushups into super-pushups by putting each hand on a basketball and each foot on a 7" rubbermaid stool. Visit the big box store of your choice near you to get them. See the picture to the right.
6 Gym mat & Ab Mat Situps are still one of the best core exercises. The gym mat folds in the middle and is 1.5" thick with padding in it, covered with vinyl. They are available at sporting goods stores. The Ab Mat is available online here. See the picture to the
7 Jump rope Jumping rope is one of the best cardio exercises there is. This is why it has been used by boxers for over a century. Again, you can get one at either your local bigbox store or sporting goods store or from Buddy Lee.
8 Medicine balls Throwing a medicine ball around is great exercise. Ask any boxer, again.You can also do it with two people by throwing them back and forth between you. Some medicine balls allow you to slam them down. You can also use a rebounder to bounce them back at you. Here is a blog post on how to make your own medicine balls.
9 Plyometric box Jumping up and down on a plyo box is both great leg exercise and
great cardio exercise. You can also do what I call giant stepovers with a plyo box. You can even make your own, with either all plywood or 2x4's as I have done in the picture here.
10 Rebounder A rebounder is a quality mini-trampoline. Do not waste your time or money on a cheap one. You can either run, walk with a weight vest, or run and punch with small dumbbells on them. When it is too cold or hot outside, you have your running track. And, they absorb shock and are very good on your knees. And yes, you
can do them in front of the TV. I got mine from Needak, over a decade ago, and it was a great investment.
A few pieces of gear are essential to round out this list. Of course, clothes and shoes. A good pair of running shoes is essential. I also recommend a set of swim goggles for lake, river, or pool swimming. Swimming is a great exercise, and can be used to help recovery on light workout days.
So there you have it. Some of these things you can make yourself, some you can buy. Most are affordable. All are worth the time and money. Keep it safe. Keep it fun.
Shop for Workout Sandbags here.