Sunday, March 6, 2011

See it here first: Spring Straps!

A lot of my long-time readers know that I don't claim to be the first at anything exercise-related. It doesn't take a whole lot of research to realize that every good and bad idea in training has been tried at least twice, lost, rediscovered, and tried twice more. So, claiming to be an original in this sub-culture tends to make you look foolish, poorly-read, or a hype-happy con man.

However, I'm going to do just that!

I thought of something a while ago. Something that I've never seen, heard or even remotely alluded to ever with strength training. It happened as I read through John Jesse's book, "Encyclopedia of Wrestling and Physical Conditioning." I saw exercises for, among other things, rings and chest expanders. Then, it hit me: what if these two had a baby? What would it look like?

Well, it might look like this...

I'm getting to the point in my training where I can spread my rings out quite a ways apart and still knock out 15 dips without much of a problem. That's usually my cue to look for ways to increase the difficulty. The ring dips (or any other suspension rig) make the dip much harder for several reasons, chiefly the extra work that the pectoralis majors have to do. A quick run down of of the action of the Pec-major...

...has four actions which are primarily responsible for movement of the shoulder joint[2]. The first action is flexion of the humerus[upper arm bone], as in throwing a ball side-arm, and in lifting a child. Secondly, it adducts[moving towards the center line] the humerus, as when flapping the arms. Thirdly, it rotates the humerus medially[rotation towards the mid-line of the body], as occurs when arm-wrestling. Finally it aids in deep inspiration[3], as in taking a deep breath before jumping in a pool. The pectoralis major is also responsible for keeping the arm attached to the trunk of the body[4].

Fixed bar dips don't require the pec-major muscle to keep adducting the arm bone nearly as much as the suspension trainer will since they don't move. By adding the spring into the suspension trainer, the spring pulls the arms away from the center line. Now, the pecs have to work harder still. I've tried these a few times and they cut my reps down by a third! More specifically, I struggled (and sometimes failed) to get 10 reps on this set-up.

The key to making these work properly is the placement of the rig. They have to be farther than shoulder-width apart. If they're not, then the weight of the body compresses the springs and there is no pulling-away action for the pecs to resist. Another important key is to find a very strong, extension-type spring. After some searching I found these springs at Lowes (I saw them at Home Depot as well) used for porch swings. They're rated for 300 lbs. If they're too light, then your BW will simply stretch the spring without offering resistance. To sweeten the deal, these springs only cost about $10.00, well worth the investment as far as I'm concerned.
I haven't tried this out yet with push-ups but I'm sure that they'll also make push-ups a lot harder too.

I thought I'd pass this along in case anyone out there is looking for a cheap way to make pushing exercises on suspension gear harder.


Matt said...

I'm an engineer, albeit an electrical type. It's not clear to me how the spring adds any difficulty beyond just mounting the straps wider than shoulder width apart. The lines of force don't change with the spring. Any downward push is going to tend to pull the handles apart. But I guess the springs must somehow add to that.

Justin_PS said...

It may not be clear from the picture but that spring is actually a compression-type spring with some hooks in the middle of the spring designed to compress as something PULLS on it, not pushes against it. So, it operates more like an extension-type spring.

So, as the weight is put on it, the springs are pulling. But like I said, and you figured out, they won't do anything if the straps aren't spaced pretty far away.

Fritz said...

Sorry, but i'm with Matt. The only thing, these springs could possibly do, is add instability - if they are not fully expanded by your bodyweight. By that they could make sure, that you work equally hard on both sides.
Besides that, they do just the same as straps would. It really is simple vector analysis.

Justin_PS said...

I'll never claim to be right all the time, or even part of the time.

Maybe it is the instability after all. I do know that it is harder than the straps alone.