unconventional training tools

5 Essential Unconventional Training Tools for Developing Strength

The myth of “you need to go to the gym to get strong” is alive despite all the information available on the Interwebs. Well, let’s face it: training at home or with so-called “unconventional” tools is not for everybody. If it is, then you’re going to need these tools.

Nowadays, people seem to be into fitness and strength training more than ever. Fit is the new sexy, and everybody is at least thinking about doing some sort of training. Still, the myth of “you need to go to the gym to get strong” is alive despite all the information available on the Interwebs. Well, let’s face it: training at home or with so-called “unconventional” tools is not for everybody.

Firstly, many people consider their living rooms a place of rest rather than a strength training lair. Training outside is a tough option, especially when it rains or snows.

Additionally, I know a lot of guys and girls who just need that crowded gym feel to force themselves to train. That sweaty paradise with mirrors, chicks in shorts, and endless lines of benches is a necessity to some people.

Secondly, training with “unconventional” implements requires more mental effort to succeed. With barbells, dumbbells, and exercise machines everything is simple: you learn proper exercise technique; you pick the weight you can lift for X amount of reps; once you can do Y amount of reps, you increase your working weight; repeat.

Of course, this is oversimplification, but with “unconventional” training tools, everything is still trickier. In order to progress, you may have to learn a completely new movement pattern, and sometimes you will have to figure out these movement patterns on your own.

Thirdly, and finally, training with “conventional” tools may be the best option for some people, and starting your own home gym full of barbells, dumbbells, plates, and other stuff will certainly be tough on your wallet. In this case, a gym membership is the best solution.

Nevertheless, since you are reading this article, you are interested in at least in trying new stuff, so let’s get down to business. Here are my essential “unconventional” training tools for developing strength.


Essential Unconventional Training Tools: Gym Rings

I believe these bad boys are the best piece of training equipment you can add to your arsenal.

The first cool thing about rings is that you will never outgrow this tool. Yes, you got that right. You will always be able to create a harder exercise using rings.

The second cool thing about rings is that they are ultra-portable. I have a hard time finding another all-around piece of training equipment that can build staggering strength and fit into your backpack simultaneously.

The third cool thing about rings is that you can train with them almost anywhere. Find a sturdy tree branch, mount these round bandits, and go for your gains.

The fourth cool thing about rings is that it’s highly unlikely that you will ever break them.

I can go on and on about how cool rings are. The only downside is that you can’t do any leg work with them. But who trains legs anyway?


Essential Unconventional Training Tools: Sandbag Training

The sandbag is the most simple and cheap piece of training equipment you can make. How to make it? Well, it is somewhat prosaic. You take a thick bag, fill it with sand, lace it, and then lift it. If it is too light, add more sand. If it is too heavy, either
deal with it, or take some sand out.

You should at least try sandbag strength training because it provides a unique load on your muscles. The sand inside the bag is never stable; it moves from side to side, or in any other direction. This helps you to develop your stabilizer muscles.

Additionally, you can do some interesting and fun exercises with a sandbag. For example, sandbag shouldering or sandbag shoulder squats. Finally, you can train your legs with a sandbag.


Essential Unconventional Training Tools: Kettlebells

The next piece of equipment I would suggest is a kettlebell, or better yet a pair of them. They will take up virtually no space, and they are always ready to be lifted. If you have never worked with a kettlebell, then you may fall into a trap of thinking that
it is the same thing as a dumbbell. It is not. The main difference is in the center of mass: it is not in your hand. This opens up a whole new world of “centrifugal force” (or ballistic) exercises, such as swings, snatches, cleans, etc.

Another difference is that you can’t adjust a kettlebell’s weight.

I know, this is a nightmare for OCD lifters who need to lift exactly 66.5% of their 1RM. However, it is not a disadvantage for me. This teaches you patience and appreciation for the process.

Basically, the only disadvantage of the kettlebells is their price, but it is still way less than a barbell or dumbbell set.

Weight Belt, Backpack, Weighted Vest

I believe that a weight belt is an awesome addition to any strength-training arsenal. It is light and portable, it takes no space, and it can help you build insane amounts of strength and muscle.

My favorite application of the weight belt is increasing the intensity of chin-ups or dips. This way you can progress in these exercises eternally.

Another option is to use a backpack. It won’t allow you to add much weight, but I bet you already have one. Alternatively, you can use a weighted vest. Again, not much weight can be added, but it can be used for all of the exercises, including handstand push-ups, planches, and front levers.

Resistance Bands

Another valuable addition to your training equipment would be resistance bands. I believe their main purpose is in:

  • Making your bodyweight lighter.
  • Allowing resistance regardless of gravity.

The former is good for learning difficult bodyweight skills. For example, planches or front levers. By using resistance bands, you spend more time training the actual position of the skill, which will make your progress smoother and more consistent.

The latter is great for performing mobility exercises. For example, shoulder external rotations or face pulls.

Training these movement patterns with dumbbells or a barbell is a pain in the ass compared to bands, if not impossible.

Closing Thoughts

Of course, this article is based solely on my opinion and experience. My ideal training equipment is portable, cost-effective, and multifunctional. Your “Top 5” may look completely different, but still, I hope you’ve discovered something useful from reading this piece.

Play rough!



This article was originally featured in Mad Fit Magazine. Mad Fit Magazine is a print and online publication featuring the top trainers of Unconventional Fitness. Each issue features articles, workouts, trainer profiles, and more. Subscribe by CLICKING HERE

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Alex Zinchenko

Alex Zinchenko is a strength addict, a coach, and the author of the Rough Strength blog, where he shares his crazy ideas regarding training and nutrition. He is honest to toothache, straightforward like a train, and too daring to believe that heavy calisthenics, kettlebell and sandbag training, along with intermitted fasting can deliver all the results you want. RoughStrength.com

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