Unconventional Strength Training & Athletic Conditioning Workout

Unconventional Strength Training Workout

When working out most of us do not stray far from the typical, tried-and-tested exercises.

And while bench, squat and deadlift are no doubt extremely effective ways of piling on size and strength, hitting the same lifts week in week out can sometimes leave you feeling a little stagnant.

So whether you’ve hit a plateau, feel that your regular routine is becoming a little stale, or you just want to work out like a complete mentalist for a while, why not try shaking things up with some highly unconventional training methods?

Venturing out of your comfort zone can be an incredible way to take your gains to the next level and give you the added edge in the gym.

A word of caution though.

Some of the following workouts involve tossing around tires, hammers, and other such paraphernalia.

As such, I wouldn’t recommend performing them in your local gymnasium.

While it might be tempting to swing a 20 pound sledgehammer at the guy curling in the squat rack, the end result will probably involve you being handcuffed and escorted off the premises.

Introducing Brandon Richey

brandon richeyMy name is Brandon Richey and I’m a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) designated by the NSCA.

I have worked with an array of athletes ranging from D-1, Pro-level American Football, Tactical, Rugby, MMA, Soccer, Tennis, Golf, Basketball, and even Figure Skating competitors.

I also love the TV show The Walking Dead – after all, it’s filmed right here in my home state of Georgia!

Before I get stuck into my post on unconventional strength training, I first want to thank Gymtalk for having me on today as a guest on their site.

The guys have obviously done an amazing job on this platform and I’m super pumped that I get to contribute to it here today.

I’ll do my best to not disappoint, so let’s go ahead and get this party started.

What is unconventional strength training?

Now that we have that introduction out of the way let’s talk about some unconventional strength training.

Unconventional training utilises unique tools and objects around us to help us get stronger, become more mobile, and generate more creativity in terms of our approach to training.

One thing that I’ve always admired is an athlete that doesn’t allow obstacles to stand in his or her way.

I mean, let’s face it, not everyone has the luxury, the time, or the access to a fully stocked Grade A strength and conditioning facility.

That’s just generally not a reality.

However, reality is being knowledgeable and having the will and desire to meet your needs regardless of what resources you may have at your disposal.

And this is where unconventional strength training fits into the equation.

The martial arts

It just so happens that many of my strength and conditioning students compete in some form of the martial arts.

I know I mentioned MMA above, and I do have some MMA competitors, but the majority of my fighters compete in either Muay Thai or Jiu-Jitsu.

The reason I’m telling you this is that if you’ve followed the significant rise of UFC – either by watching their fights or some of their reality TV – then you’ve probably noticed a great deal of functional, or more unconventional, training going on with these athletes that compete.

In my opinion, the birth of MMA has had a great deal to do with the more rapid growth of unconventional strength and conditioning.

I mean from a functional standpoint, what better way to train hitting someone square in the face than by bashing a sledgehammer into a tire?

What about developing an absolute sick level of speed and conditioning by sprinting while dragging a tire with a rope?

What about improving the act of slamming your opponent to the ground by getting used to throwing around a 50lb sandbag with ease?

Unconventional Strength Training

No gym, no problem

You see I believe that many folks just don’t recognise the value of “unconventional tools” generally because they see them as something else, like tools typically used in a garage or basement for construction and yard work.

The value isn’t recognised if the knowledge isn’t present, right?

I mean isn’t this true for any strength programme?

Ah ha, now the ‘ole lightbulb goes off upstairs!

You see the beauty involved with a great deal of unconventional tools is that you can take a trip to your local hardware store to acquire the equipment.

Simply put, no gym no problem!

For instance, do you need a sledgehammer?

Answer: Hardware store.

Do you need some rope?

Answer: Hardware store.

Do you need a couple of cinder blocks?

Answer: Hardware store.

Do you need a body to disappear?

Answer: Umm… Ok, maybe that’s too much information.

Let’s get back on track here.

You see the point is that regardless of what you may need for an unconventional strength training gym, you can just about get all of it with a rather cheap trip to the hardware store.

Be creative

Whatever you don’t have you can construct for yourself.

For instance, if you need a 50lb sandbag, then head over to your local hardware store to purchase a 50lb bag of play sand.

Next all you’ll need is a couple of trash bags, a pillowcase, and some duct tape.

From here simply leave the play sand in its packaging and place it inside one of the trash bags and cinch it up.

Next, turn that trash bag upside down and place it inside the second trash bag and cinch that one up.

Finally, place the play sand wrapped in both trash bags into the pillowcase, twist it up, and cinch it with the duct tape.

Hey presto, now you have yourself a durable-as-hell sandbag made for some serious unconventional strength training.

So you’re probably wondering… Brandon can I actually acquire a comprehensive strength and conditioning programme from all these objects that basically reside in my garage?

The answer is a big fat YES.

I mean there are unconventional tools that I personally love and use that are also manufactured training tools such as kettlebells and sandbags, but the fact is that you can utilise other tools, or even create similar models of the fancy “manufactured” pieces of equipment on your own.

Substituting one object over another is fine too.

If you don’t have a kettlebell to perform a goblet squat, simply use a cinder block or sandbag instead.

