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in: Featured, Health & Sports, Strength

• Last updated: September 16, 2020

Odd Object Training Primer

Training objects of strongman illustration.

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Joe Hashey.

Odd object training is nothing new, but it has once again started to regain popularity. Odd object training was once done out of necessity. People did not have the means to procure state of the art training equipment, or it just wasn’t invented yet. Instead of having fancy gym machines, these people would find or make heavy objects and lift them! The result from this training was outstanding!

Over the years, the fitness industry has turned out a great deal of quality fitness equipment…and a lot of crap as well. It is time to take a look at some of the old school methods and see how we can blend them with some of the quality equipment that has been created. I prefer using odd objects in conjunction with my other strength equipment in order to compensate for one of the pitfalls of odd object training – muscular imbalances.

Odd objects can’t always be perfectly balanced. Take a log for instance. If one side is slightly larger in diameter, that end will be heavier. If you lift with that same log, in the same pattern, week after week, then some imbalances may occur. However, the benefits can be maximized if you intelligently use these objects.

Odd Objects & Where To Get Them

In this introduction to odd objects, I will focus primarily on the ones that are easy to get. No need to get fancy with this style of training. The simplicity of odd object training is what draws a lot of people to it.

I will cover a few of the odd objects that I have used with success. For each, I will give instructions on how to find the equipment as well as a few sample exercises. Again, these are just a few of the objects we use. The odd objects possible are only limited by your creativity!

1. Stones and Rocks. These objects are provided for you by good ol’ mother nature. Go out and find a few different sized stones. I have one for pinch-gripping and another few for heavier lifting. Atlas stones are a little more complicated. The easiest way is to buy a stone mold and use that.

A globe of stone.

A man training with stones at gym.

2. Kegs. You can go to your local beer distributors and pick up a keg for the price of deposit. Perform a YouTube search for how to open the keg (it provides a better tutorial than I can type out). Once you open the keg, you can fill it with either water or another heavy object (sand, pea gravel, etc). Water provides instability and weight, while the others will provide just weight.

A man training with lifting kegs at gym.

3. Sandbags. There are many places online to buy thick bags to use; however, I have found these expensive. I purchased three military duffle bags on ebay for around $15 and filled them with random objects – pea gravel, individual bags of sand, old clothes, and anything else I could get my hands on.

Man training with sandbag lifting at gym.

4. Rope. Thick rope is one of my favorite training tools. You can purchase either manila or nylon weave. Your local hardware store probably will not carry rope thick enough. I have purchased mine off of ebay, McMaster Carr, and from people selling used rope down by the waterfronts.

Man training with battle rope.

5. Tires. Tires are versatile and durable, which makes them great choices as odd objects. Additionally, they are often free! Large tires for flipping can be picked up at a tractor or truck tire shop. Small tires can be picked up used from any garage. These places have to pay to dispose of the tires, so they are usually willing to get rid of them for free as it actually saves them money.

Man lifting truck tire on road.

Man hitting on lifting tire with hammer.Putting the Objects to Use

The only thing standing between you and some amazing training is a little creativity. Think of regular gym exercises that you can perform with these objects, but now with added grip, stability, and other benefits. I am a proponent of performing a regular primary lift (dead lift, squat, bench, overhead press, or variation thereof). With the exception of atlas stones and tire flipping, most odd object training should be reserved for supplemental exercises. The main reason is that gym weights are easily loaded, measured, and progressed.

The best thing I can do is display some pictures of how we have used odd objects. Your objects may very well be different from ours (larger, smaller, different shapes, etc), so these pictures and descriptions will give you an idea of some movement possibilities.

Stones

Pinch GrippingMan training with stones at gym. Pinch SwingsMan training with stones at gym.

Pinch Grip Farmers Walk – Shown with Stone + 35 lb Hex Head DBMan doing exercise by holding dumbbell and stone in hands.

Obviously Atlas Stones can be used for loading or shouldering. However if you do not have an Atlas Stone, a keg can be a decent replacement. Smaller stones can also be used to add grips to things like curls, rows, presses, etc. Again, use your imagination with these objects. That’s half the fun!

Kegs

Clean and PressMan doing exercise of keg holding at gym. Shoulder LoadingMan doing exercise of keg shoulder at gym.
Setting Up a Keg “Atlas Stone” Style LiftMan doing exercise of keg sit ups at gym. Keg ThrowingMan doing exercise of keg throwing in forest.

Overhead Iso LungesMan doing exercise of keg holding at gym.

Kegs and sandbags are incredibly versatile. I could list at least 100 exercises for each, but again, follow my above rule of first thinking of gym exercises, then applying the object. Remember Zoolander’s walk-off rules? Old school rules – duplicate then elaborate. Same concept applies here, but less pretty.

Sandbags

Sandbags, like kegs, can be used for a huge array of exercises. I prefer to “grab cloth” when sandbag training. This means, instead of using the handles for grip, I grab the cloth of the bag as if I was grabbing someone by the shirt. This makes it tougher on the grip. Here are some suggested exercises:

Sandbag Pull Through SetupMan doing exercise of sandbag pulling at gym. Sandbag Pull Through Finish
Man doing exercise of sandbag pulling at gym.
Shouldered Sandbag SquatMan doing exercise of shoulder sandbag at gym. Front Hold Sandbag Step-upMan doing exercise of front hold sandbag at gym.

Rope
Rope is a unique training tool. I like to use it for everything from rope battling to added grip on pull-ups. It is worth it to have a few different sizes and lengths in your repertoire. It is best to not get the rope wet, as it frays and not to leave it out in the sun.

Rope Mountain ClimbersMan doing exercise of rope climbing at gym. Rope Battling (other end attached to tree)Man doing exercise of rope battling at gym.

Thick Rope Supine RowsMan doing exercise of rope holding at gym.

Tires

Tires come in all shapes and sizes, so these exercises are just suggestions. They are unique since you can do everything from beat them with a sledgehammer to throw them for explosive training.

Rotational Tire ThrowsMan doing exercise of tire throwing in forest. Tire FlipsMan doing exercise of tire flipping on road.

And only if you are crazy….Tire Hercules Holds (two tires, same size)Man doing exercise of wires pulling on road.

Conclusion

Odd object training will bring a boost to your supplemental exercises. They are creative, enjoyable and EFFECTIVE! I would recommend these for anyone from athletes (especially athletes) to people looking to spice up their programs. Tires, kegs, stones, ropes, and sandbags can all be successfully incorporated into your training protocols. Now get training!

Joe Hashey is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. He is a former D1AA college football player and is giving away 3 BONUSES for joining the FREE Synergy Newsletter! Joe can be reached through his popular strength training blog – www.Synergy-Athletics.com.

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