Making Your Workout More Dynamic!
Elaine Gonya, Licensed Athletic Trainer
Aurora Sports Medicine Institute
The current market for fitness equipment can be overwhelming to wade through when deciding what to buy to get the most out of your time and fitness program. For maturing athletes, who were taught that fitness comes mainly from running and weight lifting; it may be time to challenge your current beliefs with some of the new – and often more joint-friendly — equipment and dynamic exercises that can be as beneficial as the traditional school of thought.
In the past, many of the pieces of equipment that will be discussed were only available for use in physical therapy clinics. Now, most of this equipment can be purchased in local retail stores, sporting goods stores, and on-line websites. For your convenience, a number of the following items are also available for sale at Aurora Sports Medicine Institute clinics.
If you have a fitness club membership
Very few fitness club members actually take advantage of the one-to-three free personal training sessions that most clubs provide to members. If you are interested in learning how to step up your workout program and have not taken advantage of such opportunities, it may be a great, low-cost way to get a few new ideas. If you are already familiar with the majority of the club’s equipment, why not request help with those pieces that you don’t work with on a regular basis.
Resistance bands can be as – if not more – effective for building both muscular strength and endurance as traditional weights. Resistance bands are available in two main forms: Surgical tubing and bands made from rubber.
Both types of “bands” are colored to assist with determining the amount of resistance they provide. Resistance amounts typically increase as the band color gets darker. Specifically, yellow bands are usually very light resistance, whereas navy blue and black bands tend to be much more difficult to stretch. The surgical tubing style, sold in lengths of rubber “cording”, can be tied in various ways to meet the needs of the athlete or include handles on each end. The “bands”, also made of rubber and available in widths ranging from two to six inches, provide a similar resistance progression. Recently, several companies have manufactured these bands in a loop for usage around either ankles or knees to incorporate resistance training. Ideas for exercises with resistance bands are readily available on-line or from a conditioning specialist. Resistance bands can usually be purchased for five to fifteen dollars.
Whatever does one do with those large colorful fitness balls that you see in health clubs or in the sports aisle of your favorite retail store? When used by the owner, a Swiss Ball can be one of the most effective pieces of fitness equipment available for a modest investment of $30 or less. Not only are Swiss Ball routines ideal for stretching and strengthening almost every part of the body, they are incredibly effective for core development and exercises designed to alleviate back pain. When working out with a Swiss Ball, it’s important to learn correct technique and exercise progression from fitness professional.
A BOSU Ball looks like half of a Swiss Ball attached to a black platform. It provides a dynamic workout that challenges the user’s of coordination and balance; however, basic exercises do exist.
Most fitness clubs own one (or several) BOSU Ball(s); ask a member of their training staff to demonstrate exercises that may help you multitude of other creative exercise options. A BOSU Ball can be purchased for approximately $100 at stores that carry more serious fitness supplies or on-line retailers.
Dyna-discs, also referred to as “balance discs”, are inflatable rubber discs used to challenge balance and coordination. One surface of each disc is smooth, while the opposite side has soft spikes or grippers. These discs can be used individually for single limb exercises or in a pair for difficult exercises, such as squats, abdominal work, or upper body drills.
Both Dyna-Discs and BOSU Balls should be used in progression: First, the user must have solid balance skills on the floor; followed by basic exercises on each piece of equipment while holding on to a stable object; and then eventually, performing exercises on the equipment without any outside assistance. Balance equipment should be set-up in an area clear of objects that could cause injury in the event the user must step off the equipment quickly to regain balance. Dyna-Discs are a bit more difficult to find in retail stores, but can be easily found on-line, ranging in price from $25-35 each.
One of the latest rages on the fitness scene is the incorporation of Kettle Bells in strengthening programs. Kettle Bells are sold in an array of weights and materials (steel, weighted plastic/rubber, flexible or rigid) and are becoming more readily available at fitness supply stores, retail stores and on-line. Priced by weight, the heavier the Kettle Bell, the more expensive it is.
Kettle Bell workouts are incredibly demanding strength-training routines, but are a fantastic diversion from traditional weights for those possessing a decent fitness level. Caution should be used when starting a Kettle Bell program: Proper technique and a solid base of weight training are imperative to avoid muscle and joint injury. Some people have found it helpful to gradually increase use of Kettle Bells before engaging in a Kettle Bell class – by gradually adding more exercises; completing short bouts of Kettle Bell drills; and determining ideal Kettle Bell weights. Workouts often involve a number of very challenging “lifts”, while completing higher numbers of repetitions. For newcomers, it’s often suggested that they choose lighter weights to discover how their body will respond to the new exercise demands and patterns.
Research does support dynamic resistance training as being incredibly beneficial in obtaining functional strength. Functional strength allows individuals to be able to complete daily tasks and activities more easily and efficiently, as well as focus on muscle groups that most accurately address an individual’s fitness goals. Dynamic exercises – specifically, exercises that utilize multiple planes of movement or means of movement (i.e., balancing on a BOSU Ball while completing bicep curls) – not only increase metabolism, they provide a more “well rounded” functional level of fitness.
For fitness enthusiasts who are searching for ways to move their program to the next level, many of these choices are affordable and offer a variety of alternatives designed to prevent workout boredom for many years to come. However, the incorporation of these “new” challenging fitness options also includes a responsibility by the user to learn proper progressions and techniques to avoid injury.
For more information on dynamic exercises, other sports medicine topics, or to schedule a FREE Injury Evaluation, call the Aurora Sports Medicine Hotline™ at (414) 219-7776 or (800) 219-7776.