For the gym that has everything, and for the space that could become a superb training area – a tool that gives great bang for the buck and takes up modest space: handles on chains, staple equipment for me.
Most exercises that involve body suspension are situated in stable structures – pull-ups, chin-ups, dips, that kind of thing. There are also bodyweight exercises situated in stable structures which could become suspension activities with the right structure – push-ups, inverse flys, scapular retraction and depression exercises.
When these exercises are performed correctly in unstable environments, the benefits are exponential. The direct demand and load are increased, plus the instability introduces new angles of force and makes new demands on both large and very small muscle groups. By nature, core strength must develop in order to perform, and overall muscular coordination must develop as well.
Enter handles hung on chains. These are more versatile than their more glamorous cousin – the rings – because they can easily be adjusted into every possibly degree of proximity to one another, and their level of suspension from the floor can easily be manipulated as well. They’re not just fixed into a ceiling beam for time immemorial. You can move them as often as you like, even during a work out.
You’ll need either one 6′ length of chain or two 3′ lengths of chain just heavy enough to support your bodyweight (which means they can be surprisingly thin, thanks to modern chain technology), four to six carabiners, and two handles.
You have some selection to decide on with handles. While they’ll likely be flat rods across your palm, you can choose whether to have square, round or strap tops. I prefer the kind in which the handle rolls freely over a strap loop; they’re the most unstable, lightweight, and inexpensive.
Now the fun begins. You’ll get ideas the more you play with them. Drape them over a racked Olympic bar for push-ups. Try adjusting their height, and go from a doubled length to single. Put your feet up on a ball for truly unstable decline push-ups. The two lengths are handy for this, but you can also drape the 6′ chain and secure it just at the bar with carabiners as well (that’s what I did in my video below).
Wrap a chain around a chin-up bar, then attach the handles, for destabilized pull-ups. Enjoy the full range of motion this affords your wrist-elbow-shoulder joint paths.
If you’ve been hankering for rings, chains can be a satisfying alternative to get you by until you save up the dough and come up with the permanent space them. The destabilized training style can be a great base for the rings as well.
You’ll find there’s always room in your home gym for these handles. And when you go to someone else’s gym, they can go with you, too.