Alternative to weights

Jul 09, 2009
Alternative to weights

Let John Platero shed some light on some training alternatives to weights

Are you tired of your exercise routine?

Are you bored with lifting weights? If you've said yes to either of these questions, read on.

A warm up is essential as a precurser to any workout. Most people use a treadmill, stair-climber or a stationary bicycle to get their body ready for whatever activity they're about to perform. The problem with these activities is they're all uniplanar.You're only moving in one plane of motion. In life, however, many of our activities such as getting in and out of your car, bending over to pick something off the ground, setting the dinner table or reaching in the back seat of your car require multi-planar movement. When performing these activities, a person's joints must adjust through these different planes, while the bodies "active" system (muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia) help stabilize and navigate their body to prevent an injury.

Often, people hurt their back turning in the shower, bending over to pick something off the floor or reaching up to a shelf. It's not necesarily caused by lifting a heavy weight. I find that interesting. It seems when people lift something heavy they prepare themselves, therefore, no injury. However, if the "inner system" or stabilizers are not trained, a simple task of turning in the shower can leave a person gasping for air! Before any workout even the novice exerciser knows to "warm-up." Why not get a little bit more out of the warm-up and actually prepare this "inner system" for our daily life?

Remember a good warm-up should:

  • raise heart rate
  • raise core temperature
  • heighten the nervous system
  • increase balance
  • increase coordination
  • increase viseoelasticity of tissues
  • prepare the body for sport or activity

Try this warm-up routine next time you exercise. I think you'll find it more than just a "warm-up." It shouldn't take you more than thirty minutes to complete these ten exercises.

You'll need a1kg, 2kg, 3kg or a 4kg medicine ball. Don't try using anything heavier than that for the first 8 -10 workouts. Beginners may use a 2kg ball while advanced can use a 4kg ball. A heart-rate monitor is a big plus. Keep your heart rate under the 85% of attainable heart rate. Don't concern yourself too much with your heart-rate while performing the exercises on your back (supine). Always consult your physician before commencing an exercise regime.


(Dynamic multi-planar movements)

1. Wood Chopper

Stand up nice and straight with all your joints "stacked" over each other. Make believe you're standing at attention with your chest pointing up towards the ceiling and your legs slightly wider than shoulder width with you knees bent about 15Epointing over your toes. Your toes should slightly point outwards to the side about 20E- 30E. This is very, very important.

Raise the ball up over your head towards the ceiling and then bend forward with the ball ending up between your legs. Then, return to the upright position.

Inhale on the way up. Try to breath into your belly button not just your chest. At the "12 o'clock" position you may extend your spine a little past neutral but control your movement and be careful. Exhale on the way down and make sure your feet don't "roll" outwards when the ball passes them on the way down. If they do, then widen your stance. Perform this motion about 10 - 25 repetitions for three sets with a slow to moderate tempo.

Think about everthing folding on the way down and everthing stretching and extending on the way up.

2. Side bends

Start with the same posture as before with the ball over your head. You may slightly close your legs, narrowing your base of support. Slowly alternate side bends by moving the arms (with a slight bend in the elbow) with the ball to each side. Range of motion is limited so be careful and "feel" you end range.

Remember to keep the knees bent and you may let them bend to each side.

Inhale as you lean to a side and exhale as your return to the neutral position. Perform this motion 10 - 25 repetitions for three sets with a slow to moderate tempo.

3. Russian twist

Start with a "stacked" or military posture. Bend your knees about 15E- 30E. Keep the feet a lttle wider than shoulder width with feet pointing out to the side and knees tracking over the toes. Hold the ball just below chest height. Keep the ball close to your body at first. Twist towards each side like a washing machine. Make sure all the joints move together. Your head should remain fairly straight towards the front.

Slowly, start moving the ball away from your body as you twist. Start slow. Inhale out to each side and exhale back to center. Begin by going to one side and then back to neutral. Progress to one fluid motion from one side to the other. Perform this motion about 10 - 25 repetitions for three sets with a slow to moderate tempo.

4. Torso Circles

Start with the same posture as the Wood Chopper. (Your legs must be in a wide stance). You're going to imagine the ball is like the hand on a clock. However, this clock is three dimensional. Not only can you move side to side and up and down, you will also move forward and backwards. Here's where the multi-planar action starts.

Begin with the ball over your head at the top of the circle and imagine you're at the 12 o'clock position. Move to the left towards a 3 o'clock position and then downward towards 6 o'clock. On the way down, imagine your scooping water out of a river with a bucket. Continue upwards towards 9 o'clock and slightly up and backwards behind the 12 o'clock position. As you circle around your body really focus on the different numbers of the clock and reach towards each number. It's very important that you concentrate within and feel what ‘s happening at your feet, ankle, knees, hips, spine, shoulder and head. Concentrate! Everything should be articulating and moving together in harmony. Let your eyes and head follow the ball.

