I assume if you're reading this 'able you already have a general idea what TRX training is. It's also probably safe to assume that you've noticed there are already a few suspension training system instructables and are probably asking yourself why you are bothering to read another one. I don't know why, but I plan to make it worth your while. Having read through the other plans on here, some YouTube videos for DIY kits, and working with the real thing, I think I've put together a system that's got the benefits of all while minimizing the detractors of any.
This is my first instructible so I welcome constructive criticism of both my design/execution and the instructible itself. Thanks in advance!
Disclaimer: This is a guide to build a system of exercise equipment from which you will be suspending your body. Please don't be stupid. Please pay attention to load strength on your components. Please don't hang your system from a drywall screw and think it'll hold you up. Please don't fall and say it's my fault for giving you the means to get up there in the first place. Thanks!
Step 1: Materials
I sought materials that met two basic criteria: safety and economy. The commercial suspension systems on the market range in price from about $100 to over $200. I was intent on beating those numbers by a high margin. However, this is a tool from which one is to be suspended while exerting considerable force, so it's pretty important that it not fall apart in the name of saving a buck. The materials I purchased were enough to build two (2) complete sets of straps with some materials left over.
~ (6) 1" X 12' Lashing Straps ($3.99/2 @ Harbor Freight)
~~ Rated to 1000# with a recommended working strength of 330#
~~ These are easily adjustable from 12' down to almost zero with the thumb-operated clamps.
~~ One suspension system requires three straps, one for each limb and the third to connect them to each other and the mounting point.
~~ If you're heavier, there are certainly heavier-duty straps available in the same relative price range. Using them doesn't change the instructible any. Same applies to the rope down a bit further.
~ (24") 1" PVC pipe ($1.79 @ Home Depot)
~~ This will be cut into 4 pieces for the handles.
~~ There's no reason you can't use another material if you feel safer with aluminum or with black iron/galvanized pipe nipples.
~ (2) "Quick Links" screw-type chain link connectors ($1.99/3 @ Harbor Freight)
~~ These are rated to 1200#+, package says to use with chain that has 615# or less working capacity
~~ Cheaper than carabiners
~~ Need 2, package has 3.
~ (10') 3/8" polyester rope ($0.99 @ Harbor Freight)
~~ Rated to 1000# with a working weight of 300#
~~ The 3/8" rope fits snugly into the handles (you'll see later). Bigger rope will hold more weight, but won't fit once you tie the knots and give the clean-finished look.
~~ You will also end up with plenty of extra material from the lashing straps if you'd rather use those for the foot loops. I prefer the rope.
~ Hockey tape ($2.29 at Dunham's).
~~ I bought the big roll (25 yards) and have most of it left even after applying liberally to four handles.
~~ There are plenty of other materials you could substitute here per your preference. A friend mantioned skate grip tape if you always wear gloves when working out. Rubberized wrap for tennis/racquetball handles would work, too.
Measuring tape (for measuring!)
Sharpies (for marking what you measure)
Saw (for cutting up the pipe)
Screwdriver (for putting a blade in that saw that's not duller than your thumbs)
Lighter/torch (not pictured. To melt the ends of the rope and straps after cutting)
Scissors (not pictured. to cut the straps, rope, and tape)
Sandpaper (not pictured. to calm down the ends of the pipe)
Step 2: Handles
I have one piece of pipe and I need four pieces of pipe. I also made it through grade school math, so I figured out that one 24" piece yields four 6" pieces... so I made that happen with a saw.
Since this was really just a "let's see if I can make this" project, I wasn't too precise with my cutting (read: not precise at all) but it works. After cutting the pipe I sanded the ends with 100 grit paper, making sure to soften the INSIDE edge to minimize wear on the straps.
After sanding, I wrapped each handle with the hockey tape, overlapping 1/2 the width of the tape with each pass. I cut the overhang at each end to it would fold neatly to the inside, giving a finished edge and, hopefully, more protection for the straps.
Step 3: Straps
First, to get the straps to hold weight in the correct direction, they have to be threaded through their clamps in a bit of a counter-intuitive way. The reason is that they're designed to strap things down so the LOOP of the strap is bearing the weight and the strap hanging out isn't holding anything, thus pulling on it tightens the loop without having to press the clamp. We're going to be hanging from that excess strap, so we darn sure don't want it to feed freely from the loop. Instead, we flip the strap around its clamp so the clamp button is INSIDE the loop the the clamp is holding AGAINST the loop being pulled smaller (see picture for this all to make sense). We will do this with two (2) straps per set. The third we leave alone for now.
Now, here's where I made a mistake in my first try: the straps are 12' long. After I use some of that up in tying off the handles, they're approximately 10' from the clamp to the handle knot when fully extended and about 5' when pulled all the way tight. For my application (and I suspect most others) this is WAY too long. After finishing the set and trying them out, I decided to untie everything and cut off 4' from each of the individual limb straps. That put me at 8' total, less the ~2' for the handles, so they now adjust from 3' to 6'. This works for me, but in some applications it might be better to have them shorter. Time and experience will tell if I should bring them in more. I melted the cut ends of the straps with a lighter to prevent fraying.
(Not pictured) I also decided after a little trial period that marking the straps makes adjustment a LOT easier, so I marked off the straps at 6" increments. This way I have no problem making sure the two straps are even before hopping into the air.
Step 4: Putting It Together
I used bowline knots for both the straps and the rope. I'm not a scout, but as I understand it the bowline knot is ideal for weight-bearing because it actually gets tighter when weight is applied. It is also one of the very few knots I know, so if there's a better one for this application, I'm open to hear about it.
For the handles, I marked off 24" of strap in 6" increments. I then fed it through the handle so 12" stuck out the end (6" remains in the handle, so 6" of marked-off rope is still on the other side). At the first 6" marker and the last one I tied a bowline knot, making sure that those markers remained just at the point the knot starts on both sides so the handle loops are all identical in size. I then did this with the other handles.
I then cut the rope into 2.5' sections, fed each through a handle, and tied another bowline knot. Using a lighter, I carefully melted the ends of the cut rope to avoid fraying. Finally, I pushed the knot of each rope into the handle for a cleaner look (needed a screwdriver to shove two of them in, it's a snug fit).
Step 5: Assembly
The final step is simple. Take the third strap and thread it normally (so the clamp is holding the loop against being OPENED and the excess strap can be pulled freely to tighten it. Hook a Quick Link to the loop, and then hook in the two individual limb straps. The third strap is what you'll look over your beam/tree branch/giraffe.
Again, this should go without saying, but please think BEFORE you start trying to hang from something. It doesn't matter how strong the straps are if you put them around a termite-infested tree branch or an eye-bolt that's screwed 1/2" into your ceiling.
For those of you who were paying attention, I made two complete sets of suspension straps for $20 and change, saving over $300 compared to the leading name brand. Even using bigger/stronger straps and rope AND using something different for the handles would leave this project exponentially less expensive than the alternative.
Thank you for reading and thanks in advance for any feedback.