Gym Design on a Dime

March 13, 2014
How old is your agency or home gym? Modern day equipment isn't as expensive as some think; and some of what's necessary isn't often considered.

As you read this article a community college’s BLET and SCAT training facility is getting a face lift.  This school is better than many I have seen around the country but by no means great.  The weight room is very dated, some of the equipment is in disrepair and there are a few machines that are actually causing injury.  You do not arrest someone sitting down and crunching so why are you exercising that way - and the machine was made in 1975!

We had very little budget to work with and not much space; neither of which is a problem if we approach the issues using simple but highly effective equipment.  The total cost of the fitness room overhaul came in at just over $1200 and a fair amount of that was shipping costs.

What we put together utilized the space we had, is tactically specific while accommodating to LEO’s of various shapes/sizes/genders and most importantly physical condition. Let’s face it there are some very out of shape officers out there and some that are very fit.  Our space needed to accommodate all of them and still allow at least 5 people to train at one time.

1. Suspension Trainers: there are a few brands on the market including TRX™ and Life Line™.  Both are great tools and the further upside is that SCAT or PT instructors can easily get certified to teach the entire system.  2-3 suspension trainers in a room or suspended from the ceiling cost less than $500.00.

2. Kettle Bells: KB’s have been around for a long time but only recently have come to tactical fitness.  While expensive as the lbs. increase they offer a fantastic tactical total body workout.  KB’s also offer a DI to train multiple LEO’s at one time and the movements can be adapted based on the officers overall fitness and in the case of the KB’s their stability.  PLUS KB’s build explosive power and anaerobic conditioning which are all integral parts of LE conditioning.

3. Foam Rollers:  Simply put a $40 foam roller will reduce your chance of injury, increase performance, help you manage pain and even have better posture.  ALL classes should begin with 5-8 minutes on the foam roller.

4. Resistance bands: At $15 dollars for a set of bands that we can easily mount to the wall or a stable object the list of exercises that we can perform is endless.  It’s like having a full cable cross over machine that costs $12k in 1/100th the space.


Since that I am sure that you have been diligently following this column each month you already know all about the foam rollers, if by chance you missed it read up on the best tool any athlete could have and how to use it.

To demonstrate the benefits of the suspension trainers lets dig into a few of my favorite.  Remember that these are all full body dynamic movements that are purposely designed to get your heart rate up while engaging all the muscles in your body.  Plus we will be building core strength and overall power while often improving balance at the same time.

Core booster #1: Push up mountain climber.  As shown get your feet into the handles and walk out into a push up position.  Lock your knees out and squeeze your glutes, do a push up and on the ascent pull your knees to your chest.  15-25 reps will do the trick, when you get it down alternate sides with the knees on the ascent.  When you get really good use only one leg.

Core booster #2: Split Squat.  Suspend one leg behind you (it will help to have something to balance you at first) keeping a tall posture slowly squat down to roughly parallel, pause and then power up to the top.  This will light up your front leg while giving you a great hip flexor stretch.  Too easy?  Add in a hop at the top, try half reps. 15-30 reps will do the trick here for 2-3 sets.

Core booster #3: Push up-ab reach-triceps extension:  Seems complicated but with your feet on the floor and hands on the handles do a push up.  Then immediately do an abdominal reach (think ab wheel) then do a triceps extension.  Repeat till failure and adjust your weight on the straps as needed.  Keep your gluteals tight throughout to fully engage the abs. Go till failure on each set.

Another benefit to the suspension trainers is that reps are not as important as traditional weights.  If used properly most exercises will fatigue you pretty fast so technique is where we focus a lot.  We can also us the straps to stretch so they really become a great tactical fitness tool that anyone can use.  In fact after our classes there are many LEO’s that will purchase one for home use.

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