There is a documentary about computers that shaped the way I coach. Very simply, it was thought that the world would probably only need five computers. There is a great scene in the movie, Apollo XIII, where all the guys in white shirts and skinny black ties pop out their sliderules to calculate the trajectory of the lunar module.
This all changed one day when a programmer asked his friend, “Does this have value?” His friend, the head of an accounting firm, answered: “I hire 400 people a week to do what you say I can do with the push of a button?” “This” was the spreadsheet and it changed the demand for computers. This was the “Killer App” and the reason you MUST have a computer to keep up.
I began looking at equipment in a whole new light after seeing this show. I watch these idiotic youtube videos where people use equipment to do all kinds of odd and strange things. My favorite was a guy who tied himself to a tree to practice sprinting (the rope held him in place). One could also sprint without being tied to a tree, for clarity’s sake. People are fighting right now for your freedom to do any stupid thing you can think of but let’s honor them by doing the right moves with the right tools.
Barbell: I love the barbell and I have been using them since 1965. Here is why you NEED to have one: the Press family and Deadlifts. A typical barbell can be loaded with enough 45 pound plates to sneak up to 700 pounds. That is a lot of weight. You can also get the bar to jump from 55 pounds to 60 pounds if that is where you are at today. I have argued for years, that if all you did was press (military or bench) and deadlift, you might have most of your training locked in.
Moreover, you are going to compete in Powerlifting (Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift) or Olympic lift (Snatch, Clean and Jerk), a barbell is a must.
TRX: my knock on the TRX for a long time is that the information on how to use it including running in place, lunges, and a lot of this and that. My question was “why” should I have one. Here is why: the T, Y, and I Pulls, the Single Arm Rows and the Double Rows target the area of the body that often gets missed and ignored. That whole area of the upper back and rear shoulders is probably the most underdeveloped area of most people I work with in the gym. I have attempted odd variations of planks, dozens of pulls with other equipment, but the TRX answers these issues smarter and faster.
Kettlebells: I love the kettlebell. Like my intern said the other day, it just looks like your training even if you are carrying them out to the car. Three moves make the KB irreplaceable: the Goblet Squat, the Swing and the Turkish Get Up. Yes, you can use other things for these three moves, but the ease of transition and the feel of having the correct load in the right place (off center in the TGU and Swing) just makes a good KB worth having in your gym.
Mini-Bands: I never understood why you would use these until I was told to do one simple movement. The Lateral Walk with a mini-band around the socks (you really need to wear socks!) is the perfect way to light up and train the Glute Medius. A set of Swings followed by a set of Squats followed by a long Lateral Walk with Mini-Bands will teach you more about your butt than an anatomy class.
Ab wheels: For ten dollars, you can do the best “anterior chain” ever invented (outside of a perfect pull up). I don’t know of a workout, program or plan that couldn’t be improved a bit by rolling out on one of these devices. You will notice they rise and fall in popularity, but here is my theory about why you don’t see them used much: it is really hard.
Dumbbells: you can do a lot of things with dumbbells, but we all know the knock on these in a gym. No matter how many are there in a rack, someone complains to the owner: “Hey, you have 35s and 40s…why no 37.5s?” I like dumbbells for Farmer Walks. All those really heavy dumbbells at the end of the rack that are covered in dust are perfect for walking around the gym and training literally every muscle in the body.
Killer Apps can be a perfect program, if there is such a thing:
Military or Bench Press (Barbell)
T-Y-I Pulls and Rows (TRX)
Deadlifts or Swings (Barbell or KBs)
Goblet Squats (KB)
Farmer Walks (Dumbbell)
Ab Wheel Rollout (Ab Wheel)
Get a limited amount of equipment and get back to simple and successful training.