The lack of an available large financial budget for equipment is the norm rather than the exception in the academic strength and conditioning world. These financial restraints are especially true at the high school level and many collegiate programs.
When challenged in this way, it helps to be creative or at least opportunistic. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.
The goal of this blog is to introduce three relatively inexpensive tools that may be included in your training tool box. I’ve used these tools successfully in the scholastic team training environment.
Periodization – Planned Variety
Regardless of your program’s budget, a variety of exercise is a very important component of program design. As an S&C professional, our goal to introduce appropriate levels of physical stress which causes the body to respond and adapt. Our body’s response to the prescribed stress should result in positive physical change, neural or muscular.
Part of the adaptation process requires planned variations of exercises, volume or amount of exercise, and intensity or level of stress of exercise. This system of planned and organized change is the basis the training strategy called periodization. Periodization is a model of training that research and empirical evidence have both identified as a safe and effective long-term training strategy.
Bands – There is nothing new about the use of elastic training bands. Made popular by Louie Simmons and West Side Barbell, these bands have multiple sizes, strengths, and uses. This blog is much too much short to begin to properly educate about the significant impact that Louie Simmons has made in our industry. He deserves books, not blogs.
Perhaps the most common use of bands is to attach a band to the end of a barbell and secure it to a power rack or bench press bench. When the athlete performs an exercise like a squat, bench press or deadlift variation the band is stretched creating additional resistance. Normally, as the leverage of an exercise improves nearing a full extension, the exercise becomes easier. With the additional tension created by a stretched band, the lockout requires more effort; this results in a more efficient exercise.
Band tensions have a tremendous variance based on their length and thickness. I used lighter to moderately tensioned bands with athletes. When you band a bar on a traditional exercise, you change the feel of the movement to the point of creating what feels like a “new” piece of equipment.
Other uses of bands include individual athlete band pushups and curls; attachment of a band to a fixed rack to perform triceps pushdowns, row variations, pull up assistance, etc.
In addition to the exercises mentioned above, you might experiment with the use of a light bench bar banded to light kettlebells or dumbbells not secured to the ground. The support musculature will come alive as you fight to stabilize the bar while doing the exercise.
Arthritic Joint Support – A bench press barbell that is lighter banded to a secure rack or bench will keep tension on older warrior’s arthritic shoulders which allows a more pain-free exercise. Of course, I’m talking about coach’s shoulders.
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Bench Pads– Before the popularized the use of boards for partial presses, folded towels and taped together accomplish a similar thing. I’ve used this with healthy athletes to better isolate the lockout with more resistance and with sore-shouldered athletes to reduce stress on the shoulder due to a reduced range of movement. The towel bench was particularly good practice for quarterbacks in-season.
Towel Pull-ups– Using a secure pull-up bar on a stable power rack, etc., tightly roll up a towel and reinforce it with athletic tape. Loop the towel over the rack and reinforce the towel with tape where it rubs the bar. Tightly tape the ends of the towel together where the athlete will grip the towel. This method of pull-up will build tremendous grip strength in addition to back and bicep strength.
Towel Partner Exercises – Two conscientious partners can use a towel very effectively for assistance exercises. Partner curls, partner bent over rows (each athlete holding one end of the same towel, and a version of manual resistance for the neck, can all be effectively trained using a towel.
Years ago I learned of a training use of the common cinder block from Bill Gillespie the Head S&C Coach at Liberty University. No, it wasn’t carrying a bunch of them or building a shed, it was the Cinder Block Push Up!
Cinder Block Push-ups – This exercise is performed with one cinder block. The athlete grips the cinder block with both hands on top of the cinder block, across the width of the block. This is a close grip. You may place a towel over the block, making the grip more comfortable or go skin on cement. The athlete’s feet are elevated on a bench press bench or multi-purpose bench.
The athlete should align himself so that the cinder block and hands are in line with the chest during the exercise and not too far in front of the athlete.
This exercise will blast the shoulders and triceps. The movement keeps the elbows in much as an offensive linemen’s pass block punch is taught. It is a great variation for training the triceps in a functional way.
These exercise tools are just three of many available. Please feel free to share other ideas that worked well for you.