Money still hasn’t started growing on trees, so I am back to share five more ways to perform exercises when your facility lacks certain workout equipment. Part 1 and Part 2 covered substitutes for exercises that involve sleds, leg curl machines and slide boards, plus how to make your own weight vest, board press and ab wheel.
Here are some additional modifications to help you get more from less.
1. Chain Leg Extensions
If you train in a home gym or an athlete-focused weight room, you probably don’t have access to a leg extension machine. I didn’t when I was in college and wanted to find a way to isolate my quads. After many failed experiments with med balls, bands and even a reverse hyper, I tried using chains and—voila!
Sit on a box, loop some chains over your ankles and extend your legs.
Sets/Reps: I tend to program this at high volumes—e.g., 3 sets of as many reps as possible in 50 seconds—or 3 sets of 20.
2. Manual Resistance Leg Extensions
If you want to do Leg Extensions but don’t have chains, I have one more trick up my sleeve: Manual Resistance Leg Extensions.
Sit down and have a partner place his or her hands on your ankles. As you extend at the knees, your partner gently pushes down on your legs. Once your legs are straight, your partner continues to push down while you resist against the pressure. It should take four seconds to straighten your legs, one second to hold at the top and four seconds to return to the start position. The reps should be very smooth with no change of speed at any point, so your partner may need to vary the pressure to accommodate your strength curve.
Sets/Reps: 3×4-8, toward the end of a lower-body workout.
3. Inversion Tables
Spinal decompression is one of the most underused recovery techniques I can think of, so I am here to spread the word. Between everyday life, playing sports and weightlifting, your back takes a beating. However, chiropractors aren’t for everyone, and a good inversion table can cost $300. But if you have a pull-up bar and bands, you can make your own. By performing this activity, you can help realign and decompress your spine, which may help prevent or alleviate back pain. Be sure to watch the video to ensure that you are doing it correctly.
4. Band Bench Presses
Bands are gaining popularity in the strength training world, and for good reason. When added to exercises like the Bench Press, Squat or Deadlift, they do a great job of matching your leverages, which creates something called accommodating resistance. This gives you less resistance at the bottom of the exercise, where you are weaker, and more resistance at the top, where you are stronger. Bands also teach you to accelerate the bar and keep the bar speed high, because the bands pull down on the bar and the resistance gets stronger as the bar raises. These factors can increase your rate of force development, which is how you get faster and more powerful.
But if you don’t have band pegs on your rack or Bench Press, how do you get these benefits? Watch the video below to see how to set up this exercise.
An easy way to make an exercise harder is to make it tougher to grip. One way is to use a “grenade” cable attachment, basically a baseball-sized metal ball with a hook attached. Using this can make Pull-Ups, Rows and cable attachment exercises harder. It can also change the muscles you target. The only problem is that this simple attachment can cost over $50 on some websites. To save money, you can make your own by taking two baseballs or softballs, drilling a hole into them and screwing in an eye hook.