Editor's note: View our related photo gallery, "Odd Objects."
You can develop a great deal of strength in the weight room, but when it is necessary to perform a real-life task such as pushing and pulling with your feet on the ground, that strength may not help you. With odd object training, non-traditional forms of resistance such as sandbags, ropes, water, rocks, and tires allow you to transfer "weight room" strength to functional strength. This is what you rely on during many of the strenuous physical job tasks in law enforcement. Because many odd object exercises mimic real-life movements such as picking things up off the ground and rotating, they better prepare your body for the situations you'll encounter on your shift.
Sandbags are one great way to develop the functional strength you require. The sandbag lift is a total body exercise that enhances motor control and core strength. Pictures #1 and #2 demonstrate a 100-pound sandbag lift. Lift the sandbag dynamically from the floor to the shoulder in one continuous motion. Keep your back as straight as possible and exhale forcefully when lifting the sandbag. But you don't need to use sand for this exercise. In a pinch, you can make a "sandbag" by throwing heavy objects into a duffle bag.
Short rope is another odd object that provides many benefits in training. It builds core strength as well as grip strength. Grip strength, in particular, is much underrated. In a physical confrontation, it is highly important for pulling and controlling a subject.
To begin, cut some worn climbing ropes into 10- to 11-foot lengths. You can drape the rope over a bar for rope pulls, as seen in pictures #3 and #4. If you tie one end of the rope to a bar you can perform rope walks by walking your hands up the rope and then back down, as seen in pictures #5 and #6. If you have a training partner you can perform two-person pulls, as seen in picture #7. Just remember that for two-person pulls you must maintain constant tension on the rope.
Training with water-filled objects adds another dynamic to an exercise: inertia. When training with water-filled objects, water accelerates within the object to create more resistance when reversing the motion of the exercise. Water-filled objects challenge balance, motor control, and core stability/strength, depending on the exercise being performed. Pictures #8, #9, and #10 demonstrate a water-filled stability ball being used in a chopping motion. You can also use a PVC pipe filled slightly with water to perform a shoulder press, as shown in picture #11. Water-filled pipes require a person to push or pull evenly; otherwise the water rushes to one side, causing imbalance. Therefore, you are forced to use your core to balance. You can perform many other traditional exercises with a water-filled pipe for an increased emphasis on core strength and motor control.
I recommend adding odd object lifting to your exercise regimen to increase functional strength and add variety to your program. This article only introduces a few exercises, but there are many more you can perform following the same principles. Be creative and create your own, but keep in mind that safety should be your main concern when creating new exercises with odd objects.
Kevin T. Chimento, MEd, CSCS, ACSM-HFS, has been a health and fitness instructor for the FBI at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., for more than 15 years. He instructs special agents for the FBI as well as law enforcement personnel from around the world. Chimento designs strength and conditioning programs for FBI new agent trainees, SWAT personnel, FBI hostage rescue team members, and law enforcement leaders. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Fitness and Cardiac Rehabilitation/Exercise Science from Ithaca College and his Masters of Education degree from the University of Virginia. Chimento is also a certified defensive tactics instructor for the FBI.