What are the essentials of strength training? What do you really need in order to get strong and fit?
Obviously, I’m biased, but what follows is my simple take on the absolute essentials to get strong. Bear in mind that this is just one take on what the essentials of strength training. It’s not intended to be the last word on the subject.
Plenty will disagree, but here is an exhaustive list on what are the absolute essentials.
A willing attitude
That’s it. That’s all you need to get strong. Well, that and some creativity, maybe.
At a minimum, a person can gain strength and build muscle with nothing more than calisthenics. It’s not necessarily easy. It’s not necessarily the coolest or what someone might prefer to do, but it’s absolutely possible to build strength with nothing at all.
This is especially true in communities that have “fitness trails” established. They have bars that allow you to do things like pullups at zero cost.
You just have to have the mindset to go out there and get to work.
But if you want more than that?
OK, I get it. You don’t mind pushups and pullups, but you actually like the idea of moving heavy pieces of iron around. It calls to your inner Barbarian. Hey, I can’t blame you there, now can I?
If that applies to you, then you probably want to get something a little more than just your own bodyweight. That’s especially true if you’re significantly overweight. Bodyweight exercises aren’t nearly as much fun when you weigh 250 lbs. Believe me.
So lets get into a few essentials for that moment. (These will be affiliate links, btw. Gotta keep the internet on somehow, right?)
I know, you’re shocked that a kettlebell guy is going to suggest a kettlebell, but hear me out.
For one thing, a kettlebell is a big hunk of iron that you can use to work every part of the body if you’re inventive enough. Further, you can use it for conditioning work and for developing power through exercises like the clean & jerk and the snatch.
To be frank, I think everyone should have a kettlebell. There are two types, competition and cast iron.Â I recommend these two items in particular, but at long as it’s iron (and not covered in vinyl) or steel and solidly constructed, you should be good to go. There are cheaper bells on Amazon than these, and I own at least one that’s served me well for years. As for which type, well…some prefer competition bells for day to day training. Personally, I like the cast iron just fine, but I say that without ever having bothered to try a competition kettlebell.
That said, the design of the competition kettlebells don’t lend themselves well to two-handed exercises like swings, which is why I prefer the cast iron.
However, competition kettlebells are built to standard dimensions, so your 16 kg kettlebell and your 24 kg kettlebell will be the same size. That’s great for using them for things like paralets for pushups.
It’s easy for me to sit here and talk about being creative, but it helps if you have the right knowledge base. You have to understand how things work before you can put things together in new and interesting ways. As such, you should probably start feeding your brain pretty early.
Here are a few suggestions.
Enter the Kettlebell. For me, this is the first step on your education, at least so far as the kettlebell goes. Right now, there are a ton of books on Amazon about kettlebells, and I’ve seen too much from people through the years who don’t seem to understand the implement in the first place for me to just trust authors. But Pavel reintroduced the damn thing to the United States, for crying out loud, so listen to him.
Return of the Kettlebell. Another one from Pavel Tsatsouline, but this is a continuation of some of his earlier work. I found it to be fascinating and will soon be giving it yet another read.
Homemade Muscle. This was an interesting book that detailed the author, Anthony Arvanitakis, and his struggle to return to athletic condition following the amputation of his leg. There’s a lot of good stuff including a reminder to check your excuses at the door.
YouTube. I’m including this for the sake of being well-rounded, not because I think you don’t realize you can get good training advice on YouTube. However, I will warn you to be cautious. There’s some hinky advice floating around on some of these videos, so be careful. In fact, I’ll actually tell you to read the comments (something IÂ never do). The reason is that you can get some interesting discussions there that will tell you who is really full of it and who isn’t.
The essentials of strength training, at least so far as equipment goes, aren’t difficult. You don’t need anything except to free your mind, start educating yourself, and get to work.
Far too many people think they need all this stuff before they start. I’m bad about that too, so I’m not judging here.
The problem, though, is that they spend so much time talking about what they need that they never think about how to take care of business before they get it. Meanwhile, there’s often always some other expense or some other thing that has to be dealt with before they can get that one thing.