Awake & Alive

The Junkyard Workout – Using Odd Objects to Get Really Freakin’ Strong

Believe it or not, you can use a pile of junk to get just as strong and fit as you could using a million-dollar gym. Get ready to build real strength with the Junkyard Workout.

The pursuit of strength has always intrigued me. Growing up I was a runt of a kid, small but scrappy. Yet even though I was small, I was stronger than I looked. By the time high school came around I wanted to get really strong. Naturally I signed up for weightlifting and started going to the gym with my Pops. Let me paint a very clear picture of just how small I was; I finished my sophomore year of high school a staggering 5’2” and a domineering 108lbs soaking wet with nickels in my boots. My senior year when track had wrapped up I had a contest with my good buddy. The bet was I could get in better shape by the end of the year using just a few items I had at my house compared to him going to a gym and having a personal trainer. To this day I am not sure why we made such a silly bet or who “won” per say but I do know his biceps looked great and my core was shredded (granted most 125lbs male athletes are going to be pretty ripped). One thing I am sure of is that the methods and tools I used were successful. By successful I mean I saw massive improvement from where I started. Basically I did a ton of calisthenics (not the topic of this article but relevant), split wood and chucked logs, threw around cinder blocks (I had two), and used this big heavy long metal pipe similar to the way you would use an axle bar. That was it. It wasn’t much but it was effective and arguably the start of my unconventional style of training that has continued to develop over the last decade and a half.

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Fast forward (slightly) to sophomore year of college. At this point in my life I was a bona fide gym rat. I spent a few hours in the gym each day. On Saturday mornings while my friends and peers all slept in nursing hangovers I was waiting at the door for the gym to open. My obsession was like most young bucks, I wanted to get bigger. I was tired of being small. I continued the gym life, lifting to get big for the next 4-5 years. I did get stronger and a little bigger but certainly not what I had hoped for. When I opened my own studio in 2011, I didn’t have all the fancy equipment I had access to while working at a gym. By default I started lifting rocks and logs; coincidentally I also really got into Strongman training at this time.

Objects like rocks, atlas stones, logs, heavy chains, sandbags, heavy kegs were not very hard to find nor very expensive. I used what I could get and then the strangest thing began to happen. I gained mass, not just a little either. All of the sudden I was 30 lbs of muscle larger than I had ever been. Being ever curious I began to figure out how this could be. Then I realized that I had been training with odd objects for a while now and that when lifting an odd object you have to use virtually every muscle fiber in your body. Often times these objects are not balanced like a barbell would be so you have to work that much more and recruit more fibers to get the job done. All of this demand required growth. Also I was inherently using large muscle groups (i.e. lats, glutes, hamstrings, traps) which ties into the theory “Use big muscles to get big muscles.”

Now I was strong; the kind of strength that gave me the freedom to do all kinds of things. Think of it like “farm boy” strength. We all know those guys that are just damn strong. Chances are they have a background of working with their body, hauling, lifting, dragging, carrying and throwing. These are the kinds of activities that develop full body real world strength. I always ask my students this question “When is it ever a disadvantage to be stronger than you are now?” Odd object training is a great way to add strength. Try adding it to your routine, like maybe one day a week go find a big ass rock and try to pick it up, perhaps walk with it a bit. It is always a great way to take your training outside and get some fresh air. Personally I find it super satisfying to pick up a huge stone or log, something that takes everything I have got to get the job done. I want you to have that same feeling and more importantly, I want you to get freakishly strong!

Here is a list of odd objects to help you get started:

  • Atlas Stones
  • Rocks (all shapes and sizes)
  • Chains
  • Logs
  • Power log (a strongman event)
  • Circus Dumbbell
  • Pylons
  • Slosh tube (great tool, cheap and easy to make)
  • Kegs
  • Old fire hydrant
  • Sandbags (the heavier the better for this type of training)

There are just a few items for you, really there is no limit, just grab something that is a little or a lot awkward and give it everything you got! Have fun, go outside and get strong!

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