What is The Most Useful Piece of Strength Equipment?

Here’s an age old question I get asked frequently. ‘if you could only train with one piece of equipment what would it be?’

I can only really give my opinion based on what I most frequently use to practice being strong. I’m talking NOT about stronger in the deadlift, squat, press or something specific but rather what I do use to practice being purposefully strong throughout my being or body if you prefer. 

My answer? The Floor.

Yeah a wee bit elusive and maybe corny and odd for the less initiated who might proclaim, ‘like duh, you got to rest your dumbbells on the floor dude’! (People still say dude don’t they?) 

Apart from using the floor to rest dumbbells and equipment on, the floor plays host to opportunities for using your body to move, to balance, to jump, to push off from. 

Last weekend Animal Flow founder Mike Fitch hosted a video conferencing class for the hundreds of us instructors around the world. I joined in with another 600+ instructors where we participated in a 80 minute class! No equipment, just our bodies, the floor and a small handful of engaging movements we practiced before sticking them altogether in a smooth flow. 

As you hold a position with precision on the floor for 30 seconds you can’t help but be reminded of how much strength is required to be still, calm and attentive to form.

The ground as an environment can also throw variability that teases your limitations further. Have you ever tried crawling backwards up a slight gradient? Wow – ‘Holy Triceps Batman’ – it’s intense. 

Being able to get down to the ground and back to standing is a skill that requires practice and strength. You might not think of it now but when you’re 55+ years of age, getting off the floor can start be become a tiresome undertaking not without its risks too. Practice often mindfully getting down to the foot and back up. It could save your life some day. 

Balance is another subject you’ll probably ignore until you realise you suck at it. While it’s funny at times to watch someone lose their balance and hit the deck, it bloody hurts and not to mention it can easily keep you out of the gym for a while. Broken hips and collar bones are not so funny. Balance doesn’t need any fancy slack lines, in fact, at our gym we have a selection of wooden boards or even weights plates that we lay out to practice the many attributes of balance skill. Trust me, spend 1 minute trying to lose your balance and fighting it can really make the thighs burn – if that’s what you like. 

Other balance areas include walking split squats with or without a weight, one leg jumps from stepping stones aka weight plates and being able to pivot on those boards without falling into the ‘hot lava’ below. 

Have I mentioned push ups yet? You love of loathe the full push up, but believe me when I tell you there are dozens of variations all worthy of practice. 

 Legs, torsos, arms and life saving skills can all be practiced on the floor beneath you. Don’t leave it at rubber gym mats either. The outdoor nature spots offer even further variability with falling trees, rocks and such. 

Just in case you don’t believe me and need some experiential learning, I am hosting some outdoor training sessions in the coming weeks in our local parks. These will include:

  • An introduction to Animal Flow
  • Real World Strength and Fitness
  • Ground based locomotion

Interested? Drop me a message to learn more and to be placed on the reserve list.

Even the fiercest beast starts out as a baby

We all started out laid out on the floor as babies and with prolific contact between our our hands and feet with the floor we learned about our environment very quickly.

This of course led to us progressing to more upright endeavours until we all started to sit (slouch) more.

Maybe it’s a good idea to get back to floor to rekindle all those neuro-physical benefits of ground contact. As a quick remark, I’ve found that many clients squat and deadlift better after some practice of crawling….

Baby Crawl to Beast Crawl

No one ever gets to floor, crawls a while and stands up with smile proclaiming, “wow, that was easy!”

Crawling is tough as your body ties together and links your upper body and lower body together. Crawling also activates cross bracing on the trunk, tying together your opposite shoulders and hips together, you know, natural gait like when you walk, jog, run and climb.

So here’s a great sequence for you to practice.

Start in the simplest of crawls, the baby crawl on all fours (or sixes if you count the feet dragging on the ground). Take a few steps before continuing on your feet and hands in what you can call the Beast crawl.

The rules: you must maintain nasal breathing. If you have to suck in wind through the mouth, your set is done. Rest a bit then repeat.

As the body gets stronger and breathing nasally becomes more prolonged, spend less time on the baby crawl and more in beast.

Simple.

Oh, you want more…. try the above with reverse crawling, going backwards 🙂