Rough Strength is all about getting more with less – getting stronger with anything you have at hand, getting a good diet with less money investment, being smarter about your training and nutrition, etc. It is a minimalist approach that shows you how to become a better version of you starting right now, not in some distant future that depends on whether you will be able to attend a gym or not. It is excuse-proof and excuse-free. That is why I like it so much.
However, what to do if you have been implementing the Rough Strength Method for a decent period of time, have some extra money, and crave some equipment variety? It is not really necessary, but if you add right tools to your training arsenal, you can benefit big time. And the sweetest thing is that some of them will not cost you a lot of money.
So I created the Rough Strength chart of the possibly useful additional equipment. I am assuming that you are already familiar with the Rough Strength Triad: calisthenics, sandbags, and kettlebells. Still I will devote a couple of paragraphs to these bad boys. Furthermore, I have put the tools in a specific order. The more effective/versatile/cheap implements will be higher, the less effective/versatile/the more expensive – lower.
Without further ado, the Rough Strength chart of what is useful:
1. Pure Bodyweight Training (Pull-Up Bar/a Place to Hang from)
The cheapest and the most effective training tool in your arsenal is your own bodyweight. It is amazing how people ignore such an obvious thing. The fantasy of an average person quits after Push-Ups, Sit-Ups, and maybe Pull-Ups. However, calisthenics are far more than that. Bodyweight strength training is the art of gaining control over your body, the art of acquiring the ability to move and hold the body the way YOU want.
Despite what other people tell you, calisthenics CAN develop incredible strength and build decent muscle size. However, the tricky part is to make it all work. Bodyweight training is probably the most creative form of exercise, because you always need to think how to move from one progression step to another.
To perform calisthenics, you will need only a place to hang from (ideally the Pull-Up bar), and a wall (this one is easy to find; I bet you have one in your sight right now). Where to find a Pull-Up bar? Here in Ukraine, you can find it within 5-10 minutes if you live in urban area. Even if you are not so lucky, any tree branch or horizontal pipe will do assuming they can hold your bodyweight. Therefore, with calisthenics, all that separates you from the awesome strength is a burning desire to change.
Sandbag is the second most effective/cheap solution for developing great strength. All you need is a bag and sand. Both are cheap, if not free. I got my latest sandbag for $5. Learn here how to make one yourself.
For me, sandbag strength training has two distinct benefits (among others):
- It can be as progressive as you want. You can add inside as little as a fistful of sand.
- Sandbag has no stable center of mass. It is always changing due to the movement of sand inside the bag during the exercise.
Additionally, you can substitute almost any barbell exercise for a sandbag one with ease. However, it will be much more brutal. Just try it.
These cannonballs with handles can be quite expensive, I know. However, they are really cool and versatile. Maybe I am too subjective here, but I can’t help loving this training tool. Besides, here in Ukraine, you can buy a pair of heavy kettlebells almost for nothing at the scrapyards. I got my 32 kg babies for under $50.
Kettlebells are unique due to the offset center of mass. This is why they feel heavier than dumbbells and barbells, and this is how they allow you to perform unique exercises like the Double Kettlebell Snatch or the Bottom-Up Press. They are totally fun to train with, and the benefits of heavy kettlebell training are indisputable. In addition, they do not take much space; you can easily train with them in your apartment.
The main downside of this tool is huge jumps in intensity. The classic kettlebell set is 16 kg, 24 kg, and 32 kg. That’s 8 kg increases, and if you train with two kettlebells (which I highly recommend), it is 16 kg. Anyway, there is a method to overcome this inconvenience. You can read more about it here.
OK, so the Rough Strength Triad is covered. What to add?
Obviously, gymnastic rings will be the first option. They will supercharge your bodyweight strength training big time. They will introduce effective variety and new unique exercises. Additionally, I believe that you cannot outgrow them. There will always be a harder variation of any exercise.
While there are DIY alternatives, I would rather go with a commercial pair. It is good investment because they will serve you well for a REALLY long time. Commercial rings are durable and much more convenient to use. Besides, they are not that expensive.
What to choose: wooden or not? Purists will say that rings should exist only in wooden format, but I must disagree here. I use EXF rings, they are not wooden, and they effectively serve their purpose (increase the difficulty of bodyweight exercises). However, I am not a gymnast, so what do I know, right?
5. Back pack/Weighted Vest
Adding weight to calisthenics is highly effective when implemented properly. You have several ways of doing this:
- Weighted vest;
- Back pack;
- Weight belt.
The first one is the coolest because it will allow to add weight to any exercise in the most convenient way. However, it will cost you good money.
The second is way cheaper, but it is less convenient and you cannot use it in every exercise.
Adding weight will help you to stay with your favorite exercises longer and still progress in them, as well as to make smoother transitions from one progression step to another. To learn more about weighted calisthenics, check out this article.
6. Resistance Bands
Resistance bands will be the next choice. Why? They are quite cheap and they can make your exercises either easier, or harder depending on what you want.
The way I like to use them is to add assistance to bodyweight static holds like Front Lever and Planche. You just hang the band on the Pull-Up bar or any tree branch, put the other end under your center of mass, and hold the position.
Another way to use the bands is to add resistance to weighted exercises. This will add variety and will help with developing speed in some drills.
This one is also simple, cheap, and effective – get a stone. You do not need something fancy. Walk around the block, search for a heavy object. Anything of a proper weight will do.
Stone lifting is limited to, basically, three exercises: Clean and Press, Shouldering, and maybe some sort of Zercher Squat. Despite the limitation, this type of training brings results due to its demanding nature. Try it. However, be aware that it is dangerous (you can get injured by dropping the stone on yourself), and you will probably need to do it outdoors if you are not completely crazy.
Despite what kettlebell marketers say, dumbbells are not inferior to K-bells. They are just different.
Why I chose kettlebells over dumbbells for the Rough Strength Triad? Heavy kettlebells are easier and cheaper to find here in Ukraine. Commercial dumbbells are crap. They are light and low-quality. The high-quality ones are expensive.
Anyway, here is a cool thing. If you have access to a decent metal workshop, you can make a DIY dumbbell. Read this part of my interview with Yahont for more information.
9. Barbell Set
I think there is nothing to explain here. Hero-worship her majesty, the Barbell!
Sledgehammer is useful for developing solid grip and finger strength as well as serious conditioning. It is cheap and you can buy one in any hardware store.
How to use it? Get outdoors, find a tire, and start hitting it, simultaneously scaring the shit out of your neighbors.
If you want to develop grip strength, then perform the levers with a sledgehammer. The further you put your hand away from the center of mass of the hammer, the harder the exercises will be.
Do not work to failure in these. You know why. And do not forget to enjoy a nice bruise on your forehead.
In addition, you can add sledgehammer finger walks to your routine:
Parallettes are great mostly for variety purposes. With them, you will gain more control in hand balancing, and you will be able to add depth, and thus resistance, to bodyweight presses.
If you can afford parallettes, buy them. If you cannot, here is a good tutorial on how to make DIY parallettes:
Grippers are great for developing and testing your grip strength. That’s pretty much it.
13. Power Rack
Power rack is the last in this chart, but this doesn’t mean that it is useless. It has its benefits, but they are very narrow. If you do not have a barbell, then power rack is useless (well, you can do Pull-Ups from it, but it will be a quite expensive Pull-Up bar). On the other hand, if you are a lucky possessor of a barbell set, then you can supercharge your training with a power rack.
Of course, this list of training tools covers far from everything and is highly subjective. However, it should give you a good starting point in your own quest for the ultimate training arsenal. Thanks for reading.
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