First a note on safety! When ordinary people starts telling me that what I’m doing looks “unsafe”, I just know that I am doing the right thing 😎 . Forsooth, something is only unsafe if you don’t know what you are doing. Actually, from a risk management perspective, I think it is less safe to never be challenged in an exercise that could potentially cause harm if one is not 100% focused. Too much safety can be dangerous. If safe and “protected” exercises are always chosen, what happens in the moment when one faces a real challenge like breaking a fall by hanging on to the rail on a stairway. You wreck a shoulder. Basically the more safe something is the less experience will be gained with “unsafe” practices to the detriment of one’s personal well being when the sh*t really hits the fan.

Read Part I

Okay, enough with the rant! What follows is a selection of workout methods, I have used and their associated cost. Be aware that these workout methods tend to substitute brains for expensive equipment. Please get qualified instruction if you think such is needed. Personally, I have always made do with instructional DVDs.

Before I get started, I would like to emphasize that a good workout program should encompass ALL of the following:

  • Strength
  • Power
  • Endurance

One may add a host of other aspects such as agility, dexterity, toughness, coordination, … but the strength, power, and endurance should be the foundation of all these. Most people are already familiar with strength training and endurance training. These are the forms of training one finds in commercial gyms. I have never seen a gym with a power section and frequently power exercises are discouraged in such gyms so I will discuss power here.

Power is a measure of how fast one can perform work over shorter periods time. Consider stacking one hundred 50lbs sacks of corn. Strength does not measure this well since most men can lift a 50lbs sack of corn. Endurance does not measure it well either since an endurance-oriented person who has to lift a sack of corn every 5-10 seconds will not be able to keep this up for long before needing a break. The reason is that endurance training intensities are too low. Most day to day challenges such as yard work, moving furniture, carrying stuff, cutting wood, … demand neither strength nor endurance. They demand power which is why it is so sad that the power aspect is neglected in the typical fitness routine.

Below I list a few ways of building a “gym” ranging from free to a few hundred dollars for top of the line equipment i.e. nothing better can be had. Note I *did not* say thousands or even several hundreds! The challenge here is not in how much money you bring to the game but in how much motivation you bring and how much you are willing to learn. It always comes down to motivation.

The free gym – relies on bodyweight exercises such as one-armed pushups, regular pushups, one-legged squats, regular squats, burpees, handstand pushups. Since you only need yourself, you can do these anywhere. They are free but boring.

Lifeline USA – Lightweight cables for strength, door pull-ups, jump ropes, combines with the bodyweight exercises above. I havehad the door pull-up bars installed on the door to my office. The beauty of the Lifeline equipment is that it weighs next to nothing and easily fits in a backpack for travel.

Kettlebells – Imagine a cannonball with a thick handle and you got it. A kettlebell takes up almost no space (less than a dumbbell) and you only need one (although having two is nice). Kettlebells build raw power which translates well into both strength and endurance events. Kettlebell lifting is also a more technically demanding discipline than gym exercises so it will remain interesting.

Clubbells -Imagine a very heavy baseball bat coated in thick rubber. Clubbells are much like kettlebells except they are more dynamic and use more leverage. This means that with a 25lbs weight, you will experience forces ranging from 25lbs to over 100lbs. In addition these forces are generally circular unlike the linear up and down or back and forth forces dumbbells. Also, exercising with these develops a grip than can crush bottle caps in your palm.

My favorite is probably the [heavy] clubbell. Clubbells require more skill than the kettlebells and thus they are more fun to me. However, they take up more space and are slightly more expensive, also they are not quite as versatile. A set of 25lbs clubs will cost more than $200. If floor space was at a premium and I wanted to focus more on raw measures, I would go with the kettlebells. One kettlebell can last a lifetime and be handed down to the next generation. If you have 8′ ceilings, you can do most exercises in doors, but they are really best done outside where it is possible to drop the weight in case of trouble(!), so go to the park or your backyard. If I had zero money or if I travelled a lot, I would learn the free exercises and spend my next $5-$20 on some lifeline equipment such as a jumprope and a set of pull up handles.

Originally posted 2008-01-27 07:43:34.