Ahhh! Summer! Freedom! Water! Escaping to the great outdoors for serious strength and conditioning workouts! Whether you live in the blazing deserts of the Southwest or the dripping humidity elsewhere, and we’ll even count you lucky folks on the coastline of California, getting your muscles and heart pumping outdoors is a must.
You can do just about any form of exercise outside, but if you are not looking to sweat it out biking, hiking, jogging, or doing yoga, it is time to get out the suspension trainer!
Yes! Suspension training is the ultimate summer workout. You can take it anywhere with ease, and if combined with other exercise “equipment” in the urban, beach, or park jungle, even you serious muscle-builders can get satisfaction. However, this is not an article detailing different workouts (we’ll do those later,) but it is about different ways to get started with suspension training.
First off we have the lovely TRX. This little two or three pound package is awesome. It may not replace the iron completely, but it is seriously challenging. For less than you spent on miscellaneous food, trinkets, and ahem, alcohol last week, you could have the ‘Home Training Bundle,’ which has instructional dvd’s, and an anchor to put it anywhere.
Here is what the least expensive package looks like:
If you are on a budget, which usually translates to ‘nearly flat broke,’ you can easily improvise a suspension system to take on the road with you, or to use in the house. These home made training devices require a little more imagination to make them functional and safe, but they are just as light and portable as the TRX. One version even doubles as a jumprope, so read on.
Option number one: The thick-handled, fixed length rope with PVC handles.
This is a bit of a monster to hold onto, but that’s the point. However, it may be too thick for some. In the picture below, 1 1/2″ pipe was used, and knots were carefully tied for strength, or at least carefully tested. The stirrup style allows you to put your feet in and do pendulums, jackknife pushups, etc. This can be hung from a tree, play set, fence, or railing, or anywhere else you see fit.
Advantages? Thick grip (which can be substituted for normal diameter,) promotes wrist strength and is a greater challenge. It is also cheap; it would be hard to pay more than $15 dollars for the rope and pvc, and you may have the necessary materials around the house already.
Disadvantages? The biggest is the fixed length. You can adjust it, but it requires tying and re-tying of knots. This is not the worst thing, as the length can be shortened quickly by wrapping it around the bar, tree, or whatever you are using; but adjustable is not a strength I would list.
Option Number 2: The free-handled suspension trainer/jumprope
Another very inexpensive tool which is strong enough to hold a grown body, and makes a great jumprope, is comprised of the following:
It is complicated, isn’t it? To make the setup, be sure the rope you buy can be stuffed through the 1/2″ pvc pipe, or 3/4″ if you prefer. Then simply tie a knot big enough to keep the ends from coming back through and you are done. To make nice smooth handles, cut the pipe with a sharp hacksaw and smooth it out with sandpaper. The end result is below:
Advantages? Deceivingly effective for many of the same exercises performed on the TRX. Also, did I mention it makes an excellent jump rope? As it turns out, the ideal length for doing most exercises on this ‘system’ is also about right for jumping rope. Perfect for interval training!
Disadvantages? The handles can be a challenge to hold onto, and if that is the case, some baseball bat grip or bicycle grip rubber can be wrapped around them. The other is the fixed length issue again.
Bottom line? Either one of these tools will give you a great workout for very little money, just be sure the rope you purchase is strong enough to hold your weight, that your knots are strong enough to hold your weight, and that you buy enough rope to practice with. Also, if you take a strong eye hook and screw it into a ceiling joist or beam, you can use your new suspension trainer at home.
Life is short, so get to work and have fun!