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Going Unconventional


Lug heavy duffel bags full of sand over your back?

Swing 15 pound baseball bats around?

Flip a 400 lb. tire over and over across a room?

Why on Earth would I want to do that???

I’ll tell you why- so you can become a lean, mean, and strong, muscle machine!


Unconventional training methods, like the ones mentioned above, have been utilized for years by the toughest and best athletes out there! From the military, law enforcement, and professional sports players, to just some bada$$, everyday individuals looking to get into extraordinary shape. This is because unconventional training methods offer incredible benefits such as the opportunity to build real strength and increase endurance and flexibility!

But, before we talk about how to start implementing this type of training into your routine, let’s first talk more in depth about why you need to start implementing this type of training into your routine!

And, to help me discuss this, I brought in the assistance of Matt Ramey-- co-owner of a gym alllll about unconventionality: Prime Intensity Training, or “PIT” for short.

Let’s dig in...


When it comes to unconventional training methods, one thing that cannot be denied is their efficiency. While some were more recently developed for combat sports (like football, wrestling, MMA...), others have been around for literally THOUSANDS of years and were first put to use by ancient warriors to increase their strength and stamina. It was proven effective then, and the same still goes for today.

When I chatted with Matt about the overall efficiency, he added that part of the reason we see (and our ancient ancestors have seen) results with this style of training is largely due to the amount of energy put out from continuous, compound movements.

There is a much higher demand being placed on your body, and thus your energy expenditure (calorie burning) is much greater than that of a standard, conventional workout. In other words, you’re working harder in any given amount of time because of the high intensity of these workouts!

Photo courtesy of PIT Games

You’re also working more muscles in more ways. Take sandbags, for example- their instability makes lifting them no easy task. Unlike lifting a dumbbell, sandbags are more of an ‘odd lift’ because your muscles have to work harder to stabilize the shifting weight. In turn, you’ll use muscles that aren’t typically worked with traditional machines and balanced movements. The same can be said for most all of the unconventional equipment.

And, while we’re on the topic of “more”, unconventional training methods bring the “more-factor” to your respiratory systems! This type of training has a unique ability to give you both some serious cardio work (anaerobic work) as well as strength/muscle gains (aerobic work) in the same exercise (like battle ropes or kettlebells, for instance). Matt adds that unconventional strength training causes the body to move a lot quicker through moves than it does in bodybuilding-type workouts. In return, you are keeping your heart rate elevated. So, no more need to do the “should I do cardio today or shouldn’t I do cardio today…” debate in your head post-lift! Train unconventionally and knock out 2 birds with 1 stone!

On top of that, training unconventionally can have positive impacts on your flexibility! These workouts cause you to move more dynamically which, as a result, enhances your range of motion. With a greater range of movement, our bodies are forced to become more flexible to adapt to the movements!

A perfect example of an unconventional flexibility builder? Suspension training. Using suspension equipment, such as TRX bands, forces you to use your own body weight in multiple different angles, consequently engaging more muscle groups and training your body’s overall flexibility.

But, while all that flexibility, efficiency, and calorie burn are great, one of my favorite aspects of unconventional training has to be building (what I like to call) “real-life strength”!

Unconventional methods train your body to handle real-life situations and teach your muscles to work together rather than isolate them to work independent.

Conventional training means we are moving a weight through space to make a certain muscle group stronger; however, unconventional training requires us to move the body through space! Challenging not just one muscle group, but the whole body.

Think about it, in day to day, real life, we aren’t lifting objects perfectly like a machine does. Rather, we are moving dynamically as we carry grocery bags, or pick up our children, get in and out of our cars, etc. As Matt put it, “The body can move in so many ways and doing unconventional workouts or functional movements trains the body to move naturally.” These benefits of functional fitness can make everyday activities easier, reduce your risk of injury and improve your quality of life.

Another great way to improve your quality of life? Actually enjoying what you’re doing!! Enter: unconventional training.

No more monotony and boredom, this type of training completely knocks those away! For one, you’re not spending 30 minutes to an hour walking nowhere on a treadmill for you cardio-fix, and you’re also not doing the same type of ‘isolation’ exercises (in personal isolation) day-after-day. If you’re someone that gets bored easily, then unconventional training is for you. I mean, how can you get bored swinging a sledgehammer at stuff? C’mon…

When I brought this up to Matt, he couldn’t agree more. He also added that the lack of boredom leads to more consistency when it comes to sticking with a program, as well as more effort!! He’s noticed that people are more likely to stick with unconventional workouts because, often times, they’re taking place in a team based atmosphere where people push each other. There are no PRs, just hard, team work. “I feel as though, during a PIT class, people are actually able to push themselves even further when they see someone else pushing through. In return, there’s no chance to get bored,” commented Matt.


Did I just get you super jazzed about unconventional training? Are you ready to go start throwing around some heavy, medieval-looking equipment??

Well, hold on- take a breather, quick. Before you start hoisting up Atlas Stones, make sure safety comes first…

If you’re new to unconventional training, don’t jump into the crazy stuff straight away. Often times, there’s an easier and safer learning curve to these unconventional methods. One of the best ways to get your toes wet in the world of unconventional training is to work with others experienced in the training! Thankfully, there’s gyms out there (like PIT) with people/trainers (like Matt...and myself ;) ) willing to help you learn the safe ways to execute these uncommon moves.

Matt suggests checking for “beginners” classes (something PIT offers) where you can learn the movements and format of a standard functional class. Not only will these leave you feeling more comfortable with the exercises, but they’ll ensure you’re doing them correctly to lower the risk of injury! The class atmosphere can also leave you feeling encouraged and supported:

“A great benefit is the support of each person in the least that's what I see at PIT. Clients see someone new and only encourage them. They reassure the newcomers that they will be fine, cheer them on to keep going, and also, at times, physically help them out!”


So, grab some unconventional tools, get the proper coaching, and get to work. Unconventional training is an amazing tool to start incorporating into your fitness routines and can dramatically improve fitness levels (for both beginners and experts) in a fraction of the time!

For more information on Prime Intensity Training and their classes, checkout their website at




Set goals! Set both long and short-range goals to keep yourself motivated. Be sure that the short-range goals will eventually lead you to your big-picture, long-range ones. Consider them stepping stones on the path towards something bigger.



Do what you like to do. Don't just start doing something because everyone else is; find what you truly enjoy and do that. In the end, if you don't have a genuine interest in your workouts and lifestyle, you're going to hinder your progress.



Switch things up! I know this may sound kind of funny after just reading #2, but as humans, we can get bored of doing the same thing over and over. As well, our muscles can get "bored" and we can plateau. Do not be afraid to try new things and incorporate change to keep you entertained and your muscles guessing!

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