When you exercise, you feel more energetic and positive, your confidence increases and you naturally become more proactive and driven to succeed at your goals. But what if you are short on time, money or both? Grab a couple of milk jugs and start swinging. Not only will you fit exercise into your busy life, but also you will have fun doing it.
When filled with water or other liquid, a gallon jug weighs a little over 8 pounds. When filled with sand, the same jug weighs between 10 and 13 pounds. If you want a replacement for free weights, fill the jug to the top. But for a creative exercise, leave some air space in the jug. With space, the contents will constantly shift, so your muscles will not simply have to lift the jug, they will also have to respond to the unpredictability of the contents. This forces your neuromuscular system to develop more efficient reaction times. Fill the jugs to the desired weight with water, sand or any item that will shift during movement. The more the filling moves, the greater the unpredictability, so even though the jug may weigh less, your workout will be more intense. You may want to fill several jugs with different materials so you can switch between them.
Milk Jug Swings
The milk jug swing is dynamic and ballistic. When the jug reaches the pinnacle of the swing, your muscles will contract to stop the motion and change the direction. The fillings will shift after your muscles initially contract, forcing greater stabilization during the transition. To protect your shoulders and back, always engage your core and use your whole body to swing the milk jug, not just your arms. Brace your abdominals and swing the jug forward and back, bringing it down between your legs and up in front of your chest. When you are ready for a greater challenge, swing to alternating sides or in circular patterns. Add a second jug, holding a jug in each hand or hold jugs of different weights or fillings in each hand. As you learn proper technique, start with lighter weights and smaller movements, then increase slowly.
When you do milk jug swings, it is important to stabilize your core throughout the movement, regardless of the direction you are swinging the jug. Think about maintaining a stable torso, from shoulder to shoulder to hip to hip. Stabilize your body by using the muscles of the back, sides and front of your torso synergistically. Use a hip hinge to initiate the movement of the jug from your core. By swinging your hips, you develop momentum that flows out through your arms and the jugs and brings your whole body into the movement.
A New Way To Cross-Train
Cross-training with new movements is important for optimal strength and functionality. Traditional weight machines maintain a steady load and lock out certain joints in order to isolate specific muscles. This can put excessive strain on joints and connective tissue, possibly leading to injury. Milk jug swings are functional in nature, requiring core stabilization and changing the amount of force on multiple muscles throughout the movement. The nature of the swing is contraction-relaxation. You will develop accelerative power and elasticity in your muscles and connective tissue, improve stability in movement, increase strength and improve reaction time.
Cindy Killip is a health and fitness specialist, health coach, author and speaker who has been teaching and writing about exercise and wellness since 1989. She authored "Living the BONES Lifestyle: A Practical Guide to Conquering the Fear of Osteoporosis." Killip holds multiple certifications through the American Council on Exercise and degrees in communications and sociology from Trinity University.