Unconventional Training versus Regular Strength Training

unconventional training

There are several ways to increase your strength. But which one is best? Regular strength training? Or unconventional strength training? And what is the difference anyway? Unconventional training has been a hype over the past decade and more people have decided to use it in their training. For example, crossfit has a lot of unconventional exercises.

What is Unconventional Training

Unconventional training is defined as “untraditional fitness methods involving”. This includes kettlebells, steel maces, indian clubs, sledgehammers, sandbags, battle ropes and more. Usually, this is referred to as old school equipment. It emphasizes functional movements and strength. Furthermore, they are often more cost-effective than machines and big gym (home) equipment. You can find a lot of this equipment in our shop.

The biggest difference with traditional strength training is the use of machinery. In the philosophy of unconventional training, machines focus too much on a fixed range of motion (ROM) and are often isolated exercises. But the use of barbells and dumbells is allowed because you can make functional exercises like a squat with those.

Another big aspect of unconventional training is HITT (high intensity interval training) where traditional strength training is usually LITT (low intensity interval training). It has been proven that HITT offers more benefits than LITT in burning calories and improving endurance. But a workout in the gym can turn into HITT too by performing supersets or drop sets.

What is Regular Strength Training

Regular strength training is the classic gym with barbells, dumbells and machines where you perform a couple of compound and isolation exercises with mostly 3x 10 reps to get hypertrophy. However, some people perform supersets, dropsets, cardio, etc. That is also part of regular strength training.

Conventional or Unconventional Training – Which is Better?

You should choose depending on your goal and what brings you most joy. If you train for maximum strength or hypertrophy only, regular strength training has a slight benefit. Because with regular training you have more exercise possibilities that directly target the muscles you want to train. Unconventional training has a more general approach. For example, if you want to improve the strength of your chest you have a lot of options in the gym. But with other equipment, especially at home, your options are more limited.

However, if you want to improve overall strength, cardio and look more athletic, unconventional training is better. It has been proven that HIIT workouts improve endurance more than regular cardio training. Another benefit is the use of compound exercises. Compound exercises work on multiple joints and muscles in one single exercise and are a must in strength training. Doing this in a functional way like lifting up a heavy block, or a big tractor wheel makes your body coordination better in everyday situations. A possible downside is that you need a very good form. Lifting heavy objects in a free ROM incorrectly can cause injuries.

Most of us at Calisthenics Worldwide have more fun in unconventional training and it keeps us motivated.

Mix It Up

Of course, you can take the best of both. Unconventional training uses a lot of dumbells, barbells and kettlebells. With conventional workouts you can do this as well and focus on compound exercises. Make sure to do super sets to make it more of a HIIT workout. Often, in a gym you can use kettlebells or a box. Make sure to use them! You can also turn your exercises into whole body exercises by performing them while you stand or with one dumbell. Let’s say you normally do a shoulder press with two dumbells while you sit on a bench. Instead, stand up and take just one dumbell. This little change let’s you activate your abdomen and global stabilizers and the exercise has become more unconventional.

You can mix conventional training with unconventional methods by tracking your reps and also by using barbells and dumbells. Since you always train your entire body you will notice differences in strength between body parts. Naturally, you are stronger either left or right as well in your chest, back and shoulders. To keep everything in balance you can perform more isolated exercises to focus on, for example, your chest. Or if you want bigger arms then train them with the dumbells.


The most important thing is to do what gives you most pleasure and fits best with your goals. LIIT workouts suits conventional training more while HIIT suits unconventional training more. By mixing it up you can have the best of both worlds and see what suits you the best. Check out our blog to find out more about unconventional training methods. And if you need any equipment, feel free to browse our shop with specially selected items for you.

1: Legge A. The 12 best science-based strength training in gaining muscle and strength. 2018. https://legionathletics.com/strength-training-plan/. Consulted on 15-10-20

2: unknown. Top 9 benefits of unconventional training. https://www.setforset.com/blogs/news/what-is-unconventional-training-benefits-unconventional-vs-conventional-training. Consulted on 26-10-20


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