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Jump ropes and dumbbells and medicine balls, oh my!

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I guess Rocky Balboa and Mick were smarter than they appeared, because expensive equipment and gym memberships are not necessary after all. Consider the rising popularity of back-to-basics training methods such as CrossFit and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training), as well as my very own BMAX. Yes, old-school fitness is cool again!

Traditional, old-school training is:

  1. Unplugged: the only power source needed is human muscle.
  1. Simple: workouts are uncomplicated and they usually engage the entire body at once, or at least many parts of it, in order to simulate real-life movement patterns.
  1. Functional: it strengthens your body so you not only look good in the mirror but also can handle the physical challenges that daily life throws at you.

With all their glitz and glamour, weight machines have dominated gyms for many years, but the fact is that those machines are like autopilot for your muscles. If you step away from them, you'll start to develop and recruit muscles that deliver and strengthen skills, such as balance, agility and coordination. These skill-related components of fitness are critical in enhancing one's performance, whether on the field or in our daily activities and chores.

Here's what you need for your old-school workout:

1. Medicine ball
Medicine balls can be thrown hard against the ground from overhead, chucked against a wall shot-put style, thrown for distance any way imaginable (with maximum effort) or simply held while going through certain motions. They're great for building explosive strength in the chest, arms, abs and legs as well as for endurance. Beginners may start with a 2- to 6-pound ball, whereas those with some experience may be in the 8- to 14-pound range. They cost as little as $15.

2. Jump rope
Jumping rope is a great way to build endurance, agility, coordination, quickness and leg strength. It also helps improve joint proprioception, which is the brain's ability to detect the position of an extremity in space and is especially useful when recovering from an injury. I like speed ropes, which are much easier to handle because of the speed you can create. They start at about $13.

3. Dumbbells
Lifting two dumbbells helps you develop coordination, motor skills and balance while also recruiting the stabilizing muscles that serve as a supporting cast for the big superstar ones. When all is said and done, dumbbells will definitely help you become stronger and that strength can decrease your chance for injury. My suggestion is to initially invest in two sets, for example, 5 pounds and 10 pounds. They should set you back about $35 in total.

That's all the equipment you need, and it costs less than $65. Not bad for a lifetime "gym membership," right?

Now, let's get started. Use your jump rope as a warm-up tool. One of my favorite "rope intervals" for Patriots Cheerleaders takes only 15 minutes.

Start by jumping rope for two minutes. It's fine to take a mid-set rest, but be sure complete the two minutes, meaning don't stop the clock if you need a brief rest. Then continue to jump rope for one minute followed by a 30 second recovery. Repeat this until the 15 minutes has expired!

Now it's onto BMAX. Be sure to incorporate the dumbbells and medicine balls in a way that doesn't compromise your form. So although you may see me grabbing a dumbbell or two, it might be easier for you to use and control a medicine ball.

My two "ReconstruXion" workouts are a great place to begin.

ReconstruXion Part 1

ReconstruXion Part 2

PREPARE TO ACTIVATE!

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