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Trapeze for strength and health (not only) of your back
It can be assumed that the push-ups, or the movement in which we pull our own body to a gripping point, is one of the oldest exercises. After all, our ancient ancestors knew how to move skillfully in the treetops to avoid predators and obtain food. It was actually an “exercise” before the very concept of exercise, which we as a civilization have gradually forgotten, and now have to relearn.
We could spend a considerable amount of time listing all the benefits of trapeze training, so let’s look at the specific, most significant positive effects on the human body. With trapeze shrugs, we get exactly what is as rare as saffron these days – a strong and healthy back! In addition, we will also increase the grip strength, which also comes in handy in everyday life (I open a jar, I get carried away when moving a wardrobe that is difficult to hold …).
When we practice the hunches correctly, we also improve the natural mobility of the shoulders, because the free hang on the trapeze is actually a separate stretching exercise, which has the added advantage of letting the spine rest. There are otherwise not many times when the spine doesn’t need to hold and carry us at all.
Technique of movements and what to avoid
There are many different types of hunches, but for the sake of brevity we will limit ourselves to variations of the basic one in this article. For beginners, I definitely recommend the underhand (supinated forearm) bends with a grip width roughly replicating the width of your own shoulders. This method tends to be the easiest for most people to execute. The neutral grip or overhand grip (pronated forearms) are typically only slightly more difficult variations at the same grip width, while the wider grip associated with the overhand grip is more difficult significantly.
Although each type of grip has its own strengths and puts a little more emphasis on a different muscle part, all variations of the grip engage the back muscles (both broad back and interscapular), the muscles in the forearm (grip), and the biceps, just in different proportions (for example, in the wide overhand we use more back and less biceps) Among other things, the muscles of the middle of the body are also worked if the bends are performed strictly with the legs slightly extended and the pelvis stacked.
The most common mistake is that we don’t try to pull the shoulders “back and down” enough (shoulder blades together and shoulders away from the ears) which leads to not engaging the back in an optimal way. This often becomes apparent at the top of the movements, when we tend to help ourselves by overextending our shoulders and rounding our thoracic spine to pull our head the last few inches above the trapeze.
Another common bad habit is fudging the path of the movement. Few people want to run all the way back down in a movement when they know they will have to pull themselves back up again. The other improper way of shortening the path is not to pull all the way up, where the chin is supposed to be above the trapeze and the bar itself touches approximately the collarbone area.
These mistakes can result from ignorance of proper technique (then the correction is not difficult), but far more often it is a lack of strength, either in the total or in one of the muscle groups involved. In such a case, it is advisable to make the bends easier, for example, by using a resistance rubber band, or with the help of a training partner.
How to do your first pullup
If you can’t do even one honest pullup, don’t despair! There are many ways to gradually work up the strength to pull up your own body. I’ll mention a few of the most common ones, for which there is no need to buy expensive equipment.
Since one is lifting one’s own weight when one bends, it goes without saying that bends will be far more difficult for an overweight person. If you are really overweight, it is definitely better to choose other strength exercises and wait until the load is less with the bends. However, mild or even moderate overweight (let’s say less than 40% above the optimal weight for your own height for an idea) is not an insurmountable obstacle.
To learn the bends, it is necessary to gradually strengthen the muscle groups responsible for performing the exercise. This is most easily accomplished by performing the bends with only a portion of your body weight. The weight can be “taken off”, for example, by doing the bends not in a hanging position, but standing up, either on a low trapeze or standing on a chair. We then use our legs to help us perform several sets of technically correct movements (for example, 5 sets of 8 repetitions). Each time we try to help ourselves only as much as is strictly necessary to perform the specified number of movements correctly.
A variation can also be negative phase bends
Another slightly more difficult option is to perform only the so-called negative phase of the folds (top to bottom). This means that we jump up to the top position of the swings, or come up thanks to a chair or other riser, but try to stay in the top position for a while (1-3 seconds), and then very slowly lower ourselves down to the free hang position. If this method is too difficult, another method should be chosen. On the other hand, if one can do this several times in a row, one is almost at the finish line. The first real bends will not be long in coming!
There are of course a plethora of options and techniques, but the ones mentioned above (including resistance rubbers and help from colleagues) are a very direct and inexpensive route. For completeness, I can still mention the use of a pulley or assistance machine for the pull-ups, but that assumes a visit to the gym, which isn’t exactly necessary for practicing the deadlift on the trapeze. As with any other exercise, you just have to persevere and the result will come!
Movements to develop strong and healthy back muscles
The moment you master at least one honest backbend, this exercise should become an indispensable part of your training plan. If you are exercising without equipment, there is basically no better exercise for building a back that can take anything, doesn’t hurt, holds the body properly, even looks good.
Trapezeexercises, and more specifically, just backbends, are by their very nature suitable for basically any person without any major health issues (that would hinder execution). Children climb trees too, and bends are a perfectly natural movement for them, unlike lifting very heavy dumbbells. Also for women the exercise is quite as suitable as for men, but it must be admitted that it tends to be more difficult for women. All the better, however, will be the feeling of the first movement, earned by a long effort.
Another advantage is that the muscle fatigue from the crunches is regenerated by the body very efficiently, so it is quite difficult to do crunches “too much” or to do them “too often”. With a little appeal to common sense, it can be said that the more crunches you do, the better results you will reap. A complete beginner probably shouldn’t toil on the trapeze every day for several hours, but he can definitely do an hour of work every other day, which will lead to him soon being able to handle bigger and more frequent efforts.
Since it’s really the total amount of work done that has the biggest impact on the result (strengthening), how you spread out your movements is secondary. You can incorporate a few sets into your workout that you perform three times a week, or feel free to perform one set here and there each day. So choose an approach that you can stick with long-term.
The door trap – the best piece of equipment for training at home
If you’re deciding what fitness equipment to get for working out at home, there is no piece of fitness equipment that has a better price/performance ratio than a trapeze bar, in my opinion. When you consider the fact that the back is the part that is the worst to exercise without equipment, along with the previously described merits of the pullup, a simple door trapeze comes out as a great investment.
Door traps are usually relatively cheap (around 30 Euros), affordable, and easy to install. The only thing to watch out for is proper tightening so that the bar can’t come loose. It’s also not a good option if you have wooden door frames, but apart from these caveats, the door trap has no major drawback. Also, the mere presence of a trapeze bar many times inspires a person to make at least a few movements when moving from room to room.
How to find or replace a trapeze
If you don’t have a workout playground anywhere near where you live and you don’t go to the gym, you can look around for replacements. Any grippy fixed bar around two metres high can substitute for a trapeze bar. Thicker tree branches, metal clothes hangers, a wall with a grippable overhang and any other substitute will do when we don’t have access to a trapeze.
Those who are DIY by nature can, of course, easily make a trapeze themselves. Just buy a metal tube that can withstand repeated loads, and attach it however you like to a convenient height. If you can be choosy, I recommend a bar with a thick surface and a diameter of roughly 4cm to allow the lightest possible grip. The optimum height is then such that you grip it standing upright with your arms stretched upwards.