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Patio workouts for training at home

Mar 25, 2020 | Fitness

Patio workouts for training at home with your own suitcase gym

Like you, I’m doing my best to adjust to our new normal—at least what’s normal for the foreseeable future.  A future without a fully-equipped health club.  A fortunate few have home gyms, replete with cable machines, benches, free weights, and exercise balls.  I’m not one of those.  I don’t even have the space in my place to put that stuff.  Wouldn’t it be really cool if there were gyms like George Jetson’s car that folds down into a briefcase (if you’re under 50, Google it).

Because my career requires I travel 80% of the time, several years ago I assembled a mobile gym fits inside a carry-on suitcase, which means it also fits inside my closet.  In it is a TRX, some TheraBand, and an assortment of tubing that creates between 20 and 210 lbs. of resistance—depending on how I combine the tubes.  The tubing includes handles, Velcro ankle strap (which also works great on the wrist), and a door mount.  I’ve also got an IHP Predator and Traveler, which I sometimes take instead of the other tubing.  The Traveler is compact, and the Predator lets you use one, two, or all three tubes to adjust the tension…which is pretty cool.

With this suitcase gym, I’m prepared to get a workout at the most poorly-equipped hotels imaginable…or at home under COVID-19 house arrest.

Shopping for your own suitcase gym

I’m not exactly sure how much this whole rig has cost me—I’ve assembled it over time.  If I’m you, I’d like to know an estimate, so I did a little research and here’s what I found:

TRX for Home = ~$179.  For an extra 50 you get a small assortment of bands…not bad.

Resistance Tubing = ~$57

Ankle Strap = $6.99

Handles = $10.99

Door Anchor = $4.99

Predator = $70

Traveler, pink, red and green = $70

TheraBand came free from a physical therapist buddy who felt sorry for me.

Total = ~$400.


Three shopping tips

  1. Check for specialsJC Santana’s IHP Pro Shop often has a promo code you can use that will knock off a few bucks.  (JC is awesome.)
  2. When shopping for tubing, cheap means bad…as in having it snap at full extension and slapping you in between the eyes or in the back of the head.  Ask if tubing is extruded or dipped.  Makes a difference.  For extruded, think Play-Doh Fun Factory, where the rubber is squeezed out of a mold to form the tube.  Dipping is like candle-making:  each successive dip into the molten rubber adds another layer, which yields a stronger tube.  For what it’s worth, IHP’s tubes are dipped.
  3. TRX makes some great equipment.  The Professional and the totally macho Tactical models are very cool.  But the TRX Home model works just fine.  I’ve had mine for eight years and it’s still goin’ strong.  I would invest in a TRX X mount, unless you have a friends-and-family metal worker like I do, who handmade the one I have, shown below.  Make sure to mount it to something structural, like a deck joist or wall stud, because if you don’t, you’ll also need a friends and family drywaller and painter.


OK, I’ve got my stuff.  Where do I start?

I made a list and ended up with 34 exercises I do using the kit I described above.

Body Part, Focus Exercise Equipment
Chest Push-ups, 45° TRX
Chest Push-ups, 0° TRX
Chest Push-downs Tubing
Chest Presses, single or both arms Tubing
Back, Lats primarily Rows, arms at side (0°) TRX
Back, Lats primarily Rows, High-to-Low Tubing
Back, Lats Pull-ins Tubing
Back, Teres major, lats Straight arm pull-downs Tubing
Back, Erector spinae Back extensions Thera-Band
Back T3-T4, Rhomboids Scapular shrugs, front to back TRX
Delts, Posterior Rows, arms 90° TRX
Delts, Lateral and Posterior T-I-Y pulls TRX
Delts, Lateral Side laterals Tubing
Delts, Anterior Anterior delt presses Tubing
Delts, Anterior Thumbs-up front raises Tubing
Delts, Posterior Posterior delt flyes Tubing
Arms, Biceps Curls TRX
Arms, Biceps Curls, Standing, palms-up or thumbs-up grip Tubing
Arms, Biceps Curls, elbows on knees Tubing
Arms, Triceps Standing French press TRX or Tubing
Arms, Triceps Push-downs, any grip Tubing
Legs Squats Tubing, BW or TRX
Legs, Quads Sissy squats Tubing, BW, or TRX
Legs, Quads Lunges, Forward BW
Legs, Quads Lunges, Walking BW
Legs, Glutes-hams Lunges, Reverse BW on Stairs
Legs, Glutes-hams Step-ups BW on Stairs
Legs, Glutes-hams Single-leg RDL Tubing, or BW
Legs, Glutes Side walks Thera-Band
Legs, Glutes Clamshells, or Fire hydrants Thera-Band
Legs, Glutes Abductions Tubing, or TheraBand
Legs, Adductors Adductions Tubing, or TheraBand
Core, Abs Kneeling crunches (ala cable tucks) Tubing
Core, Abs Crunches BW
Core, Obliques Choppers, side Tubing, or TRX

