Recently, T-Nation had a great article about exercises for building a chest fit for a Roman Army suit of armor. I decided to check it out and I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a chunk of the suggested exercises were calisthenics. More specifically, exercises using rings or blast straps. In other words, exercises in which the body is partially or fully suspended.
Normally, I like to blog about exercises that you could step away from your computer and try out without any special equipment. Once in a while, I talk about BW which requires special gear. Still, The benefits of using this kind of set-up are hard to ignore. It's training torn from the pages of gymnastic training. When you're hanging from a set of straps or ropes, it's very unstable and forces your shoulders, chest, triceps and core to contract HARD in order to execute the movement. Do enough of these exercises and you'll understand why those gymnasts have shoulders that resemble pumpkins!
A couple of years ago, I built some crude rings out of pipe (if you look back in my blog, you'll find an article about how I made mine). Initially, I planned on using them for pull-ups and chin-ups. I quickly learned that by using longer rope, I had a mean push-up on my hands. Then, I learned about chest flies. These evil exercises fry the chest muscles like you wouldn't believe.
Just when I thought that I couldn't possibly have more fun, I started doing dips off of the rings. Training BW off from a suspension rig is a brutal workout that will convince even hardcore lifters that BW can be every bit as difficult on the chest as most weight training exercises.
You could easily set up a functional rig like this with less effort than I put into making rings (I admit, my homemade equipment is more elaborate simply because I like to play around with my gear.). Here's a great site if you want to build your own web blast
Or, if you don't feel like building your own or you're not that handy, you could always buy one from the pros.
I have to admit that I suffered from severe sticker shock when I priced out blast straps and rings. These set-ups routinely run up to the $100 mark. Still, the amount of exercises that you can do with them is staggering. The level of difficulty can easily take you to the next level, rivaling just about anything that you can do with weights. I firmly believe that having this kind of set-up for your training is worth the time and/or money it takes to get one in your possession.
Oh, that T-Nation article