The Yoak is one of the most fun, and also versatile pieces of training equipment I have ever used. After doing every movement they've recommended on their website, along with many others, I can confidently say that if you're looking to add chaos training to your regimen, as well as increased strength in otherwise unstable positions, The Yoak is a great tool to use; albeit at a high price.
Where to Purchase: Rogue Fitness ($300)
How great is competition?
I say that because competition is one factor that has brought us the overwhelming amount of innovation in the strength industry within the past 5 years. Also, e-commerce becoming so effective in allowing people with big ideas to create small companies.
I would have never thought when I started training over a decade ago that there would be a consistent stream of new equipment that actually improves my training. There are a ton of gimmicks out there, and I've reviewed a few of them, but overall the majority of equipment being produced today is improving people's fitness, not detracting.
The Yoak is a weird-looking training tool that has the ability to deliver excellent results in a compact form.
Table of Contents
What is Chaos Training?
Chaos training is an idea I was introduced to many years ago while trying to learn how to become more stable on the ice as a hockey player. Stability under pressure is one of the most important skills a hockey player can have as it will allow them to continue to make plays despite the attacking player.
Once I implemented various exercises described as “Chaos Training” by the guys at DieselCrew.com I had better balance as well as got knocked off the puck much less than before. In other words, I became a believer and still am.
Chaos Training is based on the Chaos Theory which was demonstrated by Edward Lorenz in 1960 and suggests that “as a small random change is introduced into a system, it causes a ripple effect that can overwhelm and change the long-term behavior of the system.
So, in terms of training (which is really what you want to know about) adding instability to movements you normally do will force stabilization, and thus a stronger body.
The piece of equipment that most people identify with Chaos Training is the Bamboo Bar. I own and regularly use the bamboo bar for all kinds of movements, but it's mainly suited for pressing and holds (with light weight.)
The Yoak is similar to the Bamboo Bar in that it causes instability, BUT it can hold more weight and is overall more versatile as I'll show you.
Is there anything more exciting than seeing a box of new gym equipment sitting on your doorstep?
The Yoak is a new company, but they're doing a lot of things right.
One thing they've done well that is too often overlooked is branding their packaging. It's a small touch, but as I often say, if a company does the little things well, it often means the big things are done right as well.
The Yoak showed up in small (compared to the barbell tubes) box with no significant damage, something I'm always happy to see.
I cut open and emptied the box and out came a bunch of goodies.
The guys at The Yoak sent me the “Total Package” to review which features:
- The Yoak
- 1 x 12′ Cam Strap
- 2 x 48″ Industrial Slings
- 1 x 24″ Industrial Sling
- 2 x 8″ Dowel Handles with 7mm static climbing cord
- 3 Omega Climbing Carabiners
- Accessories Carrying Bag, Exercise Poster, and a User Guide
There's also two other packages with fewer accessories available.
The Yoak Review
I'm going first to review the actual construction and build of The Yoak and then go into how you actually use the thing. Unlike with barbells, there isn't enough going on to warrant my typical lengthy review style for something made so simple (which is a good thing in my opinion.) That said, there are lots to talk about that hasn't yet been explored regarding how to maximize its functionality.
To be completely honest, The Yoak is as much a piece of artwork as it is training equipment.
The basic idea is that you hang weights off the sides in either equal or unequal amounts of weight and everything becomes harder. Trust me, trying to stabilize this on pressing or walking is DIFFICULT. I'll show videos later on in the review.
The Yoak is made of three separate pieces. One piece of CNC-cut aircraft grade aluminum is sandwiched between two pieces of birch.
Being the woodworker I am, (I'm basically Ron Swanson in real life) I appreciate a properly cut and routered piece of birch. Although everything I make is by hand (I use tools, just not precision CNC machines,) it's pretty obvious based on the uniformity of every angle that this is largely machine-made. Which is what you want.
You see, if I'm going to be spending upwards of $300 on a piece of equipment that will hold hundreds of pounds on my back, I want to make sure that it's engineered in a way to support that weight and much more.
And, the Yoak holds hundreds of pounds quite well:
Although the guys who created The Yoak advise a maximum loading capacity of 400 lbs, I would have no worries of adding much more. That said, unless you're just doing partial squats (which this is perfect for), then you're not going to be using much weight at all.
Walking with this thing is DIFFICULT. It requires laser focus and an absolute rock solid mid-section. If you don't know how to brace, this will teach you (as will this great video by Chris Duffin.)
Initially, I wondered why wood was chosen outside of the aesthetics, but if using wooden gymnastics rings has taught me anything, it's that wood takes chalk really well. So, whenever doing yoke walks or pull-ups, make sure to chalk up.
Oh wait, I forgot to tell you that lending to the versatility of The Yoak is the fact that you can do pullups with it.
One use I found for The Yoak that may not have been thought of yet is in using it in my quest to do a one-arm chin up. I do lots of archer pull-ups on my rings, but The Yoak allows me to place one arm wide, and one close simulating an archer pull-up on a more static implement.
Along with the hand holds, the designers behind the Yoak put a notch so as to avoid putting pressure on your cervical spine. I don't think it was entirely necessary, but it's a nice touch that allows the Yoak to rest comfortably on your yoke (see what I did there?)
In addition to the Yoak, if you choose to purchase the “Total Package” you'll get some cords that you'll need, carabiners (Omega, the ones I always recommend), as well as two handles for things like dips.
The handles are made well, but I'd suggest purchasing middle tier package that doesn't include the handles. It's not that I don't use them, it's' just that I personally would be more than capable of making them myself.
Whether you decide to make them or purchase them, you will want them as they are the most difficult variation of dips I've ever done. If you struggle you're proficient with real ring dips (turning the rings out at the top), then you'll love dips on The Yoak.
The aluminum spine allows The Yoak to remain rigid and prevent twisting but still keeps it very light. So light, in fact, it weighs in at just under 6 lbs.
For something to be so light, yet hold the amount of weight it can is really quite remarkable.
One downside to The Yoak being mostly made of wood is the fact that it can dent pretty easily.
I don't think it will ever dent enough to actually harm the functionality of the product, but it is something to be aware of.
One other worry I had regarding the construction is how the wood and aluminum were attached. In my mind, there would definitely be a fear of separation, but the guys at The Yoak assured me that detachment would not occur, and if it ever did, they would just allow an exchange.
Here's how The Yoak is constructed in case your engineer-minded like myself:
The Yoak is an impressive piece of equipment that when combined with a bit of creativity can do just about anything you'd want.
If you grab two Yoaks, you can use them as parallettes which is a cool feature if you happen to be a commercial gym that has multiple Yoaks, but I wouldn't buy two simply for this purpose.
Finally, if you're not adding some sort of instability in your training, you're really missing out on a great opportunity to get stronger. I'm a big fan of the Bamboo/Earthquake Bar, but The Yoak can do just about everything it can (seriously, try throwing some bands on it) as well as many other things.
Also, as if it couldn't do enough, curl are also possible; which, let's be honest, does any other movement even matter?
There are a couple of areas that I think could not only get the Yoak in more hands but also improve it.
The first one is to offer variations of the material. Right now, the only options available are light birch and dark birch. I love the use of aluminum and wood as it is very appealing to the eye, but I would like to see other options at different price points.
UHMW Plastic or possibly even a complete aluminum body would be great options.
The final thing that I believe needs to be addressed and I'm sure is something they're working on is the price. $300 is a bit steep in my opinion. I think even lowering the price $50, would not only lead to more people using the product and thus increasing purchase volume, but also put it more in line with the cost that I think it's worth.