If you’re an active guy, you’re probably at the gym a lot. Maybe you’ve got a routine down, perhaps you stick with what you know has worked for you in the past. But a lot of guys get stuck in something of a rut when it comes to their fitness. And it’s not helped by the intimidation that comes with not being familiar with a piece of fitness equipment.
These days, most machines have simple instructions to make them easy to try out. But the other equipment at the gym—the old school items or the seemingly random ones that are piled up in the corner—are harder to decipher. But trainers and other exercise experts will be the first ones to tell you not to neglect those. In fact, there are some highly effective pieces of gym equipment that you’re likely ignoring. And your results are suffering because of it. Here are the five most underrated pieces of gym gear that you should start messing with, immediately. You can thank us later.
Maybe you remember the infomercials selling these wheel-and-axle gizmos in the late ’90s and early aughts. Perhaps your dad still has one stashed in the garage. Or you might’ve noticed some really shredded dudes playing around with them over in the stretching area of the gym. That’s because they’re an amazing (if a tad painful) way to make your abs pop and carve out that six-pack. Do they look a little silly? Sure. But once you feel your core tightening and your abs burning, you’ll start to see some serious results and know that it works.
Have you seen these hanging in your gym and thought that they’re only for gymnasts? This piece of old school equipment has been around since the 19th century, but there’s a reason why so many ripped guys swear by them. For such a deceptively simple piece of equipment, rings are brutally effective at amping up the difficulty on simple bodyweight exercises like dips, rows, pushups, and pullups. Yassir Khrichef, a certified trainer and co-founder of Saturn Movement, says most men are intimidated by rings, but they shouldn't be. The key, he says, is to challenge your leverage and stability when doing bodyweight moves to gain all the benefits from rings, including muscle building, joint conditioning and scapula stability..
Have you noticed these before? The Bosu Ball basically looks like a yoga ball cut in half, and can be used both ways—with the dome side up or down for a variety of exercises. Because it provides an unstable surface trainer Samantha Hopes points out that it can give you an effective, full-body workout that also improves your balance. Try placing a foot on the round side for lunges, standing on the flat side for unweighted squats, or holding onto the sides with the round side down while doing pushups.
These weighted sand-filled balls—called everything from medballs to slam balls—are one of the most versatile tools in the gym. Use them indoors or out, as gently or violently as you like. It's a simple piece of equipment (just a heavy ball) but it has the ability to fire up a myriad of muscles while challenging your body's natural biomechanics. Of course you can simply hold the balls to add weight while you do crunches, twists and Superman extensions to work your abs and core. You can raise the ball over your head and slam it to the ground. This is one of those training tools that the more you use it, the more ways you find to work it into your routine.
Speaking of that humble sand, there are few pieces of gym gear that are as versatile as the old fashioned sandbag. The bag’s naturally shifting weight makes for cumbersome handling—and that’s the point. These bags force athletes to constantly adjust, which means you’re using whole swathes of muscles that don’t normally need to work together. And that translates to a slew of muscles working together and improved strength. The team at Gravity Fitness swears by sandbags and says you can use the bags for Russian twists, power clean lifts and deadlifts, along with overhead squats and other moves.