Official Website of Sarah E. Rippel, BS, CPT, FMS

-The Best Bang for Your Fitness Buck!-

Yes, this is somewhat I am at the age of 19, weighing 100 pounds and using a machine that I haven't touched in at least a decade! That's the way we did things back in 1995!

As a fitness professional, I get asked all sorts of exercise-related questions on a daily basis. One of the top ones (aside from “how do you make that look so easy?” lol) is:

“What’s your favorite piece of fitness equipment?”

Nowadays, those of us who are obsessed with fitness are fortunate enough to have our pick of “nifty” gadgets! There’s kettlebells, Dynamax medicine balls, furniture sliders, JC Predator bands, Indian clubs, sandbags, and the ever-popular  TRX. So…which device tops ’em all in my book?

If it's good enough for Ellen, it's good enough for all of us!

The Shake Weight.

It’s amazing! It really is!

Okay, okay…I can’t continue…I am completely kidding. I feel the Shake Weight is a piece of crap, and I would hope that none of you believed me in the first place!

Seriously, with all of the amazing (and fun) options out there, at times it can be difficult for my ADD self to not go overboard with equipment choices when writing up programs for my clients and boot campers! I am a big believer in keeping things simple, especially with my boot camp workouts.

Yes, I do love to use my favorite gear, but I feel it is important for everyone to remember that the best piece of fitness equipment is the one that doesn’t cost a dime, is VERY portable, and offers a plethora of exercise progressions that build upon the basic patterns of human movement. With a little know-how and a ton of creativity, you can take this piece of equipment and come up with your own exercise “tweaks,” thus making it what I feel to be the best option out there!

So…what is it?

The chin-up is the king of bodyweight exercises, in my opinion!


“But Sarah,” you say…”that’s not exciting.”

I say you’re wrong!

The human body and all of it’s intricacies amaze me. The fact that we have the ability to move the way we do is something none of us should take for granted. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to use my body!

In addition to the reasons stated above, I feel that bodyweight training tops any fitness gadget for the simple fact that anyone at any level can do it. It’s not intimidating, doesn’t require a ton of initial skill, and paves the way for more advanced training that lies ahead (with fancy, cool equipment such as the TRX that I mentioned earlier)! This is why I feel it provides the best bang for your fitness buck!

To be brief, if you cannot properly control your own bodyweight during an exercise, how in the heck can you expect to safely perform it with 50 pounds of weight on your back? If your knees cave in when you squat and/or you don’t have sufficient hip mobility, doesn’t it make sense to “clean up” the movement first and THEN worry about making things harder? Many people can’t even squat properly, therefore things are complicated enough without the addition of a barbell, kettlebell, or weight vest!

Since I brought up the squat, let me throw out a few ideas that can lead to a myriad of bodyweight squat progressions (in no particular order). Here’s a few ways I “tweak” the bodyweight squat:

  1. Manipulate the arms (reach overhead, to the side, to the ground)
  2. Manipulate the torso (hinge, rotate, extend, shift)
  3. Alter the stance (slightly staggered, staggered, toed in/out)
  4. Stand on one leg (which can be further modified by the addition of 1 and/or 2, as well as)…
  5. Manipulate the “free” leg (while doing single-leg squats; drive it out as you descend, allow it to counterbalance, reach it out to the side, keep it triple-flexed at hip/knee/ankle, swing it thru)
  6. Change the speed (static hold, basic reps, slow negatives, pulses)
  7. Make it plyometric (jump up, forward, to the side, rotate)

You get my idea.

To get even more of an idea, check out one of my favorite blog posts featuring the Gary Gray squat matrix from my fellow fitness pro Jamie Atlas. You will see why I love this blog post! 🙂

My boot camp workouts rely heavily on the use of bodyweight exercises. Here we have burpees...everyone loves 'em (ha!), and there are tons of ways to tweak them up or down, depending on fitness level!

SIDENOTE: I have said it before, and i’ll say it again: it is an all-too-common practice in the industry for personal trainers to throw fancy exercises at new clients without first making sure that they are at a proper level using bodyweight alone. There are numerous reasons why this happens, and it is up to you as the client to arm yourself with the ability to be selective in hiring a fitness professional! Interview them first! Ask them if they know how to properly progress a client from de-conditioned couch potato to rockstar!

Until next time, stay active, love life, and LIVE IT!

Yours in Health,



9 responses

  1. Monica Twa

    Sarah – People have often asked me what equipment they need at home to get a good workout. I just tell them – a wall, a floor, some steps and your body! And me as their fitness trainer!!

    July 15, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    • LOVE IT, Monica! 😀

      July 15, 2010 at 1:17 pm

  2. lee

    hey sarah long time no speak 🙂 hows the pup these days hope he is still living it up 🙂 i love your site its so much great info its awesome will be sharing this with my facebook friends 🙂

    love ya mate

    lee aka privatestudmuffin 🙂

    July 15, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    • Hey Lee!

      Thank you, stranger! I am doing my best to be around here more often (and on Twitter)! Kinda took a break & have been doing a lot of reflecting on the industry & what I wish to contribute to it. I appreciate your comments and support!
      Have a GREAT week!

      July 19, 2010 at 11:32 am

  3. you can never get sick of bodyweight training if you have enough tools in the toolbox to play around with. Basically your imagination is the limit of what you can do once you’ve mastered the basics. Nice post Sarah

    July 15, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    • Hi Daniel!
      Amen to that! I will most likely write a few follow-up posts to this one because I have so many ideas! Thank you for being another fit pro who “gets” it!
      Yours in Health,

      July 19, 2010 at 11:33 am

  4. Hello Sarah,

    The training of the body is important. If the body is not in a good shape, the mind is then not often perfectly motivated. Finding a good person coach is difficult, even after an interview. But also looking and observing the workout place is important. The aspect of safety must not be forgotten. There are many personal coaches who only see the money first and then the person is my experience. But you give a lot of good basics that you can start with, even without a persnon coach.

    July 31, 2010 at 10:09 am

    • You are right, Marcel!
      Sorry for the delayed reply…I am about to blog again, and trying to get back into doing it on a regular basis!
      Lots of excellent points, my friend!
      Thank you for stopping by and leaving your thoughts!
      Yours in Health,

      September 7, 2010 at 11:57 am

  5. Pingback: -The Best Bang For Your Fitness Buck!- « Rippel Effect Fitness

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