Perform this motion about 10 - 25 repetitions for three sets with a slow to moderate tempo and then reverse the circles the other way.

6. Wood Chop and Reverse Wood Chop Toss.

For this exercise you'll need a partner or a sturdy wall to throw the ball against. Get into your Wood Chop position and start with the ball over your head. Throw the ball to your partner or at the wall but try not to use your arms. Propel the ball with your torso instead. Your partner should now throw the ball back to you towards your feet. If you're using a wall, aim the ball so it lands near your feet. You'll now have to catch it in the bottom position of the Wood chop exercise. Catch it, and immediately, throw it back to your partner. Hence, the Reverse Wood Chop. Your partner should return the ball over your head so you can catch it in the top position of the Wood Chop. Again, if you're playing with the wall, aim the ball so it returns back over your head. Remember not to use your arms, but your glutes, hamstrings and back to propel the ball. Exhale as you throw the ball and inhale as you catch it.

Perform this motion for a set of 15 -25 repetitions counting a down and up as one repetition.

7. Side Bend Toss

This movement is easier performed facing a mirror. Assume the Side Bend position from before. The difference is you'll be handing and eventually tossing the ball back and forth to each hand.

Start with the ball at the top position. Holding the ball in one hand, slowly horizontally adduct the arm (let your arm descend out to your side) allowing lateral flexion (side bend) at the same time. Lift and return the ball back up to the top position handing it off to the other hand and repeat to the other side. As your become more comfortable with this motion you'll be able to toss the ball over your head and catch it with the other hand. Don't get cocky and try to juggle. It's not the circus.

Exhale as you throw the ball and inhale as you catch it.

Perform this motion for three sets of 15 - 25 repetitions to each side.

8. Oblique Toss

Resume the Russian Twist position.. Make sure your knees are bent and the spine is in alignment. Hold the ball out in front of you at about stomach height. Position your body so your partner or wall is parallel to you. Toss the ball to the side at the wall or partner. Concentrate on using you r torso not your arms. Practice catching the ball out in front of you or as late as possible before it reaches the ground. The further away from your body you catch the ball the harder it will be on your obliques. Switch sides and repeat the same movement. Exhale as you throw the ball and inhale as you catch it. Let you knees and ankles bend throughout the motion

Perform this motion for three sets of 15 - 25 repetitions to each side.

9. Supine Horizontal Ball Toss

Find a seated lat cable pulley row with a bench just 6-8 inches of the ground. Actually any bench will do. I've found this to be the safest one to use. Lie on your back, tighten your abdominals, bend your legs and slowly lift your feet off the ground. Flex or bend your hips towards your chest so your knees are pointing towards the ceiling and are now balanced over your hips.

Start with the ball held out directly above you at about chest height. Holding the ball in one hand, slowly horizontally abduct (let your arm fall towards the floor) level with your chest. Now return the ball to the other hand at the starting position directly above your chest. The ball is going to want to pull you off the bench. Don't let it.

As you become more coordinated with the movement you'll be able to toss the ball to the other hand and catch it almost as it reaches the floor. For a greater challenge, slowly straighten your legs, one at a time.

Perform this motion for three sets of 15 - 25 repetitions to each side.

10. Abdominal Ball Toss

You'll need a 55cm - 65cm stability ball, a sturdy wall or a partner to perform this last exercise.

Place the stability wall about 3-4 feet from the wall. Anchor your feet under a pair of dumbbells. The dumbbells should equal 50% of your total body weight. Lie supine (on your back) on the ball with a wide stance. Each foot should be under a corresponding dumbbell. Place your body so the lumbar curve (your lower back) is flush against the ball.

With two hands hold the ball out parallel to your head, which is now hanging out over the ball which would make the ball, your arms and your head parallel to the ground. Using your torso, not your arms, crunch or "sit-up" quickly, tossing the medicine ball at your partner or the wall. Your partner should toss the ball back over your head so you'll actually catch it behind you, as you lie back down on the ball. This is a killer! Because of the dynamic eccentric (the "negative") contraction performed by the abdominals, you'll really feel this the next day. Don't try anything larger than a 2kg ball the first couple of times. Inhale as you catch the ball and exhale as you let go. The key is to use the trunk, not the arms.

Perform this motion for a set of 15 -25 repetitions counting a down and up as one repetition.

Aha! Tricked you. And you thought this was just a warm up. Pick a body part or parts and train that for the remainder of the hour. You're now thoroughly warmed up

Good luck! Progress slowly and remember to concentrate on the joints moving not the mirror. Think "inward" not outward.

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