Introduction: The Chains Suspension Exercise Device for Body Leverage Training

About: Eats shoots and leaves.

The Chains are a simple, inexpensive, and portable full-body gym.

Update: See the Lashing Strap TRX Clone Instructable for a lighter, less expensive alternative.

Introduction:  What Are Suspension (Body Leverage) Exercises?

Suspension exercises utilize a person's own body weight for resistance through the use of a supporting structure or apparatus. The term "Suspension Training" is a registered trade and service mark of Fitness Anywhere and specifically refers to the use of their TRX (a rough acronym for T-otal body R-esistance eXercise).  The TRX has been available since 2005, but the original suspension exercise, the pull-up, predates bipedalism! 

With the invention of the gymnastics rings in the mid-nineteenth century, the number of possible exercises exploded.  Unlike the pull-up bar, rings are accessible to absolute beginners--with one's feet on the ground, rings can provide as little or as much resistance as the user wants; the challenge typically depends on the pitch of the body or the amount of assistance from the legs.

The true innovation behind Randy Hetrick's TRX is the merger of the gymnastics rings' two anchor points into one. This simplifies mounting or hanging the device.  It also allows unencumbered movement through all planes of motion.  This enables an unlimited number of exercises and offers a degree of instability that fosters balance and functional strength.  At $199.95, the TRX is cheaper than most gym equipment but still too pricey for college kids (that's a lot of Top Ramen noodles).  For those on a budget, fifteen minutes and about $60 worth of chains, carabiners and handles offer a heavy duty clone of the TRX.

Suspension exercises are suitable for people of all ages and abilities, but only when done with safe technique.  See the TRXACE and BodyLev exercise libraries  to learn proper form before you begin.  Ask your doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise program.

If you have any questions, seek the help of a certified personal trainer.  By creating and using your own suspension device, you alone take full responsibility for your safety and well-being.

Step 1: Gather the Materials.


1.  A length of chain from the hardware store (8 to 16 feet depending on the height of the object to which you will anchor it).

2.  A short chain (1-2 feet depending on the circumference of the object around which you'll wrap it).

3.  A used bicycle inner tube or hose.

4.  3 strong carabiners from the hardware or sporting goods store.  They should be able to hold your weight several times over.

5.  2 handles (I ordered mine online from Power Systems.  Metal handles are available at sporting goods stores)

Step 2: Assemble the Parts.

  1. Connect the handles to opposite ends of the long chain with carabiners. 
  2. Connect the third carabiner to the center of the long chain and to one end of the short chain.
  3. Pull the short chain through a piece of a used bicycle inner tube with a string or a coat hanger.
  4. Fasten the short chain around a sturdy structure.
  • Remember, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link!  Use materials that can hold your weight several times over and only attach the Chains to a sturdy structure.
  • You can substitute a long eye bolt for the short chain if you have a strong structure to screw it into.
  • Ensure that the chain links are wide enough for the carabiners to fit through them.
  • Check that each side is the same length (if the chain links are not perfectly uniform one side might be longer than the other).
  • Slide a strap through each handle and tie or sew its ends together to create foot cradles (like the ones on the TRX in the third photo below).
  • At their lowest point (clipped to the very end of the chains) the handles should be a few inches from the ground--the one shown is a little too short for the chosen anchor point.

Step 3: Learn Proper Suspension Exercise Technique.

Move the handles up or down the chain as needed. Place the handles at shoulder height for exercises like assisted pull-ups and at mid-calf height for exercises like the crunch or suspended lunge.

View the ACE and exercise libraries to learn proper technique before you begin. Ask your doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise program. By creating and using your own suspension device, you alone take full responsibility for your safety and well-being.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch.

Aron Talenfeld