A while back, as one of my Last-Minute Gift Ideas for Men I mentioned the Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar. I also mentioned that I ordered one for myself. After using it for five months, I thought I’d let you know my thoughts on what’s become one of the most wildly popular pieces of home exercise equipment.
Before you order an Iron Gym, make sure you have a doorway it will fit into: under about 32″ wide, with a molding above it that’s less than six inches wide and at least a half-inch thick. The top piece of the Iron Gym needs that molding above the door to “grab,” and the wide part of the bar sits across both sides of the door frame so that on your first pull-up you don’t fall on your head.
If you have an average size inside door, it should work. If your door is too wide, Iron Gym does offer extension pieces as a mail-order item. If you have no molding, you can’t use this and might consider installing a “permanent” pull-up bar instead. Options for non-standard doors include the GoFit Chin-Up Bar and the Perfect Pullup.
Getting It Together
As a veteran of IKEA furniture, I found the Iron Gym pretty easy to assemble. The tool for tightening the nuts is included, and the manual is relatively clear. It took about 3 minutes to fit the four pieces together, insert the bolts and tighten them down. It really is a simple piece of equipment. The only thing missing is the “free” hanging “ab straps,” which you’ll have to pay $8 for (they call it “shipping and handling” but $8 is pretty pricey shipping).
From there, popping it into the door is no work at all. A small clip is included to keep the device from falling out when you let it go, and when it’s firmly in place your bodyweight keeps it from coming loose.
The Iron Gym Workout
The box and manual hype four different exercises: pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups and dips. The most effective use of the Iron Gym by far is pull-ups. You can use three different grip positions, all with soft foam hand grips that didn’t seem to cause slippage, at least for me—but it’s best not to use it with sweaty hands. The only grip you can’t use is the extremely wide grip that you often see people using at the local fitness club—but that’s not a grip you should be using. Chalk one up to the Iron Gym for saving people from themselves.
Which brings us to the sit-up “function” of the Iron Gym: you move it to the bottom of the door and put the long bar on the opposite side of the door, stick your feet under it and have at it. The problem here is that it won’t stay precisely in place. You’re better off anchoring your feet under the sofa, buying the “free” ab straps to do reverse crunches, or not worrying about sit-ups at all in favor of concentrating on keeping your core tight during other exercises.
For dips it’s even worse: with almost no range of motion you probably won’t work your triceps enough to matter. I would suggest using the edge of a chair as a dip platform, with your feet either on the ground or on another chair about 3-4 feet away.
The Iron Gym makes a comeback for push-ups. The foam grips keep your hands and wrists more comfortable than just putting your hands against the floor, and also enables a little wider range of motion since you can dip your chest below your hands. I definitely enjoyed the Iron Gym push-ups more than regular push-ups on my hardwood floor.
Abs of Iron?
To sum up, the Iron Gym is a great way to do pull-ups without a permanent pull-up bar. I prefer it to the crappy afterthought pull-up devices at my gym! It helps with push-ups too. Beyond that, there are much better solutions for sit-ups and dips.
The Iron Gym comes in a basic version and an “Extreme Edition,” Which includes the wider grip you don’t need as well as the ab straps you had to send for with the basic box. Stick to the basic and save your money.
If you’re intending this device to be a home workout solution, it can’t do it alone, but you can combine it with other home bodyweight exercises for a complete workout. Alternate sets of five strict pull-ups and five burpees and I guarantee you’ll feel it all over in the morning. Better yet, get a pair of dumbbells and a decent pair of running shoes, and you won’t need no stinking gym.
Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar [Amazon.com]