Just when you think you’ve tried it all, there’s always more. More ways to isolate muscle groups, a new challenge, a new tool or machine, or a new way to use something familiar. Here are five pieces of specialty equipment you might not be using (but totally should).
1. Sports Handle
Cable machines and functional trainers are a bodybuilder’s best friend, in part because they’re incredibly versatile. Swap out handles and change the angle and you’ve got a new exercise. While most lifters are familiar with a lat pulldown bar, the handle, and the rope attachment, the Sports Handle is less common.
This straight, vertical attachment has a durable, foam handle that is great for cross-body movements. Think: wood choppers and even single arm rear delt cable flies. It’s called a Sports Handle for its use in training the body for athletic swinging exercises, such as baseball, golf, and tennis. Just attach it to the cable pulley and work your core in rotation. Get creative: You can also use it for cable hammer curls. On the Ares with two Sports Handles, you could mimic a skiing motion, too.
2. Pull Sled
Sleds aren’t unusual to see on gym turf, but what you may not know is how beneficial a Pull Sled (sans pushing) is for your knees. Attach a harness to the sled, slide it over your hips, and just walk backward. Add weight to the sled for extra challenge (it weighs 29lbs unloaded). You’ll feel this in all your leg muscles, from quads to calves, but this exercise is also super beneficial to your knees. It's a knee-friendly way to strengthen your quads.
One reason: The only way to move the sled is if you move it – so you’re always in total control. The sled never moves you, whereas in squats, the weight moves you downward. With a sled, it’s hard to overtrain or put yourself in a compromised position; if you’re too fatigued to do it safely or you’ve added more weight than you’re ready for, the sled simply won’t budge. Learn more about the benefits of sled pulls for knee health here.
3. Open Row
Another less-common cable attachment that packs a ton of benefits is the Open Row attachment. Hit your back muscles in different ways and at different angles with this bad boy. Due to the shape of this attachment, your hands are in a neutral grip (which can be kinder on your shoulders and joints). And for rows, this attachment is especially appealing because the opening allows you to get a deeper range of motion.
4. Oxylus Yoke
This isn’t your mama’s yoke. The Oxylus Yoke is a whole new animal. Of course, it has the capacity to function as a classic Strongman yoke. But it’s like a Transformer that turns into all kinds of other beasts, too. You can transform it into a squat rack, a sled for pushes and pulls, and a deadlift/farmer’s carry. It has three handle options for different grip challenges. The frame is lined with holes that are compatible with a bunch of attachments, too, like a dip, landmine press, utility horn, spotter arms, J-cups, and leg rollers.
Powerlifters probably know this guy, yet everyone can benefit from a GHD, aka a Glute-Ham Developer. If you’ve never used it before, you might not be sure exactly what to do with it, though. Here’s an easy guide to help you do it right.
Use it to strengthen your posterior chain (glutes, hammies, and lower back). It’s considered a sort of “lower-body pull-up,” and lifters love it because it works the hamstrings through the entire range of motion. You can also flip over to use it to strengthen your abs. This GHD comes with band pegs so you can add resistance bands and make it even harder. As if it’s not tough enough on its own.