Thankfully for all of us, strength training has become more mainstream for all in the last 20 years. It used to be thought that only bodybuilders or pro athletes needed strength training, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Strength training provides so many benefits that directly provide a ”fountain of youth” effect. The benefits include, but are not limited to: increases in muscular strength, increases in bone mineral density, increases in sex hormone production, increases in cardiovascular health, increases in mental mood, and increases in resting metabolic rate. All of these benefits add up to an undeniable improvement in the quality of life.
But do you need a fully loaded gym to get the benefits of strength training? Not necessarily!
Depending on your individual abilities and training level, you may be able to accomplish some pretty awesome workouts with very minimal equipment.
The main goal of strength training should be to train all primary movement patterns, to a point of challenge or just short of total muscular fatigue. What are the primary movement patterns?
• Squat (quad/glute dominant)
• Hinge (hamstring and glute/hip dominant)
• Push (chest, shoulders, triceps)
• Pull (back muscles, and biceps)
• Core Movement and Bracing (abs, obliques, low back)
If you can effectively train all of these patterns – with both arms/legs or one at a time – you already have a sound foundation of a strength training program.
But what minimal equipment is out there? Let’s dive into three different options, some dating back to near the dawn of time, and some as new and exciting as only a few years old.
Your Body is the Resistance
Bodyweight training is the most basic form of minimal equipment training, as all you really need is your body to work against. Push-ups, squats, lunges, and pull-ups are all the most basic bodyweight exercises. That being said, these are no easy exercises if you carry more bodyweight, or are relatively untrained – especially pull-ups. While bodyweight workouts may work for some, they can also get relatively redundant and not the most efficient without some base of training history and strength.
One tool that helps with bodyweight training is a suspension trainer, or Olympic rings. This allows you to vary the difficulty of your bodyweight exercises – and allows you to add in a horizontal based row – which is often a major missing exercise in bodyweight only training.
Elastic bands are also a great way to work in some strength training, but with minimal weights or space. As long as you have an anchor point, or can just loop the band under your feet, you can safely perform all the primary movement patterns safely and effectively.
Bands provide a type of resistance called dynamic variable resistance, in that as the band stretches, the “weight” or resistance of the band gets more challenging. This can be an awesome way to drive new stimulus to the muscles as well if you are more used to just using classic free weights like dumbbells or barbells.
But having the right set of bands can be tough, and having enough to lug around can also be a challenge. And that is where the new wave of minimal equipment training comes in.
The Handy Gym
Handy Gym is a professional device that uses inertial technology to generate different levels of resistance, so you can perform very effective concentric and eccentric muscle work without weightlifting or elastic bands. Think of it as a standalone pulley system that responds like a yo-yo.
This type of training provides many benefits and is used for muscle improvement, body strengthening and injury prevention.
Mueller Sports Medicine is the official distributor of Handy Gym in the U.S.
What is great about something like the Handy Gym is it literally fits in its own little backpack, but can provide so much resistance; you’d need to lug around multiple sets of weights and/or bands to even come close to its versatility.
The Handy Gym can be anchored and used from any angle, and can be adjusted based on the muscles you are working – which is key because a weight that is appropriately challenging for your legs may be WAY too heavy for your arms.
The functionality and simplicity is very convenient as well. The instructions are simple to follow along with set-up guides and tutorials which can be found on the Handy Gym website.
Whether you want to stick with the old school staples that have withstood the test of time, or get your workouts in with the latest technology, having the space or equipment should not be an excuse to not get it done!