Patio Workout 1

Here’s my Day 1 patio workout, which includes an explanation why I picked the exercises I did.  If Socrates had been a bodybuilder, he might say, “The unexamined workout isn’t worth doing,” so I included a list below this chart that explains why I like what I like, with what I think is some pretty solid reasoning behind it.

This is what bodybuilders call a split routine.  I tossed in a little push-pull logic.  Day 1 was 100% TRX, but as I experiment with the program I’ll mix it up.   I kept it brief on purpose:  I haven’t used TRX a lot lately due to availability of cable machines and dumbbells, and so I’m pretty sure I’ll be sore tomorrow.

Rules of application:

  • Do next set with muscles feel ready.  I’d estimate wait time between sets was roughly a minute.

  • Align muscle origins and insertions and concentrate on biomechanical angle of pull.  (Whether we know it or not, all muscles pull (aka contract)…it’s just that the net effect sometimes is pushing.)

Exercise Equipment Reps Sets Why I chose this
Push-ups, 45° TRX 15-20 5 The angle allows the pecs contracting at the angle that works them most efficiently.  Plus, it allows the scapulae to move as intended during a pushing motion.
Rows, arms at side (0°) TRX 8-12 5 Of all the TRX rows, I think this one isolates the lats best; the muscle fibers run mostly in line with the direction of pull.  Although it’s not the purest lat isolator, and the arms end up doing their share of the work, it works fine.
Push-ups, 0° TRX 8-12 5 The TRX push-up allows the scapulae to move freely, unlike a bench, which restricts their movement.  It also keeps pectoral origin and insertion lined up, to make for an efficient stressor of the pecs.
Rows, arms out (90°) TRX 12-15 5 I pair these with the 0° push-ups for a push-pull biplex.  The trick—if there is such a thing—is concentrating on the posterior shoulder muscles doing the work instead of the arms or traps.  I definitely felt these the next day and the day after that.
T-pulls TRX 8 4 I throw these in for good measure.  Some would call them junk volume.  Maybe, but my body was telling me I needed to finish off the posterior delts.
Sissy squats TRX 15-20 4 First, what exactly is a TRX Sissy Squat?  You know that bullet-dodging move Neo does on the rooftop in Matrix.  Yeah, kinda like that.  Finger-tip grip on the TRX handles, standing on the balls of the feet about 12” apart, bend back at the knees keeping quads tense and body completely straight from knees to shoulders.  The feel is like the most intense leg extension you’ve ever done, and the lower you go, and the lighter the “grip”, the more intense.  I mean, damn.  At 16 reps I was crying for mercy. This move and foot positioning keeps the tibia at nearly a 90° angle, which—if you know your levers—means the quads are doing virtually all the work.


That’s it.  I definitely felt it the next day in the spots I’d targeted, and just enough to be ready to do Workout 2 two days later.  Bonus was the isometric core work, compliments of the TRX.  Best part:  my patio workout got me moving and out of the house.

Check out the next in the series on patio workouts for training at home.