An unconventional and comprehensive strength and conditioning programme

So you’re probably wondering what an unconventional strength workout might look like?

Well, I’ve actually created a digital ebook on the subject called Brandon Richey’s Unconventional Conventional Method Of Strength, which includes over 40 minutes of instructional video footage.

You see the key to any intelligent strength program is making sure you are placing emphasis on mobility.

Athleticism and function are key elements that I like to mix into my programmes.

Don’t get me wrong guys and girls, lift heavy weight, but many of the athletes that I train tend to be more hybrid type athletes.

This means that we have to place emphasis on developing both optimal strength along with obtaining optimal conditioning.

Below I’m going to include a little excerpt from my unconventional strength ebook to give you an inside look at one of the strength oriented workouts, as well as one of my unconventional athletic conditioning workouts that are included in it.

The beauty of this is that you can shift the focus of your training the same with unconventional tools as you can with more traditional models of training.

In other words, half of the workouts I include in this programme are more strength oriented while the other half are more for developing athletic conditioning/performance (speed, agility, power, etc).

Check out the sample workouts below, with exercise explanations at the end:

Beginning Stages Unconventional Strength Workout

Focus: strength

Warm up, followed by:

Exercise Sets & Reps Notes
Sandbag Cleans & Slams 3 x 5 Alternate R to L
Superset Sledgehammer Halos 3 x 5 Alternate R to L
Sledgehammer Top Hits 2 x 5 Alternate R to L
Sledgehammer Side Hits 2 x 5 R & L sides
Tire Clean & Press 3 x 7 R & L sides
Superset Dragon Walks 3 x 5 R & L sides

Unconventional Athletic Conditioning Workout

Focus: speed, agility and power conditioning

Warm up, followed by:

Exercise Sets & Reps Notes
Tires: Linear High Knee Runs 4 tires for 5 runs /
Lateral High Knee Runs 1 tire for 4 x 10 L to R
Linear Resisted Tire Sprints (With Rope) 10 x 10 yard runs Remember these are not just solely a drag. These are about generating elbow drive with the arms and knee drive for speed and turnover!
Yard Runs 10 x 10 (!!!)
Lateral Resisted Tire Shuffle (With Rope) 5 x 10 R & L sides
Superset Dragon Walks 3 x 5 R & L sides

Now this may not seem like much, but the fact is that if you are executing these movements with efficiency, correct form and intensity you’re going to be questioning what you signed up for!

I mean it will flat out get your attention.


Sandbag Cleans & Slams

Lift the bag from ground to shoulder and slam it back into the ground.

Sledgehammer Halos

Hold sledgehammer with right hand over left and circle the handle of the hammer around your shoulder girdle and head bringing it back to a pause out in front of you.

Reverse grip to do the left side.

Sledgehammer Top Hits

Hitting the tire with the hammer by coming from top (overhead) and around shoulder girdle and straight down to strike the tire.

Sledgehammer Side Hits

Hitting the tire by swinging the hammer pivoting from the side to hit the side of the tire.

Hint: similar to either a baseball or golf swing.

Tire Clean & Press

Bringing the tire to the chest and pressing it overhead.

Dragon Walks

Bodyweight exercise mimicking a komodo dragon offsetting the arms and legs while doing push ups.

These can be performed by staggering the arms to start.

Next bring the knee of the leg closest to the lower staggered arm to perform a push up.

After you ascend out of push up stagger the hands again performing another push up on the opposite side.

Tire Linear High Knee Runs

Running through tires in a straight line.

Hint: only run with one leg going through the tires and the other leg outside of the line of tires.

Tire Lateral High Knee Runs

Running through tire moving side to side or left to right.

Only use a single tire here and don’t crossover your feet!

Linear Resisted Tire Sprints

Sprint in a straight line while dragging a tire with a rope around your waist.

Lateral Resisted Tire Shuffle

Shuffle either left or right while dragging a tire with a rope around your waist.

Hint: don’t crossover your feet!

Wrapping it up

Well I hope you enjoyed today’s post and once again I want to thank GymTalk for having me on as today’s guest.

If you want to learn more about unconventional strength training then please check out my Brandon Richey’s Unconventional Conventional Method Of Strength ebook right here.

Remember that most anyone can train hard, but only the best train smart.

Also please feel free to come by and visit me at:


If you have any questions or thoughts, I’d love to hear for you, just leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

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  1. Great article Brandon! Doing the same ol things can get boring sometimes.. I like to change stuff up and I like when there are methods I can do at home using equipment I already have.. Yes, I do have a big ass tire! lol

    1. Thanks Joshua! Yes, I like incorporating this particular blend of Unconventional training in with my program. I derived the formula for this from my usual athletic performance program, but blended it using Unconventional tools, such as that big ass tire you mentioned. 🙂

      In addition to this I wanted to demonstrate the versatility in simplicity when it comes to equipment. Thanks again for your feedback Joshua! Keep training smart.

  2. Great read. Real world strength derived from an out of this world workout! Keep ’em coming!

    1. Lee thanks for the endorsement! Yes, I will do my best to keep the content flowing and guys like you make it easy when you deliver feedback like that! Thanks again my friend.

  3. Great article and great advice.

    Strength training is the best way of putting on size.

    I have similar articles – kindly check out my site as well!