November 23, 2009

Favorite Low-Tech Fitness Equipment: What's Yours?

Photo: Archangeli

So I love gleaming, high-end, technologically-advanced workout equipment as much as anyone. (And excuse me, Precor people: somehow you missed my previous subtle hint about that cute little EFX 5.31!)

Yet to access fancy expensive equipment, there's a problem: I generally have to go the gym and share the machines with other people.

See, I think that any piece of equipment I want to use should be mine, and other people who got there first should just get the hell out of the way when they see me coming!

Oddly enough, no one at the gym seems to respect my feelings on this.

So over the past year or so, I've been trying to do a few more exercises at home. I use dumbells, strappy things, stretchy things, and my own bodyweight to try to replicate the exercises I'd otherwise do on the big-ass machines at the gym. Sometimes this works fine; other times, I find the low-tech version to be either more cumbersome or less fun than the high-tech version.

But every now and then, I've been thrilled to find a convenient and cheap or free alternative to my gym-dependent options. Wanna know what one of my new favorites is?

It's modeled after the Gravitron (the machine at the gym, not the fancy glass bong or the amusement park ride), and it allows me to do dips in my very own home.

Here's a Gravitron. They cost a lot of money:

And here's the Crabitron. I got it for free, at the dump.

OK, so it only works for dips, not pull-ups, and it works best if you don't need assistance to do dips.

But it's lightweight and collapsible and you can store it under a bed or a couch! And they're easy to find used, now that so many oldsters are trading up for fancier versions with all-terrain wheels, baskets, drink holders, and racing stripes. The old-fashioned kind are often available for cheap or free at garage sales, thrift stores, dumps, or in the back closets of your own aging relatives.

Stop following me, damnit, I'm not done with mine yet!
(Photo: greg westfall)

Anyway, so here's a Crabitron exercise demonstration:

Start Here (Figure 1)

Lower Yourself Down A Bit (Figure 2)

Then Haul Yourself Back Up Again (Figure 3)


Then just repeat a bunch of times until your arms hurt like hell and you can't lift yourself up anymore.

To make it easier, I'm guessing you could also tie a stretchy band thing across the top to take some of your weight off. (Or, if you're more adventurous, you could try suspending yourself by a bungee cord from the ceiling.) To make it more challenging, I imagine you could clutch a dumb-bell between your feet, or wear a weighted backpack, or sling a German Shepard over your shoulders. But I haven't tried any variations myself, and there's a good chance that messing around with this will cause the Crabitron to topple over and send you to the hospital with compound fractures and internal injuries. So don't sue me if you want to get fancy!

NOTE: probably best NOT to try this with the kind if walker that has wheels.

So I know that the Bag Lady has cattle to rustle, and Mary at A Merry Life has her stair workout, and Geosomin has leaves to rake, and many of the rest of you have great ideas for low-tech exercises too.

So what's your favorite low-tech exercise? Have you re-purposed any odd items as exercise equipment?


  1. I love the Crabitron.
    I have nothing else to contribute.

  2. I've re-purposed my couch by renaming it the Zenitron and laying on it all day. Strangely, I do not feel more Zen. Perhaps it's broken?

  3. Erin, thanks for the warning, I must hurry off and test out my Zenitron too and make sure it's still functioning!


    Yep, apparently it's still good.

  4. Ms. Tanji would like me to point out that slinging a German Shedder across your shoulder only works if you have another dog of equal patience to balance things out on the other side.

  5. "Have you re-purposed any odd items as exercise equipment?"

    Somewhere, I still have a Richard Simmons dance video.. does that count?

    The Crabitron is cool. :)

  6. I'll be looking for one of those to help me walk in no time at all!

  7. I've never seen exercising elicit such smiles. I'm sold. In fact, I'd even invest in the mass marketing of this particular work of genius via infomercials. Oh, but Billy Hayes is dead. Damn.

