Do You Really Need Fitness Tools to Reach Your Goal?

The fitness equipment industry is ever evolving. First it was the Nautilus machine, and then dumbbells and barbells gained popularity. Now big ropes, tractor tires, sledgehammers, sandbags, sleds, rubberized bands and balls of all shapes and sizes, are popping up more frequently in gyms and health clubs across the country.

But are medicine balls, ropes, bands or sandbags really helpful for your particular exercise routine? Before you grab one of these tools, you should ask yourself the following two questions:

  1. What is the goal?
  2. Why?

These questions will help you determine if using a medicine ball, rope, band or sandbag in your routine is effective to reach your goal.

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1. What Is the Goal?

Is your goal to run a 5K? Using the ropes is not the best tool to help you prepare for a 5K race. Are you preparing for a powerlifting meet? Then you should skip the bodyweight squats on a BOSU ball. Are you looking to trim fat? Then try to incorporate a sandbag workout into your fitness routine.

Note: Speak to a qualified fitness professional to help you determine if any of the above fitness tools are beneficial to your goal.

More: How to Make Clear Fitness Goals

2. Why?

Every time I give an exercise to a client, I ask myself  "Why am I having this particular client perform this exercise? Is it helping him/her?" If I can answer the question with a good reason, then the client is good to go. For example, if the goal is to build a stronger upper body, why am I prescribing presses, push-ups, rows and pull-ups each week? Can I answer the 'why' (For the record, I can answer the 'why')?

If you perform exercises with tools because you saw them in a magazine, then you may want to research the effectiveness of that particular move. Some exercises look cool or helpful, but might not be the most effective move to help you achieve your goal.

At the end of the day, basic movement patterns (think: push, pull, squat, hinge, rotate) should be the foundation of most training programs. Incorporate these functional, full-body movements into a routine a couple days per week, and you're on your way to improving your performance.  

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My point is you may not need all these fancy, flashy tools to get the job done. Most likely, you could accomplish your goals with a couple dumbbells and your own bodyweight. But this can become stale week in and week out. Sure, you can switch up the exercises and periodize your programming to vary the volume and intensity on a monthly basis, but we still need more. We get bored easily and need these gadgets to keep us stimulated.

So how do you use these tools? Here are quick videos demonstrating movements you can do with some of the most popular fitness items.

  1. Medicine Balls
  2. Bands
  3. Heavy Ropes
  4. Sandbags

Remember, before you pick up a tool or gadget, ask yourself what is your goal and why. If you can answer the two questions with confidence, then you can incorporate some of these creative tools into your weekly routine.

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About the Author

Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC

Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is a fitness professional and the founder of DB Strength in San Diego. He is also the head strength and conditioning coach for Alliance Training Center where he works many with top professional MMA athletes. Visit for more information.

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