Adventures with Suspension Training in My Garage Gym
Designing My Own Cheap Version of a Suspension Trainer
I admit it, I'm not a big fan of gyms, commercial gyms specifically. It's a personal preference. I like solitude when I workout or at least small groups. I also like to choose my own music (if any,)perform unusual and dangerous exercises, and let the dog hang out. Oh, and leave the air conditioning off, I'll take hot and steamy, thanks. For those reasons and others I workout 90% of the time at my house, and usually in the garage.
Besides the usual barbells and dumbbells, I suspended a pull-up bar from the ceiling, made some 'clubs' out of galvanized steel pipe, and a slosh stick out of pvc pipe filled with water. What I had always wanted to include was suspension training. The TRX, with its fancy yellow nylon webbing, it's quick adjustments and glowing hard body models demonstrating new and interesting exercises, captured my imagination. But, I wasn't about to shell out $189+ dollars when I could attempt to make my own version of suspension training first!
The solution was simple: I had suspended a capped iron bar from the ceiling using eye hooks screwed into the joists. This was my pull-up bar, and it was suspended by rope bought at Home Depot. Then I tied knots to the eye hooks, and tied those knots into knots, then on the other end I had to tie knots to the bar, and re-tie knots to get the measurements correct, until I was really sick of tying knots.
My plan for the suspension trainer was the same, suspend rope from the eye hooks screwed into the ceiling. For handles, I had some 1 1/2" pvc pipe I ran the rope through. Presto!
Of course, we're back to tying knots, and retying, and because each rope hung from its own hook, I had to adjust a lot to get the height even. It was at this point I began dreaming about that shiny yellow nylon webbing. I imagined how easy it would be to anchor it to the ceiling. Maybe even easier now that I had already installed eye hooks! But no! I'm a man, I love my green rope and pve pipe substitute! So I kept adjusting until I was satisfied.
Flaws in the Design
There were flaws to this design. My invention wasn't even gymnastics rings. Now it worked alright. I only had one ugly knot-loosening incident. Fortunately I wasn't hanging upside down when that happened. I could do all kinds of exercises including rows from several angles, inversions, and various push-ups and dips with the aid of a step-stool or ladder. However, not being able to quickly adjust the ropes made the tool much less versatile than even basic gymnastics rings. Let alone that commercial contraption with the pretty yellow nylon webbing.
I hung on to the dream a little longer. In place of the additional strap that hangs down like a stirrup from the TRX handles, I put my own little strap. So glad I kept that extra green rope! It hung from the PVC pipe handle just like a stirrup. Not right away, though. First I had to adjust it by tying, re-tying, you know the drill.
I was so proud of my genius that I invited one of my friends and trainees to try it. He was somewhat skeptical. He stared at the roughly chopped pipe handles, and his eyes traveled to the ceiling to study the attachment process. "Don't worry, you're not even going to be putting your full weight on it. Just stick your feet in here, no down more, whoops, look out, maybe you should let me help you..."
I was soon the only user of my suspension trainer. Although I still find it very useful, it hangs there looking like an outdated relic. I sense that it knows its fate. It stares out across the garage at the failed PVC pipe and green rope trapeze experiment, now laying in a pile in a dark and dusty corner.
***Update: This thing is now hanging in the garage again and is awesome! I can't believe how much abuse a simple piece of rope can take. I have since may three others with different sized handles and lengths!
Bottom line? If you prefer cushioned handles and pretty yellow nylon straps, as well as the easy adjusting mechanism, the TRX is great. Super well-made, too. Exceeds quality expectations (for me it did.) However! If you like do-it-yourself contraptions, the PVC pipe and rope is definitely for you! So simple, yet so effective.
Don't forget the padding.
While rope and pvc pipe is super cheap, with a slightly larger investment in your homemade suspension trainer, you can have a long lasting versatile alternative. I am talking about using chains and flex pipe.
As with rope and pvc, all you need are simple materials, specifically:
-20' chain (depending on the height of the ceiling.)
-OR, 2 10 foot chains, which makes set up and adjustment easier.
-4 carabineers and 2 eye hooks. (The carabineers go into the eye hooks, which go into the ceiling joists.)
-2 two foot lengths of rubber flex pipe.
Using these materials, you can create a set of rings, then clip or tie a nylon strap or length of rope to the bottom. This suspension trainer will probably last you a lifetime. The cost? About 50-60 U.S. dollars total.
So go out and make yourself a new addition to the home gym. It may just become your new favorite piece of equipment.
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