    In the meantime, there's still some mileage left in my favorite low-tech fitness equipment: A high strung dog who wants to go on power walksies.

  8. Wait, I meant Billy Mays, not the actor who played Witchie-poo, although that could work, too.

  9. It's gotta be my granddaughter. I always offer to carry her up hills & steps - well, actually, I always offer to carry her anywhere, but especially the hills. We are in San Francisco - no lack of opportunity. She thoughtfully helps out by leaning in all directions to add a little upper body workout. She also helps me with flexibility - bending over, reaching the stray toy, catching her when she suddenly goes astray.

    I get a happy feeling of accomplishment when I am the only one (besides the kid) to reach the top of the climb without breathing hard.

    The only trouble is, she is not available to anyone else, and I'm afraid that one of these days she will grow up enough that she won't want to be carried.

  10. My fav. is my son. Chasing after him, dancing with him or even just worrying about him all get my heart rate up!

  11. I think Cranky Fitness is my low-tech fitness equipment...I just got a great ab workout from laughing so hard.

    The Gravitron was my favorite, too (so sad to move and not afford gym membership anymore). I laughed so hard when I scrolled down to the walker and saw you renamed it the Crabitron.

    Carrying my groceries upstairs is a good workout...multiple trips with gallons of milk, frozen turkey, etc.

  12. Can I just say that my favourite part of the Crabitron is the silly grin on your face as whoever is taking the picture hits the button?

    Are you really that happy, or are you gritting your teeth in an attempt to make them take the picture faster?

  13. I love the Crabitron. But I do notice that the last picture looks suspiciously like the first one. Are you sure you didn't just use 2 pictures? I bet you're laying on the floor somewhere. I know I would be. ;)

  14. I haven't transformed any household equipment. But I do use my stairs for calf raises, step-up cardio, and one-legged quad presses.

    But my favorite, hard-core non-tech excerise is also the one I loath - the burpie - with a jump at the end. Cardio, chest, arms, quads, core, all in one excrutiating exercise.

  15. YOu have excellent, excellent form. Am so jealous. That is all.

  16. Small children are great for all kinds of exercises. You can bench press them, tote 'em on your back, let them sit on your shoulders while you do (usually only 1) push-ups, then there's the cardio burn from chasing them all over.

    Only drawback...they aren't very cheap and it's at least an 18 year investment. Plus they grow out of their usefulness as exercise equipment at some point, but then you can put them to work doing dishes and washing the car.

  17. Low tech flexibility exercises: bending and stretching all day to put the cat food down, pick it up, scoop up whichever cat is not supposed to eat this food and take it back to it's own bowl, put the full bowls high on the shelf to be out of reach, stretching again to get it out.

    Let's not forget the twisting and turning you have to do to sit on the floor and bottle feed several kittens, as each climbs on you and tries to get the one that is feeding off the bottle so it can have a turn.

  18. Man, you are awesome!!!!! You have got to have some tight arms being able to do that!!!! I am impressed!

    I do most of my stuff at the gym BUT I still have a stability ball, exercise bands, dumbbells & whatever else I can get my hands on at home just in case.

    A plain ole coffee table that is STABLE is great for doing squats just to barley touching & back up again until you can't stand it anymore!!!

    Still love my stairs for the butt/leg workout too!

    Thx for that great visual!

  19. I just started working out with a personal trainer and he has me using very little in the way of expensive equipment. My new favorite is the Bosu ball. I loved the one he had so I treated myself to an early Christmas present. There are so many ways you can strength train without the fancy stuff.

    BTW, I'm with you on sharing equipment. Whenever someone is on "my" machine I'm always a little put out.

  20. I'm with Cameville, I have never seen such glee. I guarantee that is a look that never crosses my face during workouts.

  21. I love these great ideas for low tech workouts! But it seems many of them involve giving birth, so I'm afraid that's out.

    And yeah, the grinning is only an artifact of the picture-taking; normally you'll find a scowl, because it's exercise!

