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 Basic Functional-Training Equipment

Ron & Stability Ball Pointer
This is me doing a "pointer" on a stability ball.

The cool thing about "functional training" is that the initial equipment isn't too expensive, and you get great results in a short amount of time.  In fact, you don't really need any special "equipment" because you can do many quality exercises with body weight alone! Remember, the best "free weight" is your body weight.  However, if you want a few toys and tools, here's what I recommend to get you started.

Where Do You Get This Stuff! You can't buy quality training equipment in some areas, so will need to go on-line.  I order most of my equipment on-line from PerformBetter.Com which is the best functional equipment company I have found.

Ron Jones recommends PerformBetter.Com Fitness Equipment
I recommend PerformBetter High-Quality Fitness Equipment!

Stability Balls:  If I had only about $25.00 to spend on one piece of equipment this would be it!  The stability ball is cheap, fun, and highly effective.  It can be used for beginner exercises or advanced sport performance exercises.  General size guidelines are below.  I use the higher quality balls that are burst resistant--it's worth the extra cost for the added safety.

  • Fitball Stability Ball (PerformBetter Item #9183)

    • Prices start at $23.00.  I tried using the more expensive balls, but they were too hard from the extra burst-resistant material.  The SB Plus version is plenty heavy enough and will hold up to regular use without feeling like you're exercising on a brick.

  • Stability Ball Air Pump: (PerformBetter Item #9004)

    • The good balls don't need air very often, but it's nice to have a portable high-volume pump.  You can pump the balls with a bike pump, but the hand-held pumps are more efficient.  I prefer the Blaster Hand Pump from because they work better than more expensive pumps.

Stability Ball Size Guidelines
5'8" or shorter = 55 cm
5'8"+ = 65 cm

*These are "general" guidelines. I'm 6'0" but fit better on the 55cm. You want a 90 knee angle when sitting on top of the ball with feet flat on the ground. Hint: Pump ball up "firm" (not hard!) for best results.

Ron-Push Up Off Ball

Exercise Tubing/Bands: Next to stability balls, simple exercise tubing (or bands) in a few different resistances are hard to beat for functional, core, balance, and "fun" training.  I only use JC "All-Purpose" Exercise Bands from Perform Better because of their higher quality.  You can find cheaper ones at chain stores, but you get what you pay for, and I don't want to end up on my butt when I yank and stretch!

JC All-Purpose Bands

  • JC "All-Purpose" Exercise Bands (PerformBetter Item #7728)

    • For Level I beginners, I recommend buying three lightest resistance bands: the purple/extra light, pink/light, orange/medium bands.

    • For Level II beginners or people with higher levels of fitness, I recommend the  pink/light, orange/medium and yellow/heavy resistances.  Each band is $24.95, but the JC Bands are specially designed for frequent use with web anchor points. (See photos on weblink)

    • You can also purchase blue/extra heavy, and black/super heavy for maximum resistance work, but these will probably be too hard for most people at the entry or even intermediate levels.

Medicine Balls: These are weighted balls that are great for core work.  The old-school balls were made of leather, but some of today's medicine balls are made for throwing.

First Place Medicine Ball

  • First-Place Elite Medicine Balls (PerformBetter Item #2610)

    • I like these balls because they are made for "throwing."  Throwing and catching medicine balls off a block or concrete wall is an awesome full-body workout. 

    • For beginners, I recommend 2-6 lb. balls.  (8-12 lb. balls are intermediate, and 12-18 lb. balls are advanced.)  2-12 lb. balls range from $20.00-75.00 each.  Don't get carried away!  You can do a lot with 4 and 6 lb. Med Balls.  If possible, try out some medicine balls at a gym and see which ones are right for you. 

    • A medicine ball or two would be nice if you can afford them.  I must admit, the medicine balls are high on my "favorite list" of functional equipment!

    Weight Conversions

    Pounds Kilograms
    1.0 .45
    2.0 .91
    3.0 1.36
    3.3 1.5
    4.4 2.0
    6.6 3.0
    8.8 4.0
    11.0 5.0
    13.2 6.0
    17.6 8.0
    22.0 10.0
    26.4 12.0

Therapy Tools for Self-Help: *I'm currently working on a PDF handout to summarize all the tools below.  The handout will have small photos of each tool, but my Therapy Tool web section has more comments plus links on usage. I'm building some pages on how to use each tool as well...stay tuned...

Thanks for your interest in "self-help" healing!  -RJ

RJ & FootLog Therapy Tool
This $25 "FootLog" can likely fix Plantar Fasciitis in days not months!

  • Ankle Bands: Used for increasing hip stability and decreasing knee injury.

  • Biofoam Roller: (1' Long) Used for soft tissue regeneration and healing.

  • Biofoam Roller: (1' Long, 1/2 Round) Used for Z-Health Toe Pulls.

  • Biofoam Roller: (1' Long) Used for soft tissue regeneration and healing.

  • Body Blade: (Core X-Trainer) Used for shoulder stabilization and rehab plus some core training. I prefer the shorter sport version, but they also are available in both shorter and longer lengths.

  • Cathe Weighted Fitness Ball: (2 lb.) Works perfectly for doing the Z-Health "Toe Pull" foot/ankle drills. Also nice for people that cannot grip a standard dumbbell or metal object as they are more comfortable to hold.

