You don’t need to break the bank for training equipment
Sometimes we get very wrapped up in the newest piece of training equipment. We see it, hear about how it can help your athletes, and we just wish that we had it to use. Unfortunately, it usually costs an and arm and a leg to own. So what do you do? Do you did deep into the bank account and buy it or just do without?
In reality, you can probably do without it. While it’s always nice to have the newest and neatest equipment, is it really necessary? Many excellent coaches started off working with limited resources. That means that they had to get creative and learn ways to make athletes better without having access to the fanciest equipment. They started off using basic equipment like cones and ladders and went from there.
When I was in college studying to be an Athletic Trainer (ATC), I was assigned to assist at a local high school. Since much of Athletic Training involves hands-on learning, this was where I would gain knowledge to supplement my classroom learning. I was to observe, learn, and eventually practice under the supervision of the Head ATC. One of my memories from that experience was that we used old bicycle inner tubes for ankle rehab. We didn’t use fancy thera-bands. We didn’t have the money in our budget. You know what? The inner tubes worked just fine. We didn’t have a lot of other fancy things that local rehab clinics had. However, we got creative and found ways to get the job done. Now, are things easier if your training room is stocked with every piece of equipment imaginable? Yes. Can you get by without having one of everything? Yes you can, especially if you don’t have any other choice.
The same goes for sports performance. I’ve worked at places that had almost every bit of equipment that you can imagine. How much did we use? Maybe half of it got used in the course of a month. In any given year, we might have actually used 95% of it at least once. Was it nice having all of that equipment? Yes. It meant that you always had lots of options for training. Could we have survived without some of it? Yes we could have. And you know what? Our programs would have still be good and our athletes would have still gotten better. In all actuality, it might make you a better coach if you don’t have as much equipment. It makes you research and develop other methods to accomplish things. Just remember, it’s your skill as a coach that makes the difference, not the tools that you use.
The British Medical Journal just published an interesting study about sports performance products. They looked at a variety of products that are marketed in the sports performance world. No matter if the product was a supplement, a shoe, a sports drink, or any other item, the scientists checked to see what claims the product made. They then tried to find research that validated the claims. Guess what? In many cases there wasn’t any published research that supported the product claims. Even if research did exist, many times it wasn’t enough to scientifically conclude that the advertised benefits were in fact true. Is this surprising? Probably not. While this study was conducted in Britain, I would guess that similar results would be found in the United States. Several notable American companies (Nike & Powerade) were included in the study because they market and sell in both countries.
In the U.S., the FDA thoroughly evaluates any new drug before it is approved for use. I’m sure that Britain has a similar process in place. Unfortunately, the FDA doesn’t try to regulate supplements. They only step in if there are numerous complaints and/or health risks (who remembers ephedra????).
Here are a few surprising facts from the study:
Over 50% of all product websites that made product claims did not provide any references for studies that would support these claims
When contacted, some companies were not willing to share their research (In reality, this may not be that surprising)
Once company believed that simply providing a video of their product being used was “sufficient”
So, what is the reality? Just like with many other products, companies tend to make impressive claims about the benefits of using their products. Unfortunately, these claims often aren’t supported by solid research. Regardless, due to marketing to a gullible public, many people don’t question the claims and just buy the products without further investigation. This tends to work out great for the companies who keep putting money in the bank. So what should consumers do? Remember the old P.T. Barnum quote “there’s a sucker born every minute”. Don’t be a sucker!!! Don’t believe everything that some company tells you about it’s newest diet pill, muscle growth powder, sports drink, shoe, shirt, or anything else. Be smart and do some research. While it is great to be able to just hop on the internet and Google something to get info about it, realize that not everything you read on the internet is true either. Make sure to get info from good sources. If you’re not sure where to start, Pubmed publishes abstracts from numerous scientific journals related to health, fitness, exercise, and medicine. Start there and see what you find.
What do you do if you don't have all of this to work with?
All Of That Equipment
Sometimes we can become overwhelmed when we have a variety of equipment to use during training. We discover exercises that we “must” include often. We also have lots of others that we like but can only fit in occasionally. Then we seem to have the “like them but never seem to work them into the plan” exercises. Of course, we all have some exercises that we choose not to use for one reason or another. I’ve been in situations before where we had so much equipment that we could never work all of it into a training program in a month’s time. Was that a problem? Not at all. First, that’s much better than not having enough. Secondly, I have a hard time believing that a solid training program would have found a way to use all of the equipment. But the question is, what equipment do you really need? Maybe not as much as you think.
Keeping It Simple
For example, today I used a jumprope, a physioball, some steps, and a few medicine balls for all of my own workout. I was able to include explosive exercises, plyometrics, leg work, and core exercises. Throw in a few cones for speed and agility work and you could have easily created an effective workout for most athletes. So I ask again? How much do you need to be effective?
I have always liked the idea of including a variety of different drills and exercises in my programs. Notice I said “the idea”. The use of variety in training programs is a delicate balancing act and it’s not always the best idea to add in new things. Obviously anything new has to be geared to your athletes’ needs and level of experience. I also try to keep in mind that it’s better to master a few drills than to learn many and master none. Even so, sometimes I will take a day and “change things up” somehow. I may change the order of things in the workout or I may add in some slight variations of old exercises. One of my favorite things is to go old school with the equipment that I use. I like to use jumpropes, med balls, and various bodyweight exercises. I also tend to keep the exercises and drills simple. This isn’t a day that you want to be teaching a lot of of new things. However, simple drills and simple equipment does not equal an easy workout. The workload and what the athlete gets out of the workout is up to the coach. These “simple” workouts can challenge athletes in new ways and break up the drudgery of the normal workouts. It can do the same thing for coaches.
Sometimes it’s possible to focus on using everything that we have at our disposal and get away from the basics. Don’t be afraid to simplify things sometimes. It will be good for your athletes.
I was looking in a catalog recently and came across an item called the airope. What is it? Basically, it’s a jumprope without the rope. It is two handles that each have a short length of rope attached to them. For a better idea, please see the picture below.
Want to take the athleticism out of jumping rope?
I guess the idea is to make it easier to do jump rope activities with people who may struggle to get the hang of it. The price – $35. Of course, for $5 I can buy a regular jump rope and do numerous activities with clients. What if they have problems getting used to using the rope? Wouldn’t it be easier to start them with the “non-rope” version? NO!!! Easier isn’t the point. Jumping rope is and always has been a great training tool. It helps to develop balance, coordination, and let’s not forget the plyometric benefits of the jumping itself. Why take away any of the benefits? If you have a client who can’t jump rope, loan them one and have them practice at home.
As for drills that I have clients do using the rope, here is a partial list:
Two foot jumps in place
One foot jumps in place
Two foot lateral jumps
Variations of form running while using a jumprope (high knees, etc)
One/Two foot jumps while moving
Obviously it is important to start off with the easiest jumps and progress to more difficult ones. I feel that jumping rope is one activity that should be incorporated into your training plans regularly. I try to find a place for it at least once a week. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I use the $5 – $10 ropes. They work just fine and they keep the athleticism in the activity.