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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.