Should we ditch the iron?
There’s more to exercise than barbells and dumbbells...
When you think of exercise, particularly resistance exercise, images of machines and free weights normally spring to mind, with ever-more sophisticated-looking (and expensive) contraptions, to simple colourful neoprene covered hand weights and traditional solid iron plates and Olympic bars gracing the gym floor.
The debate over the merits of fixed-path kit over dumbbells and barbells has been well-covered, but there’s no debate over which came first. There is some evidence dumbbells were around in the early 17th century, with barbells appearing a couple of hundred years later. Even the humble kettlebell, despite being a relatively recent introduction to the mainstream fitness industry, was developed in the 1700s.
But of course weight training existed even before all of them. Humans have been lifting, carrying and throwing sacks, rocks, livestock and even each other since the year dot. It just wasn’t called exercise – it was life (or in some cases sport). The idea that we can train for a functional purpose beyond looking good has been rediscovered over the last couple of decades, giving rise to a variety of kit that not only allows us to perform some highly specific, interesting and unique exercises, it offers an almost infinite range of exercise programming possibilities. In combination, these qualities mean we now have all the tools we need to prescribe and deliver training that engages and motivates people while enabling them to reach their specific goals more effectively.
Of course the purists will argue that you can achieve all you want with a set of traditional weights, and others will say that even these are unnecessary (just find some of those sacks and rocks we mentioned). They’re possibly both right but the point is with the choice we have we can select the most appropriate methods for us and our individual clients with their varied goals, capabilities and personality types. Indeed this may mean using no equipment at all, with body weight training the number one predicted trend for 2015 according to the ACSM.
Perhaps more important than the kit then, is the concepts that support them and which have gained greater acknowledgement with the increase in popularity of functional training. Whether you use a dumbbell, medicine ball or weighted bag, if you understand the principles of three-dimensional movement and whole-body integration for example, you can create your own exercises and no longer need a limited list of pre-designed ones which you and your clients will quickly get bored of.
And it’s not just weighted equipment. The same principles can be applied to just about any kit available on the market today, including agility ladders, stability balls and wobble boards, giving you the insight to decide what is most suitable for the goal you are training for and to design enjoyable and effective exercises.
So no, of course we shouldn’t consign the big weights to the store room, but the modern personal trainer has to understand how to use a variety of kit in order to weigh up (no pun intended) what’s the best solution for their clients.
On our one-day Functional Equipment Training course we teach you how to do just that, unlocking huge potential for you and your clients. Watch this video to find out more: