I was reading GQ (yes, I sometimes read GQ) a couple of days ago. On their site, they have a monthly series called "10 Essentials" where they ask some fru-fru designer to list the 10 things that he or she CANNOT live without.
On some of the lists you'll find lavish items like expensive cars, summer homes or $400 pairs of jeans. (Seriously, you can't live without your $400 pair of jeans that look just as beat up and worn in as the Levis 501s that I've been rocking for 5 years that cost me $50?).
Anyway, as I've said before kettlebell & bodyweight training is by far the simplest and easiest way to lose fat, put on muscle and improve your athleticism. So with that in mind, I am going to list what I believe are the most essential items that you (or I) will need to get in shape this summer in the comfort of our own home or back yard or local playground, etc.
1. 16kg Kettlebell – I thought about using my "snatch-test sized bell" which would be a 24kg, but if I were stuck on an island with only one bell, I'd have to have my 16kg. It is by far the most versatile in my arsenal and because you can use the overspeed eccentric technique for your ballistic work, the bell feels a lot heavier than it really is.
2. Suspension Trainer (like a set of rings, Blast Straps, TRX or Jungle Gym) – Perfect for bodyweight training. It doesn't matter which one you use, they're all the same to me. But the amount of exercises you can do on these things is limitless.
I especially like doing upper back work like inverted rows, scarecrows and reverse flies. You can also work your abs, lower body and do a lot of horizontal pushing exercises like push-ups & dips.
3. iPhone/iPod – Music is very much part of my workout and my life. Growing up in the '90s, I have always been an huge hip hop fan. On my iPhone you'll find Public Enemy, Gang Starr, The Roots, DeLa Soul and every album by A Tribe Called Quest (my all time favourite hip hop group).
4. Vibram Five Fingers – At first I thought these were just a gimic, until I actually got them on my feet and trained in them. I used to train in Chuck Taylor's, and then went barefoot and felt much better. Only problem was that I could be out in the backyard or even worse, in a gym, barefoot. So I invested in a pair of Vibrams and am now hooked. Training barefoot is by far the best way to train.
5. Notebook & Pen – This should actually be closer to the top of the list. I can't stress enough how important it is to write your programs/workouts down and track your progress. If you're doing the same thing, week in and week out, and not progressing (by either doing more reps, resting less or increasing the resistance), then your body isn't going to change. That's what makes the notebook ESSENTIAL to your workout. Write down EVERYTHING – what you're doing, how you're feeling, how much weight you used, etc. Any little note that can help you get in-tune with your body and give a little more insight into helping achieve more in your workout.
6. Espresso – What can I say, I'm an espresso junkie. It's my one true indulgence. I have one of these before every workout. Some research has shown that caffeine is very effective for workout performance and for fat loss. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
7. GymBoss Timer – I didn't think this was necessary until I started the MVO2 training from Viking Warrior Conditioning (see below). In the first protocol of VWC you work for 15s and then rest for 15s. It's hard to do that with a stop watch. It's easier to do it with a wall clock and even easier to do it with a Gym Boss Timer.
8. Enter The Kettlebell– This is THE book to get. I don't know many people who train with kettlebells that don't have this book. It is the foundation of the RKC and is a great teaching tool.
9. Wrist Bands – The kettlebell purists are going to feed me to the lions for writing this, but I wear wrist bands when I do high rep snatches. I wore them for my RKC snatch test in October. I wear them when I know I'll be doing a lot of overhead work. And I wear them while I'm doing my VO2 Max training. The fact of the matter is that your forearm/wrist will get bruised. Even if your technique is tight – and I'd like to think mine is pretty good now. It's not from the banging of the kettlebell onto my wrist when I snatch or clean, it's from an 80lb implement resting it's iron head on my wrist countless times throughout the week. Wearing wristbands makes my training better…so I wear them.
10. A Solid Kettlebell Fat Loss Program – This one is pretty important. There are a lot of kettlebell programs out there. There are very few good ones. I like Geoff Neupert's Kettlebell Burn, I like DragonDoor.com's stuff and – not to blow my own horn, but – I like the strides that Craig and I have made with The TT Kettlebell Revolution. In the end, you can't go wrong with any of those 3 options.