Strength trainer, author and founder of the Underground Strength Gym, Zach Even-Esh, has the answer if your schedule is out of whack or you’re feeling too crushed for time to get in your regular workout: deadball exercises. A deadball (also called a sand-ball) is an anchor in how to build muscle mass and overall strength with a few simple moves.
Or a stone. Or that pile of books that you received from under the Christmas tree, wrapped up tightly in a bag. Any found objects, in other words, which, by dint of their easy availability, “fit with the Spartan philosophy of ‘finding a way vs. finding an excuse.” And, of course, the heavier and more awkward the object, the better. “For training with odd objects gets you comfortable being uncomfortable,” says Zach.
“We don't learn much from comfortable things and our mind and body will not grow in our comfort zones,” this world-class strength and conditioning coach reminds us. “Instead, lifting, carrying and throwing heavy, odd objects gets us tapping into our inner Spartan, and it makes us feel powerful when we've overcome the objects’ awkward nature.”
Plus, the deadball exercises that Zach recommends are relatively straightforward. Though, that said, it’s best not to be misled by their simplicity. “Fellow Spartan Rudy Reyes shared a great quote when I heard him talking about his abilities as a Marine Recon,” claims Zach. “Rudy said, Brilliance with the Basics.”
So, while carrying out the basics is one thing, carrying them them brilliantly is quite another.
“But this is one of the reasons I LOVE these particular exercises,” says Zach. "They are simple to learn, and yet, done right, highly effective.”
Deadball Exercise #1 - Shouldering
Stand over the ball with feet a little wider than shoulder width apart. Squat down with a flat back, keep your chest high, and pull the ball up to your shoulder rising into a standing position.
“Catch it on your shoulder for one count,” says Zach, “And then go down under control, keeping the back flat.”
Deadball Exercise #2 – Carries
Using the same object, the aim with carries is simply to tote it a distance, varying the positions throughout your training. That means, in one session, you can carry it in front of the chest with arms underneath, or on either shoulder.
“If you carry it on one shoulder, remember to carry it on equal distance on the other shoulder,” Zach advises.
The steps of this exercise are, again, simple to follow. With a flat back, pick up your deadball or weight. Hike it on to your shoulder or before the chest, and take it for a short walk.
“Keep your posture as upright as possible,” says Zach. And while a heavier object may encourage you to tilt or bow, it’s vital that you avoid leaning back or slouching down under the weight.
“Technique is everything. Putting things down or picking things up with a hunched over or round back, is dangerous; Eventually you’re going to injure your back. You have to maintain strength,” he states. “And when you’re done carrying (the object), or you’re about to lose technique, you put it down with a flat back.”
Deadball Exercise #3 – The Clean and Throw
The third deadball exercise has to be done outside as it involves throwing the object high or wide.
Squat down with your back flat and pick up your deadball or object. Bring it to your chest and either throw it forward in front of you or up into the air (remember to stand back so you’re not in the line of the weight’s descent if you’re doing the latter!)
And while you can go with a heavier object when you’re doing shouldering or carrying, it’s best to go light when you’re throwing, says Zach.
All-in-all, these three exercises offer a fast and effective workout to keep you fit. And because they work your entire body, they prepare you for any Spartan event, as well as for everyday life.
“You are picking up an object from the floor, carrying heavy objects, and for power, you throw the object,” Zach notes. “And when you perform these exercises in a circuit or for higher reps, you also boost your aerobic capacity.”
In terms of scheduling these exercises as a workout, Zach recommends once a week for shouldering and throws. Carries can be performed anywhere from one to three times per week, and he recommends varying the distance.
“You can carry on flat surfaces, up hills, zig-zag between cones, etc. And with regards to sets and reps, variety is important so your body doesn't adapt to doing the same training time and time again.”
LISTEN TO THE DEADBALL EXERCISES PODCAST
LESSONS:- You can exercise at home or outdoors, no gym needed, with these 3 simple and effective exercises to build muscle mass and overall strength.
- Shouldering: Keep a flat back and pull the bag up onto your shoulder, alternating shoulders for reps or time.
- Carry: You can carry any object. Always lift with a flat back and mix up the position you carry the object (shoulder, on your back, or in front of the body)
- Clean & Throw: Throwing a medicine ball or stone is a great way to develop power and conditioning.
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