Get a start on your New Year’s resolution by stacking cutting-edge fitness gear under the Christmas tree, with some hints from this Free Range American holiday gift guide. More of us are training at home these days, so we’ve put together a list of tools that will help you get stronger, faster, and — most importantly — healthier. With prices ranging from $16 to about $350, these tools make great gifts for fitness buffs in your family or friend group, too.
Onnit Steel Mace
$28 to $92; onnit.com
Mace training is nothing new in the realm of strength and conditioning. In fact it dates back to 13th-century Persia, where warriors would use this tool to condition themselves for battle. The mace is one of the most effective ways to build core and rotational strength because of the extreme weight displacement. It is also one of the most effective ways to increase the strength of the stabilizer muscles surrounding the joints. At my gym, Element26 in Bloomington, Illinois, mace training is a staple. We use them for everything from warmups to accessory work for shoulder health and injury proofing. Follow a heavy set of pressing with some mace 360s and it will totally change the stimulus on your body. You will be surprised at how heavy a 20-pound mace can be.
Onnit Steel Clubs
$40 to $120; onnit.com
Like mace training, steel club work comes from ancient Persia, where clubs were used to condition warriors and wrestlers. With a variety of movements and infinite possibilities, steel clubs can be used to train all aspects of fitness, including strength, conditioning, and balance. They’re also a great complement to traditional barbell training. I use steel clubs for a variety of purposes in my gym with clients ranging from rehab/prehab, grip strength, rotational power, and correcting imbalances from single-sided sports like tennis, baseball, and golf. If you think you have a strong grip, try farmers — carrying two 25-pound clubs, one facing forward and the other to the rear. See how far you can walk with them before your grip gives out. It’s only 25 pounds. How bad could it be, right?
S-35E Rogue “E” Sled
There is nothing fancy about sled pulls. They are simple and cost efficient, have a low learning curve, and are highly effective. You can use sled pulls in a variety of ways ranging from warmups, accessory work, cool downs, rehab/prehab, and strength training. Everyone in my gym does sled pulls. CrossFit competitors, soccer moms and dads, jiujitsu practitioners, teachers, tactical personnel — everyone does sled pulls because sled pulls get you strong. Get yourself a sled and take a walk. Heel strike as you pull and keep the arms in motion; you should see a side-to-side movement in the sled as you go. Be deliberate with your movements and reap the rewards.
Resistance bands are some of the most versatile low-cost pieces of equipment you can have. In the gym we commonly use bands with barbell movements for the addition of accommodating resistance for both the development of absolute strength and force production. We also use them for accessory work to address individual weaknesses. Fail a bench press by getting the bar pinned on your chest? Adding in banded face-pulls and band pull-aparts to your accessory work will help address this issue. If you fail a press on the lockout, we know triceps are the issue — add in some high-rep banded triceps push-downs to your accessory work a couple of times a week to attack that weak link. We all need a stronger lower back, glutes, and hamstrings; banded leg curls, good mornings, and pull-throughs will help with that.
Stillness Is the Key
Stoic philosophy has changed my outlook on life’s challenges in a number of ways. Ryan Holiday’s newest book, Stillness Is the Key, was exactly what I needed to read to help me keep a level head during the chaos that has been 2020. We all seek stillness on an individual level; some seek it as a path to meaning, others as a path to contentment. With the continual stress of 24/7 news and constant division that is seen on social media, Stillness Is the Key offers a simple but inspiring remedy. Holiday outlines a path for achieving this urgently necessary way of living. Drawing on a wide range of history’s greatest minds, he argues that stillness is not mere inactivity but the doorway to self-mastery, discipline, and focus. It’s no surprise the book has taken off in athletic circles. Settling into this read makes rest day all the better.
When it comes to shoes I am very critical about what I train in, mainly because of some permanent hardware I have in my foot from a parachute accident. Around five years ago I got my first pair of Nobull trainers, and I almost instantly knew that I had found the perfect all-around gym shoe for me. The trainers have held up to years of wear and tear. I still have — and wear — my original pair of Nobull trainers and have now upped my collection to nine pairs. To be 100% honest, the Nobull trainers are great all-around gym shoes for heavy lifting and circuits but are horrible for running. If you are looking for running shoes, get a dedicated pair that fit your feet. But for all-around gym shoes, these are where it’s at. They also have a pretty sweet discount for veterans.
KL2 Active Recovery Pants
I never was one to spend money on clothes for the gym until I got a pair of the KL1 active recovery pants. They are now my go-to apparel in the fall/winter months in the gym. To say they are comfortable is an understatement. I have been so impressed by the quality and durability that I have collected multiple pairs of the same color simply because I like wearing them so much. The KL1 and KL2 give you more of a tapered look in these sleek joggers that are designed for both comfort and performance. If you are not into the tapered look, go with the IconX Bioceramic performance pants. Either way you will get a comfortable pair of pants that will hold up to whatever you throw at them in the gym. If you have a GovX account, you can find them at a pretty awesome discount for active duty/vet/LEO/first responders.
Sorinex Off Grid Rack
The current global situation has caused many of us to train at home. As a result, gym equipment can be pretty hard to come by these days. It goes without saying that outfitting a home gym can be pretty expensive, too. Sorinex is well known for having top-of-the-line equipment used by college athletic departments and professional sports teams. But they also make an affordable piece of equipment that will allow us non-Division 1 athletes to train at home. In fact, they developed it in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and all profits from the Off Grid are donated to COVID-19 research. If you are looking for an affordable and space-saving rack for your basement or garage, this is it.