Our routines and workouts are no doubt looking a little different these days – different times, different location, different people, different objects. We might feel a little funky doing deadlifts with a backpack or ground to overheads with a bag of dog food or carries with a case of water, but those objects are just as viable for weightlifting as any. No, they aren’t as sexy as a barbell and yes, your neighbor thinks you’re a little weirder than before, BUT they also happen be phenomenal tools for building foundational strength. Why? Well, I’m glad you asked… * cues Magic School Bus Theme Song *
Let me start by saying that barbells (and dumbbells) are great strength and conditioning tools. With that said, we need to understand that they have been developed to easily apply progressive overloading (adding weight to the same movement overtime) and for competitive purposes (using the same implement across individuals to compare strength).
Their relatively small diameter allows you to hold it fairly close to your center of mass and the loading remains balanced over an easy-to-find center point. This allows you to apply more force more efficiently (and safely), which in turn allows you to lift more weight than most other tools.
Because of the barbells-allow-me-to-lift-the-most-weight-therefore-they-are-the-best-tool mentality, we get a little too caught up in the sexiness of a big back squat. Total weight is only a part of the strength and equation. What we really care are things like torque (twisting or rotational force) and moment arms (the distance from an axis point to the line of force acting on that axis – think hips to the center point of a barbell in a deadlift) because 100 pounds to you, is different than 100 pounds to me.
Enter that odd object. Because odd objects are just that (odd), they change the strength and conditioning equation drastically by creating different balance points and moment arms that are farther away from our center, which means more force can be applied with less weight. Further, since the odd object is almost always away from our center, it forces us to use stabilizing muscles in the core than a barbell does; meaning that more effort can be applied through an entire range of motion (this makes them GREAT accessory work to build that big sexy back squat). They can also be frustrating because there is a fine line between using a weight that you feel in control of and a weight that is in control of you. It’s hard to find the sweet spot because objects (generally) cannot be loaded.
All of this to say that while we all have recently been rethinking our daily routines, we can also rethink our workouts and loaded movement (AND be just as effective).
So, yes, you can use that bag of dog food or that coffee table as a weighted implement. And yes, you will look ridiculous. But at the end of the day, we’ll still be bringing sexy back when we get back to normalcy.