Cheap Exercise Equipment for the Home Gym

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Simple exercise tools for outdoor workouts

Getting outdoors for your summer workouts? Have fun and use some unconventional equipment to get it done! Exercise equipment doesn't have to be complicated, and you don’t need to carry around heavy barbells or dumbbells all the time to get a serious workout.

Whether you are getting out to the park, the beach, fitness trail with some pull-up bars, or just to the company carport on your lunch hour, it is easy to get your heart and muscles pumping. First off, let’s head to the beach to take advantage of the rocks and sand.


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Instant Sandbag Workout

Bring a small, empty duffle bag with you, and stuff it with a small garbage bag. A little shovel or trowel will make this job easier. Fill the garbage bag until you have a nice weight, seal it off and you have a sandbag you can use for a variety of exercises. Try doing front squats, power cleans to a front squat, cleans to a push throw, and just about any other exercise. You may want to try light running with the bag over your shoulder as well.

Now you may get a little sandy if the workout gets wild, but hey, it's the beach! Enjoy it! Alternatively, you can fill the bag with rocks; just don’t hit yourself in the head. A better use for the rocks would be to find larger ones. Time to start boulder-hunting!


Free Weights from Free Rocks

Most beaches have some large rocks/boulders weighing anywhere from 20 pounds to 500 pounds. Chances are you can find a wide range. Then think like a strong man/woman and start lifting. There, see? You didn’t have to bring anything with you.

With small boulders you can do deadlifts, rock slams, carrying for distance and even presses and rows. Be creative and take extra care when lifting; natural rocks are not well balanced!

Suspension Training-Fitness Anywhere

The beach is great for so many exercisesthis whole piece could go on about nothing else. However, many of us are closer to a park, or in my case a cactus, so it’s time for some suspension training. Anyone familiar with gymnastics rings understands what suspension training is, and how effective it can be at building lean, muscular physiques.

The TRX Force Kit in ultra cool sand beige
The TRX Force Kit in ultra cool sand beige
The 'Jump Rope' style suspension trainer
The 'Jump Rope' style suspension trainer
The crude but effective suspension trainer with closed loop handles.
The crude but effective suspension trainer with closed loop handles.

While it isn’t necessary to spend money on this equipment, it is a good idea to look into it if you plan on doing a lot of suspended exercises. The TRX suspension trainer is the best of this equipment on the market, but for those empty wallets, we can improvise this tool for a pittance.

Homemade Suspension Trainer

Start by heading down to the hardware store and getting some good rope. Make sure it can hold your weight! While you are there, grab a length of PVC pipe. The diameter can vary, but you are cutting this for handles, so be sure the rope fits through it; and make sure it is not too thick. A 1” inch diameter will be sufficient for most people. That’s it. Now it is a matter of choosing from the two pictures below, or creating your own variation.

In the first picture we have the simple jumprope style; so called because it doubles as a jumprope. Simply slide the ends of the rope, cut to the desired length, and long enough to jump rope with. The next step is to tie sturdy knots on the ends so they can’t slip back through. With this easy to make rope and handles there is a long list of exercises you can do, loop it through a fence, or throw it around a pole or tree, and try doing:

  • Body rows
  • High pulls
  • Body rows with twist, one or two arm
  • Rear deltoid flyes
  • Chest flyes
  • Leaning pullovers
  • Tricep extensions

The list goes on. Combine two or three exercises and do 30-60 seconds of jumping rope in between. While the length is fixed on this ‘tool’ and it may be difficult for some to hold onto, it highly portable and dirt cheap. After a brief learning curve it will be highly effective.

The second option is to create a closed ‘loops’ for the handles, resulting in an easier grip and the ability to place your feet in them to mimic the TRX. The picture below is what it should look like.

With this tool, you probably won’t want to do any rope jumping, even if you can. It lends itself nicely to all the exercises listed above, as well as jackknife pushups, pendulums, and the wicked reach under plank. As with the first option, this is a fixed length. To change it will require a couple of minutes of tying and re-tying knots.

Both these inexpensive pieces of equipment will be a great asset to your exercise routines, so spend some time getting to understand them, and most of all, get outdoors and have fun!

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