While it is absolutely true that you can get healthy and fit without owning one single piece of gear, the truth is that a few carefully chosen pieces of equipment can help you by providing you with:
- More interest in exercising (Who doesn’t enjoy “toys?”)
- Increased flexibility in program design (Having a medicine ball or a stability ball greatly expands the variety of exercises that can be incorporated into a program.)
- Increased options for challenging your body (Trust us on this one. While you can learn to do an L-stand against the wall to build upper body strength and get over your fear of being upside down, it’s not going to be the same exercise as going from a plank to a pike and back again a few times while your feet are perched on a stability ball.)
For this reason, we are sharing what we consider our favorite pieces of equipment and, when possible, options for substitutions or for making them at home. We hope you’ll consider the cost in your time or money a small investment in your health.
Today’s post will cover Stability Balls and Jump Ropes. Part 2 will provide directions for making a Medicine Ball at home. Segment 3 will discuss Kettlebells and Bars, and Part 4 will wrap up with information on Sandbags and Dumbbells.
Stability Ball: Originally used by physical therapists and chiropractors to help clients with rehabilitation, today stability balls are used to improve balance and stability as the body works in response to the instability of the ball. Additionally, they improve functional strength by allowing movement in all planes of motion, unlike machines found in gyms. Stability balls come in different sizes and, while most trainers recommend getting one that allows you to sit on it with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, we don’t want you wasting a lot of time searching high and low for just the right ball. (Remember KISS? Keep It Short & Simple!) It’s just not that critical what size you get, since you’re not going to be using it to sit on for long periods of time, anyway. (For our “particular” clients, here’s the rule of thumb: If you’re between 5’ and 5’ 7” tall, try to get a 55 cm diameter ball. If between 5’ 7” and 6’ tall, look for a 65 cm ball and, if over 6’ tall, obtain a 75 cm ball.) Whatever size you get, be advised that they don’t come in that beautiful spherical shape! It’ll be necessary to have a bicycle pump handy to inflate it once you get it home, and if you or a friend own a compressor, that’s going to make the job even easier!
- Where to get one: Use your web browser to search “stability,” “Swiss,” or “balance” balls. They are ubiquitous and can be picked up at many drug stores, sporting goods or outdoor stores, as well as online.
- Options: Sorry, but we’re not aware of a homemade option for this item.
Jump Rope: Jumping is as natural as breathing. Whether jumping to escape danger, to grasp low-hanging fruit or just jumping for joy, jumping is a basic component of our movement vocabulary. Even if jumping rope doesn’t exactly appeal to you, it’s time to get over it. Embrace your inner child! (Women … slip a panty liner into your undies if you need to and know you’re not alone; we’ll cover stress incontinence at some future date.) Whatever it takes, just know that jumping is good for you whether you’re goal is to increase cardiovascular health, VO2 max and bone health, or to help reduce body fat, blood pressure, or stress. While rope jumping requires a bit of coordination, we’ll always provide a “No rope? No problem!” option. After all, if you’re constantly tripping up and spending your precious time extricating yourself from a silly rope, then you’re not doing much to build your fitness, are you? Ropes come in many styles. There are weighted ropes, beaded ropes, plastic or leather ropes. Unless you’re planning on going on the competitive jumping circuit, our advice is to KISS (Keep it Short & Simple)! A plastic playground rope will be just fine. Too long? Roll it up around your hand and get going! Too short? Send us a video … we love pratfalls!
- Where to get one: For a jump rope, we suggest using your phone book. Call a local sporting goods store, or even Target or CVS. Jump ropes are that easy to find!
- Options: If you’ve got a length of rope hanging around (and maybe a couple of big wooden beads to weight it), you’re good to go. If not, enter “homemade jump ropes” in your browser’s search bar. Easier yet, just buy a darn jump rope!
Check back for Part 2, where we share directions for making your own medicine ball from an old basketball and some playground sand.
© Cathy Larripa and Kissworkouts, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cathy Larripa and KissWorkouts with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.