As a businessman and entrepreneur, I use fitness to elevate my life and business performance. What I've found over the years of fitting workouts into my busy schedule is that it doesn't have to be fancy. You can gain muscle, improve your cardiovascular wellness, and feel fitter overall simply by moving your body—no special tools required.
But don't be fooled: Not all workout tools are created equal. When it comes to effective exercise tools, it’s typically best to go back to the basics. These seven simple yet effective tools will actually enhance your workout routine:
1. Keep a fitness log.
Speaking of the basics, a fitness log is one of the most effective ways to elevate your workouts. That’s because tracking your workouts allows you to determine where your fitness currently stands, set realistic goals, identify patterns (Which exercises do you like? Which ones cause pain?), measure your progress, maintain consistency, and sustain workout motivation over the long haul. Whether you use a dedicated fitness app or simply record your workouts with paper and pen, consistently writing down when and how you’ve exercised is a great way to sustain workout momentum.
2. Grab a workout buddy.
Studies consistently find that people who exercise with a partner are more likely to be active and to maintain a fitness routine long term than people who work out solo. That’s because having a workout buddy requires accountability, which motivates you to stick with your workout routine, even on the days when you’re feeling like you want to shrug it off. Exercising with a partner also increases the fun factor, which can provide further motivation to keep moving.
3. Use kettlebells.
The long reign of free weights at the gym has been supplanted by a new kid on the block: kettlebells, which not only help you build muscle and torch fat but improve grip strength and core stability and increase functional strength. That’s because lifting and controlling the swing of a kettlebell requires you to engage muscles throughout your entire body, which allows you to achieve an intense and comprehensive workout in a relatively short period of time.
4. Learn how to use waterballs.
Think of waterballs as the new and improved medicine balls. The original medicine ball is an effective workout tool in its own right, as it’s been proven to help build strength, power, and stability. Waterballs enhance these effects because they’re full of (you guessed it) water.
As you work with the ball, the water moves around inside of it, which requires your muscles to work extra hard in order to maintain control of the ball. Thus, swapping in a waterball for any exercise you would normally perform with a medicine ball—such as squats, lunges, ab twists, and so on—is a simple and effective way to increase your workout intensity and boost your strength gains.
5. Invest in a lifting belt.
If you’re serious about lifting weights, then it’s high time you invested in a lifting belt—even if you’re not a professional powerlifter. That’s because belts help prevent injury by supporting and stabilizing your core during heavy lifts. This support is absolutely essential if you regularly up your weights or you’re planning to perform heavy strength moves over the long term. There are many different types of lifting belts, each geared toward a different type of athlete, movement, and/or budget. Do your research before buying one to ensure that you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
6. Do more yoga!
One of the most inaccurate myths about yoga is that it won’t help you get fit. In reality, yoga is both an exceptional complement to any fitness routine and a stellar workout in its own right. The practice has been shown to improve balance, stability, strength, endurance, bodily awareness, and mental stamina—all of which can come in handy at the gym by increasing your strength gains and helping to protect you from injury. Practicing yoga is also a proven way to speed up recovery in the unfortunate event that you do suffer an injury. Even performing a short yoga routine just a few times a week can lead to substantial fitness gains.
7. Listen to music.
Music is the ultimate performance enhancer. Listening to up-tempo music while exercising has been shown to improve workouts in a number of ways. It can boost workout intensity, increase workout motivation, sustain endurance, minimize perceived effort (which can delay time to exhaustion), and make exercise more enjoyable—which has an additional motivating effect. Thus, cueing up your favorite upbeat songs every time you work out is a great way to go harder and longer (and maybe even trick your body into not noticing that you’ve upped your workout intensity).
Of course, these tools are only effective if you use them. The best way to elevate your fitness routine is to keep showing up to the gym, the trails, the track, or wherever else you work out. Only then will you have a workout routine that exists to be taken to the next level in the first place—and that’s when these tools will truly prove their effectiveness. Just remember: They aren’t the core of a fitness routine. They’re simply the icing on the workout cake.