Beginner Odd Object Training – Safety Considerations
Dan Cenidoza – Hydrant Carry, 2005
Odd Objects are implements used for strength training that are different from normal strength training tools like dumbbells and barbells.
The size, shape, and weight of Odd Objects make them more challenging to grip, hold, and control, and their bulk makes their center of gravity hard to predict.
Examples of Odd Objects include kegs, sandbags, atlas stones, natural stones, fire hydrants, wheel barrels, logs, tires, block weights, kettlebells, and more.
In recent years, Odd Object training has become more popular and they are being used at all levels of strength training and conditioning, including the High School, Collegiate, and Professional levels.
Odd Objects are also often used in the sport of Strongman and Grip contests. The competitors in these sports spend hours training with the sport-specific implements in order to master them and be ready to lift them when they get to their competitions.
Because of the popularity of odd objects, strength enthusiasts and those interested in building muscle may also want to add them into their routine for an additional challenge and variety. However, it is important to understand that Odd Object training can entail more risk, especially for those not used to dealing with their dynamic and unpredictable nature.
It is important to start out slow with Odd Object training. Just like any new activity, there has to be a conditioning, or ramp-up period instituted in order to do it safely.
Just like you can’t go from having a sedentary lifestyle to running a marathon, you can’t expect to go from working out on machines and doing very basic lifting to doing heavy Odd Object training without getting sore or even having an injury.
If your normal training routine involves primarily barbell and dumbbell work while seated or laying on a bench, cable work, or lifts done in machines, then you have work to do before getting involved in Odd Object training. These types of lifts are mostly isolation movements, meaning they target primarily one joint during the movement. While this type of training can be used for getting a huge pump and building muscle, they do little to prepare you for awkward weight bearing lifts involved in Odd Object training.
Prior to getting involved with things like heavy sandbags, logs, and other bigger and heavier objects, it is important to move away from only doing isolation movements and move toward including multi-joint and closed chain movements in your program.
Multi-joint movements are easy to spot, as they include movement over more than just one joint. For an example, tricep pushdowns done on a cable machine are an isolation movement – they target the triceps and involve movement mainly at the elbow only. Close-Grip bench press targets the triceps, but incorporates movement both at the elbow and the shoulder. This in turn brings more muscle into play and increases the demand on the trainee, moving them closer toward being prepared for Odd Object strength training.
Closed kinetic chain movements (CKCM) are also important in conditioning a trainee to Odd Object training. Closed Chain movements are done without sitting on a machine but rather while standing or exerting force directly into the ground. They are also often weight bearing in nature and require more energy to stabilize the joints of the body while the movement of each repetition takes place.
Thus, instead of stopping at Close-grip bench press, an even better option for getting ready for Odd Object training is some form of standing overhead press. This still works the triceps, but you also get the benefit of more shoulder work, core stimulation and full body coordination and stability. Other examples of movements with a closed kinetic chain are the Squat, Cleans, Deadlift Variations, and Lunges.
Proper Lifting Form Cues – Mental Checklist
For those new to this type of training, it is important to set-up correctly prior to doing any lifts. Following is a Mental Checklist to go over when working with closed kinetic chain, multi-joint movements.
Head in Line with Spine: The neck should not be flexed or extended while lifting. It should remain in neutral alignment with the spine to prevent injury. The neck can also be stabilized further by pressing the tongue into the roof of the mouth.
Shoulders Back: Posture is important the entire way down the torso. The shoulders should not slouch forward or there is an increase risk of injury. The shoulders should be pulled back during most of these movements.
Proud Chest: This cue works in tandem with the shoulders. By maintaining a proud chest the thoracic area remains rigid and the spine stays in proper alignment.
Push Belly Out: Take a deep breath and push the belly out. This creates intra-abdominal pressure and helps brace the core and stabilize the torso. This can increase the blood pressure for a short time, so any trainees with health concerns in this neighborhood should exercise caution.
Hips Back: The first movement in most closed-chain, multi-joint movements, should involve pushing the hips back. This helps maintain a safe lordotic curve of the lumbar spine, where it arches inward toward the stomach, rather than rounding away.
Again, the value of this type of training is bridging the gap from isolation movements that are very predictable in nature and moving toward the unpredictable nature of Odd Object training. Training like this helps with coordination, stability, core strength, joint stability, and the ability to react to and counteract outside forces.
Training with Odd Objects
After several workouts performing these free-standing, multi-joint movements, now it is time to move into using Odd Objects. For Beginner Odd Object Training, I like the use of something like a stiff heavy bag. Heavy bags are large and bulky, but their filling is dense and does not shift like that of a slosh pipe or a loosely packed sandbag. This way, the trainee is able to work with the increased size of the implement but not such a dynamic center of gravity.
Heavy bags come in many lengths and weights. The one I use is about 40-lbs. This is a good starting point for the new Odd Object trainee and it will help build confidence with a non-conventional implement.
Now, the same closed-chain, multi-joint movements that are done with a barbell can be done with the heavy bag: Squat, Deadlift, Clean, Press, Clean and Press, etc.
Other movements that can also be done with the heavy bag include Shouldering the Bag, Shoulder Squats, Waiter’s Bows, etc.
Also, because the Heavy Bag does not have to be loaded with plates or any other means, transitions from one movement to another can be quick, increasing conditioning and allowing you to get more work completed in a shorter time.
Sometimes, the best way to put new types of training into action is to see them being done by someone else. In the video below, I go over many of the above mentioned movements, plus other ones. So grab your heavy bag and go along with this video.
Incidentally, if you do not have access to a heavy bag, a sandbag or a loaded duffel bag will work well. They can be a bit more advanced though, because the load inside them may move, causing the sandbag or duffel to flex during the movement, so be prepared if you go that route.
In closing, Odd Object training can be used for a welcomed change of pace from your normal training routine. However, depending on the current ability and training status of the trainee, there may be some transitional work that must be done for a short time beforehand in order to assure safety. With proper caution and consistent training, Odd Object lifting can be a safe and rewarding activity that will help you build muscle, improve your conditioning, and increase your athleticism.
If you have any questions about how to get started with odd Object training, please do not hesitate to ask. Leave a comment below or shoot me an email through the RESOURCES button above.
All the best in your training,
Other Odd Object Info at Diesel
We’ve got tons of information here for you on Odd Object Training. Here’s just a sampling…
How to Lift Kegs Safely
Using Odd Objects for Conditioning
Introduction to Odd Objects
Similarities Between Olympic Lifts and Stone Lifting
Atlas Stone Beginner Training Tip
Benefits You Get from Stone Training
Sandbag Circuits for Serious Conditioning
Killer Sandbag Workout
Ultimate Forearm Training for Baseball | How to Bend Nails | How to Tear Cards | Feats of Grip Strength Explained | How to Build Your Own Equipment | How to Lift Atlas Stones | The Sh*t You’ve Never Seen | Sled Dragging for Athletes | The Road to the Record DVD
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