    Also, the third picture is indeed a duplicate of the first picture, because I didn't think to have the "up" position snapped twice.

    Oh, and burpees, yes! I also have a love/hate relationship with them. So handy, yet so horrible!

  22. Wow Crabby,

    YOU are totally fit.

    I bought a pair of Gore-tex Trail Runners, lightly used (at the time) for $8 from my local consignment shop over a year ago. I run in them all the time, and they are still good enough for me. I don't run very fast, of course, so maybe a more fit person or somebody who did some serious mileage (I rarely do more than 20 mi. per week, and when the weather's nice I often bike instead of run) would have torn them to shreds, but I'm telling you, those things are durable! They still have pretty good treads on the bottom and provide some decent support.

  23. I pulled a treadmill out of someone's trash - the running deck was short and narrow but it worked ok. This year I've asked Santa for a shiny new one:)

    Enjoy your crabitron!

  24. Well, at least now I know what a dip is. I used to do those climbing trees, while waiting for whoever was above me to get out of the way. Shoulders don't like that now.

    Fave low-tech equipment? um, shoes? Do they count?
    And dogs. Great lifting equipment. But when you can easily lift your dog, you mustn't overfeed the dog to increase your weight. Get another dog.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  25. Love the Crabitron - and your smile!

    My lowest-tech piece of equipment is a jump rope, but I have to say I am diggin' the buckets o' rocks!

  26. The basement stairs and a two-year-old hanging from your back.

    That's enough.


  27. I do not have a kettlebell. I DO have a milk jug filled with sand, stone and water. It works just fine as a substitute.

    I can do milk jug swings and turkish get-ups and all kinds of fun things with my milk jug. And , instead of spending even more money when it feels too light, I just adjust the mixture of sand, stones and water to make it heavier.

  28. This cracked me up! Tonight I'll be watching a funny movie and will spend a lot of time doubled over with laughter...

  29. Favorite low-tech equipment is the 4 kids!!! Carry them everywhere while they eat all your good food you saved for you,and chase them through Disneyland the HAPPIEST place on earth. Although I did walk 9 miles today around the park. Thanks 4 kids for the great workout!!!

  30. Not wasting so much money for exercising.Lovely idea! I also agree with you.The advice you gave were really helpful. I will surely follow those.........

  31. stairs in my apartment...up, down..repeat

  32. Thanks for the crabitron info. It is a cheap and nice way of keeping yourself fit. But don't you think that this is a bit problematic tall guys.

  33. Oh. My. Goodness. I cannot wait to inform my grandmother that she owns the season's hottest fitness equipment: The Crabitron! I might swipe it while she's napping... but I promise to return it no worse for the wear.

    I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Best wishes.

  34. I have to tell my husband about that. maybe it'll keep him from turning my back porch into a 2.5 season home gym.

  35. Thanks for sharing information about crabitron .It’s a great way to keep yourself healthy.

  36. A couple of years ago the latest fad was a "treadmill desk" which was a small platform laid across the rails on a treadmill on which to put a laptop computer. You walked on the treadmill while working on the computer. I really wanted one but recently simply put a small table on top of my computer desk and I'm walking in place while I'm typing this. Have only done this for a couple of days so no stats yet. I was just sitting at the computer too many hours but now I'm forced to stand and or walk in place while typing so I no longer suffer from sciatica and legs going to sleep from lack of circulation.

    I do "push ups" against the wall or in a doorway and "dips" from a chair seat. I also walk up the 4 flights of stairs to my apt once in a while just to onvince myself I'm not really lazy.

    Mind you I still eat constantly and don't do the push up and dips as often as I should so I'm still fat.

  37. There is no equipment above I used for doing my exercise. I do not generally use equipment; I just choose aerobics as my exercise so that I don't need equipment to do it. For my healthy need, stretching is one of my favorite exercises that I usually do.


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