  • D-Ball: (STD 5" Gripper 2 lb.) Specialized weighted exercise ball that is filled with sand.  I don't use it for exercise though--I use it for trigger point release in the spine areas.  It's the best ball I've found for helping back pain from trigger point release. If you need a smaller ball, use a lacrosse ball.

  • Diving Weights: (4 lb.) I use "Sea Pearl" soft diving weights to teach people the Turkish Get Up for rehabilitative and corrective purposes.  The soft weight is less threatening than the kettlebell for beginners but heavy enough to provide feedback on the vertical line needed for the extended arm overhead. I prefer them over a light KB or shoe that other people use to teach beginners.

  • Dynamic Warm-Up/Joint Mobility: I'm a firm believer in performing DAILY dynamic joint mobility exercises as part of your self-help therapy--it's absolutely THE BEST preventative measure you can use to keep moving well and aging well. While not actually a "tool," if you do daily joint mobility exercises, you might not even need the tools on this page!!!

  • FlexBar: Thick rubber cylinders that come in various resistance levels and used for gripping and twisting exercises helpful for tennis elbow rehab.

  • FootLog: Amazing tool for fixing Plantar Fasciitis and improving neurological function in your feet--especially for diabetics.  One of the best therapy tools that I have found.

  • Indian Clubs: Ancient fitness tools for Increasing wrist, elbow, shoulder mobility and strength.

  • INDO Board: Great rehab tool for increasing ankle mobility and stability when used with the air disc under the flat board. There are many other fitness applications for the INDO Board too, but I think they can be a great tool for ankle rehab specifically.

  • Kettlebells: While normally thought of as fitness tools, KBs are also great rehab and corrective purposes when used properly.

  • Lacrosse Ball: Great for smaller areas needing trigger point release.  Commonly found at sporting goods stores. They are larger than a golf ball but smaller than a baseball.

  • MARV Handles: Specialized handles made by a physical therapist for the rehab of tennis elbow type conditions. The unique shape of the handles allow for "multiple vector" training angles. I've used them with numerous clients, and most get favorable results with elbow conditions.

  • Neti Pot: This looks like a small tea pot that you use to "back flush" your sinus cavities--a strange sensation indeed! However, nearly everyone I know with allergy problems that uses it fixes their issues.

  • Physio Roll: These are oval-shaped stability balls also called "Peanut" balls. Their oblong shape makes them more stable than round balls and thus safer for certain populations. They are difficult to find now, so I don't have an active link.

  • ProStretch: The best tool I've found for deep stretching of calf and Achilles.

  • Slide Pads: Simple idea and extremely effective for deep stretching. They allow you to "slide" into extended ranges of motion. They also allow you to get into positions that you could never get into without a sliding option. These can be helpful for certain problem areas that are hard to reach with standard stretching or when working alone without anyone to help position your body. To save money, the old fashioned "furniture slides" are basically the same thing for much cheaper. You can find the cheaper versions at Lowe's, etc.  The official fitness versions are called "Valslides." 

  • Stability Ball: Great for spinal extension and shoulder extension.  Many will lay on top of the ball "face up" the gently extend their spine backwards over the ball to stretch. You can add a shoulder stretch too by reaching arms out--they work even better for shoulders if you change arm positions like positions on a clock. The ball is unique in that it is off the floor which allows for more extension but while offering support.

  • The Rotator: Unique looking manual stretch device created by two industrial mechanics. It works great to stretch your shoulder in positions impossible to reach by yourself.  Leverage design makes it possible to add significant stretch resistance with very little manual pressure.

  • The Stick Massage Tool: Great for trigger point release and general tissue maintenance. 

  • Theracane: Another odd looking tool that works great for reaching areas previously impossible to reach by yourself. You can reach ANY spot on your body for precise and deep trigger point release--low back, mid back, between shoulder blades, glutes, or anywhere else.  The leverage design makes it possible to apply significant pressure with very little force.

  • TRX Suspension Trainer: Great for assisted stretching through dynamic movements especially in shoulders.

  • Vibram Five Fingers: Yes--I know this is like a "shoe" of sorts, but they work great for rehab purposes when it comes to fixing your feet!  Just wearing these alone can fix many strength and neurological problems in your feet which can then help you to walk and move better in general.

  • Yoga Strap: Simple tool for assisted stretching of hamstrings, groin, etc. Commonly found at many sporting good stores or yoga studios.  They have fancy Stretch Straps too that are similar but have looped handles along the strap.

  • Yoga Toes: Strange "toe spacing" devices that help pry your toes apart and restore natural spacing between the bones of your feet. They actually work quite well once you get them on your toes.  Many shoes "compact the spacing" between your toes like high heels, western boots, etc.  Your feet do not like cramped toes!  Feet work much better when the toes can spread out and better stabilize the body above.

Other Special Fitness Equipment I Use:

  • Battle Ropes:The most intense workout since kettlebells!  The 1.5" diameter 50' rope is a good beginner choice.

  • Cones: Used for balance, speed, agility, and quickness drills.

  • SKIDLESS Yogitoes Yoga Mat: Helps with non-slip along with improving hygiene to reduce gym infection risks!

See My Healthy Holiday Gift Recommendations

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(Updated 2.1.12) .

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