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3 Minimalist Total Body Workouts

sandbag training

It really happened by accident. I wasn’t trying to be a minimalist. I have written many times that my training facility was packed full of a variety of equipment. In fact, I was often looking for the next “cool” training tool to introduce to my clients and use myself. Then something happened, I don’t know if it was maturity, I don’t know if it was taking a long hard look at what actually made my clients/myself better, or realizing time was always a variable I had to battle and at the end of the day had to focus on the most effective strategies in methods, exercises, and tools. It could have been all these reasons, but instead of continuing to buy more and more tools, I started going the other way. When I looked at creating better total body workouts I started to see I didn’t need more “stuff”, I just needed to optimize what I had better.

total body workouts

I would be lying if I also didn’t say that much of this was inspired by Pavel Tsatsouline’s 2001 book “The Russian Kettlebell Challenge”. In that book Pavel spoke about something known as a courage corner. He described, “The Red Army, too pragmatic to waste their troopers’ time on pushups and sit-ups, quickly caught on. Every Russian military unit, even outposts remote as the Mars, has a gym. For some strange reason, maybe because it makes your sweaty basement dungeon look like a yuppie health spa, it is called a ‘courage corner’ (I wish it was a joke). Every courage corner, including the permafrost crusted cave in one of the units I served in, is equipped with K-bells.”

What Pavel shared I found so fascinating because it also harkened me back to one of my favorite movies growing up Rocky 4. Hopefully you know this was the Rocky movie where he fought the intimidating Russian boxer, Ivan Drago. Almost every guy I knew my age always loved this movie for the famous training scenes. In the movie Rocky uses a very bare bones, minimalist approach while Ivan has all the technology in the world. That really tapped into the classic ideal of working super hard to achieve success even if you don’t have all the resources others do. The irony I learned much later is that it was far more likely that the American and Russian training methods would have been reversed, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Both the “courage corner” idea and the theme of Rocky made me really intrigued me if more could be achieved with less. Instead of getting tools in order to just get more tools, if we took the time to look at what tools were most beneficial and did things in a unique way, we could have total body workouts that were truly special.


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A post shared by Cari Satre (@coachcariii)

Total body workouts like Cari Satre shows above is a great example of how having a lot of equipment isn’t necessary to getting great results if you focus on powerful movement strength training ideas like she shows above.

While I had some inspiration from these fun tales of great strength by working with less, that wasn’t necessarily my goal. I always strived for better and realized that most waste a lot of time or don’t really achieve anything better in their total body workouts when they just randomly insert different pieces of equipment into their training. The questions I started to ask myself were ones like, “why am I using this tool over that one?” As I started asking which tools helped me and my clients learn to move better and develop more all around functional strength, I started to zero in on a few tools rather than all of them. Over time I realized having a lot of tools in your toolbox wasn’t nearly as important as the craftsman/woman you were.

When you aren’t dependent on a whole bunch of different tools that just give you a similar version of the same thing, as DVRT UK master, Greg Perlaki shows allows anywhere to be our gym. 

You may be concerned, “won’t I get bored?” I can’t emphasize enough, these minimalist total body workouts aren’t about proving some point that you COULD do a lot with a little. Rather, that when you ask where we should devote our time to training, I keep coming back to the same tools. Not because they are some “secret” training tool of a far off country, but because they deliver on the goals of stability, strength, mobility, power, and conditioning while also being able to train our body in all 3 planes of motion. In other words, I use them because they work better.

What are those tools I keep coming back to? My ideal gym is pretty simple, kettlebells, a suspension trainer, bands, and of course Ultimate Sandbags. The most important part isn’t that we have these tools, but the intent we use them with and how we think of developing total body workouts that make us stronger, move better, and yes, look our best as well! That became my mission the same time that I started to look at training differently. I NEVER wanted to be an implement company, I wanted to be an educational company. Giving you the total body workouts like you see today isn’t about showing you something different, but something better. The amount you can accomplish and the versatility you can have is almost endless. Being able to make training fun and highly effective is how we make training really impactful on people.

I hope posts like this not only give you great total body workouts you can perform, but help you see that we don’t have to distract or worry ourselves that we don’t use everything when we train, we use what works! Check out how you can combine these tools for amazing total body workouts as Robin Paget shows below.



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A post shared by Robin Paget (@rdpaget)