You want to get a killer workout in, but you’re short on time. It’s true that if we don’t make the time to exercise, working out may never get the priority it deserves. However, you can budget your time very efficiently and effectively by choosing implements that express the most versatility.

My criteria for versatile training tools is pretty simple. It is as follows:

  • they are fairly compact and can be added to any home gym with limited space
  • they can be used to perform complexes (a continuous series of exercises usually performed in succession without putting the implement down)

Additionally, since I really enjoy throwing some gear into the car and going to an outdoor setting for a workout, the more portable tools got a better ranking.

Here’s a list of my top five training tools that get the job done and more:

  1. Barbell – Though traditionally used as a strict bilateral training tool, the barbell is actually quite a versatile implement. One of my favourite barbell exercises is actually a unilateral exercise – alternating reverse lunges in the front-loaded position as it places a high demand on trunk stability and lets you work left and right side alternately. And yes, you can do some pretty great complexes with a barbell.
  2. Dumbbell – Even if you only had one dumbbell (provided it isn’t ridiculously light), you could manage quite a decent workout. Add a second dumbbell and the sky is the limit. To get the most bang for your buck out of dumbbells, try to perform multi-joint exercises without relying on a bench or seat for stability.
  3. Awkward objects (keg, sandbag, slosh ball) – The unique training effect you receive from awkward objects is that not every lift is the same. You have to use your whole body and your core gets challenged in all planes. This type of training is definitely not for beginners since the need for spatial awareness is integral, but when you’re ready, lifting heavy awkward objects can really up your game.
  4. Suspension trainer – I’ve been using the TRX Suspension Trainer for years and I’ve yet to perform every exercise possible with it. Your body is probably the most versatile tool and could easily top this list although I was trying to highlight workout implements. Suspension trainers allow you to scale-up or scale-down bodyweight exercises when appropriate. It’s very compact and you could easily throw it in a backpack and take it on a hike or on vacation. There’s not a muscle group that cannot be sufficiently challenged with this tool.
  5. Kettlebell – I used machines for strength training during most of my youth, mainly because I was never exposed to more versatile tools and there was nobody there to tell me I was doing anything wrong. I tell young athletes today that if I had been exposed to kettlebells back then, there’s no doubt in my mind that my level of athleticism would have exploded. The kettlebell is an easy pick to top this list. Today I use kettlebells… a lot, and I feel as athletic, if not more, than I did 20 years ago. On of my main goals with most of my clients is to get them to a fitness level where they are able to engage in kettlebell exercises and I’m always thrilled when I get that opportunity. Try them and never look back.

Honourable mention:

Your own body – This could easily be number one on the list and more than just an honourable mention to be fair. Bodyweight training actually deserves and will likely become a post of its own. Most beginners would be well advised to learn how to control their own body before even attempting any external loading with weights of any kind.

The best workouts include a variety of these training tools.

If you want to learn how to use these tools safely and proficiently, get in touch.

Contact me here to book your assessment.


Registered Holistic Nutritionist (R.H.N) – Canadian School of Natural Nutrition

Certified Personal Training Specialist – CanFitPro

Functional Movement Screen Certified

Biomechanics Specialist

Steve Maxwell Level 1 Kettlebell Instructor