By Nick Nilsson
Author of Mad Scientist Muscle
The towel is your friend...
And to prove it to you, I've got 10 ways you can use your gym towel to get a great workout (not counting mopping up sweat, of course).
1. Towel Chin-Ups
Throw a towel over the chin-up bar and grip the ends. Now pull yourself up. Gripping and holding your entire bodyweight up on a loose towel is GREAT for the grip and will activate a lot of muscle fibers in your lats because of the instability.
2. Towel Calf Stretch
Lay on your back on the floor and loop your towel around the forefoot area of one of your shoes. Now pull HARD towards you, stretching the calf. This technique works extremely well because you can very easily adjust the tension of the stretch. Forget fancy stretch straps - just throw a towel over.
3. Abdominal Sit-Ups
This is a GREAT abdominal exercise...roll up a towel, lay down on the floor and slide it under your lower back.
Now do a sit-up.
The rolled-up towel braces your lower back so that instead of using hip flexors and putting stress on the lower back, all the tension of the exercise goes directly onto your ABS.
Be sure you're not pulling on your head - you can also make it easier by holding your arms across your chest or at your sides.
4. Towel Bodyweight Tricep Extensions
Throw a towel over a railing or something else a few feet off the ground. Now hold onto the ends. Set your feet back a few feet. (These pics show the exercise done on a bar).
Now, keeping your body stiff, bend at the elbows ONLY then extend back up.
The instability of the towel grip will set your triceps on fire!
Move your feet closer to make the exercise easier.
5. Towel "Fat" Bar/Handles
Thick bar and thick handle training is GREAT for the forearms and grip strength. You can accomplish this cheaply by simply wrapping a gym around the bar or the dumbbell handles and then gripping around THAT as well.
The padding and "squeezability" (I sound like a toilet paper commercial...cripes) of the towel around the bar activates a tremendous amount of muscle fibers in the forearms and hands.
6. Towel Pushdowns and/or Pulldowns
The easiest way to set this up is to attach a single handle to a high pulley then loop a towel through that. Grip on the ends of the towel and do a pushdown or pulldown (depending, of course, on what exercise you want to do)! It's just like using a rope attachment but without the solidness of a rope (or the knots on the end to brace your hands).
7. Towel Inverted Rows
This exercise gives you some excellent options for training your back in pretty much any situation you find yourself in. As long as you can loop a towel around a solid object, you can grab the ends and perform a rowing movement...two hands on the ends or even one hand gripping both ends to do one arm at a time rows.
8. Towel Cable Face Pulls
This is a great rear-delt exercise. Attach the single handle to a high pulley and loop the towel through. Use a light weight to start with. Grip the ends of the towel then take a couple of steps back so your arms are directly forward, out in front of you.
Now, pull the cable towards your face, bringing your hands out to the sides of your head, trying to pull the towel ends out to the sides as you do so. This one is excellent for the Rotator Cuff.
9. Towel Cradle Sit-Ups
Lay on the floor with the towel end held in your hand and with the towel itself across your upper back (like you would hold it if you were drying off your back with it).
Now perform a sit-up...instead of trying to pull yourself up using your abs, though, pull yourself up using the TOWEL. Come up and to the right by forcefully pulling on the RIGHT end of the towel, while bracing with your left. You'll be surprised at how strongly this hits the abs.
10. Neck Training
Using a towel is a great way to do isometric training for your neck. Basically, you just put the towel around your head (any direction - front, sides, back) and pull on the ends, resisting that pull with your neck muscles.
And that's just the beginning. Take these techniques and try and think of other ways you can take the common gym towel and come up with multiple uses for it.
I told you you'd never look at your gym towel the same way again.
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