There’s no doubt about it: keeping fit can be expensive. If you’re a runner, you’re going to want to replace your running shoes after a year or two of hard use. …
There’s no doubt about it: keeping fit can be expensive. If you’re a runner, you’re going to want to replace your running shoes after a year or two of hard use. If you’re a lifter, you might invest in a set of dumbbells and even a barbell if you have space, or commit to a monthly gym membership.
Surfer? Board, wax, and expensive surf trips if you don’t live near the sea. Climber? Forget about it. Cyclist? Bikes are fun, but they’re not the cheapest hobby. In all cases, getting one of the best fitness trackers or smartwatches will also be on your list, as it’s a great way to monitor your activity.
However, while the above pursuits can get pricey, many people are just looking for a way to stay active and healthy without breaking the bank. If you’re hesitant about committing to a monthly gym membership and just after a cheap bit of kit to help you stay fit at home, I have a recommendation for you: suspension trainers, such as the TRX or Olympic gymnastics rings, can do the job for less.
When COVID hit in 2020 and all the gyms closed, like many others, my usual fitness routine was thrown out of balance. We were all stuck at home, and unless you had the money and space for a comprehensive home gym setup, resistance training was very difficult to do. After discovering a sturdy tree in my local park, I bought a set of gymnastics rings from Amazon for £35 (opens in new tab), around US$40 or AUS$62, and it was the best money I spent throughout the pandemic.
These rings could be fastened to a horizontal bar or tree branch, allowing me to work out my entire body in different ways by redistributing my weight to hit multiple muscle groups. If I didn’t have the facility of the park nearby, I would have invested in an indoor suspension trainer like the ones from the TRX Training line (opens in new tab), which comes complete with a door hook and starts from around £80 in the UK, US$125 in the US and AUS$145 in Australia. However, off-brand suspension trainers can be bought on Amazon (opens in new tab) for far less.
It was like a full home gym had opened up in front of me. I could lean backward, gripping the rings and pulling myself towards the tree in an inverted row. This exercised my biceps and back muscles, which allowed me to eventually graduate to more reps during my pull-ups.
For my chest and triceps, I could complete incline push-ups or adjust the rings higher and do tricep dips. For my legs, I could lengthen the strap and do split squats, placing one foot behind me in the ring while I lowered myself down to the ground on one leg, and back up again.
The rings made things extra challenging as I fought to keep the wobbly straps in place, which is great for your core. Research has found (opens in new tab) performing strength training using an unstable surface, such as the straps, increases muscle activation compared to performing the exercises with more stability. It’s also a low-impact fitness solution with easily-adjustable difficulty levels, so it’s a great tool for beginners.
The rings were a game-changer for my training in every way. When I started, I was a keen runner, but my upper-body strength was lacking a little: on a good day, I could do around four neutral-grip pull-ups in a row. Twice a week for around eight months, I would go to the park to train by doing inverted rows, dips, assisted squats, and more. In November that year, I completed my first full set of 10 pull-ups, a fitness milestone in every way.
If you don’t have a gym accessible, suspension trainers are cheaper and more portable than a set of adjustable dumbbells, and you can end up graduating to do some truly impressive calisthenics moves.