An inversion table is a piece of equipment most people would not normally associate with exercising. The primary purpose of an inversion table is to stretch muscles in the back and core and provide some temporary relief from back pain. Users strap their feet onto the table and then rotate gently head down to some degree. This takes pressure off the spine and puts weight on muscles and ligaments in ways that doesn’t happen in normal day-to-day life. While this stretch and variation in weight distribution can relieve for a short time many causes of back pain, it is not a permanent solution.
However, inversion tables can also be used to supercharge your workout routine. With the right inversion table, you can use it to do exercises like sit-ups and crunches, squats, as well as a variety of stretches. The inverted position of your body means that a larger percentage of body weight resists each exercise than normal. A simple sit-up can be a major achievement on an inversion table. Using one can help exercises focus on your core and make each exercise much more effective.
As with any new exercise routine, the very first thing to do is check with your doctor. This is even more critical when deciding whether to use an inversion table. They put a much greater strain on certain parts of your body, as well as your cardiovascular system than regular workouts. Anyone with high blood pressure, back problems, and eye problems such as glaucoma should not use an inversion table as their use can exacerbate these issues. In addition to that, inversion table workouts are quite a bit more difficult that their standard equivalents. A certain minimum degree of fitness is required before considering these types of workouts to prevent injury.
Once you’ve gone through all these preliminaries, you’re ready to use your inversion table to work out. Start with some degree of partial inversion. Some tables have set degrees at which they can invert. Others can invert to whatever degree desired. Beginners should start with a shallow angle and a short session of inversion. Starting slow and working up to the more difficult aspects is the best way to keep yourself healthy.
The temptation might be to try a few crunches or squats just to see how hard they might, and if you’re already capable of doing them. However, as with any other workout, starting with stretching can prevent injury and soreness. Limiting your range of motion until you’re comfortable with the way you are strapped in and how your table works is a good idea. Simple side stretches inclining your torso from one side to the other, will loosen your back muscles and abs. Some gentle twists are also a good idea, reaching your hand across to the opposite corner of the table, and eventually turning onto one shoulder. The simplest stretch possible is to let your hands and arms dangle below your head, which will stretch your back as well as your arms. All of these stretches can also be done as assisted stretches, where a partner, for example, pulls gently down on your outstretched hands.
A workout on an inversion table should be done slowly and carefully. Many inversion tables use your body weight to turn and keep you upside down. Carefully shifting your weight until you get more comfortable with the limits of your equipment is a good idea.
Starting with the stretches above is a good idea. Doing some regular, non-inverted stretches can also be a good idea. Once you’re stretched and warmed up a bit, moving on to a few exercises is possible.
Possible inverted workouts include:
- Crunches. Place your hands on your chest or shoulders, and use your abdominals to pull your head up toward your feet. Simply getting your shoulders off the table is sufficient for this exercise. Start with just a few, but as your core gets stronger, you can move on to more difficult exercises.
- Sit Ups. Full sit-ups are similar to crunches but involve the added difficulty of getting touching your knees or toes, requiring a more dramatic bend. These should definitely be work out to. An inverted workout has been estimated to provide the same benefit as ten regular sit ups.
- Reverse Crunches. A variety of exercises can be done if you lay on the table face down. Reverse crunches, where you place your hands on your head or behind your back, and then use your back muscles to lift your shoulders off the table, are a basic example of these types of exercise.
- Inverted Squats. Like a regular squat, it involves bending from the hips and knees. An inversion table provides a much more intense exercise, however. Put your hands on the table’s legs to help your legs, to keep yourself stable, and also to keep the table stable.
- Weight Training. Many exercises with weights can be done on an inversion table. These have the potential of being dangerous, however, as the inversion requires a very good form to prevent any sort of injury. Doing these sorts of exercises can provide a workout that is impossible to achieve any other way. However, familiarity with the exercise without inversion is a good idea.
Obviously, an inversion table is required. There are many varieties of inversion table available. A less expensive choice might be around $60 or $70. However, these usually are meant for inversion therapy, which involves simply hanging at a variety of angles. For workout routines on an inversion table, a stronger, more stable inversion table is required. A table that locks in place, and has a comfortable way for strapping your feet in, is probably necessary. Many tables use your own bodyweight to invert you and keep you inverted. The shifting of weight that occurs during most exercises will have you flipping up and then back down in a way that is probably both uncomfortable and counter-productive. An uncomfortable way of securing your feet can also lead to a variety of injuries, from strained muscles to abrasions on your feet.
One of the appealing aspects of inversion table exercises is that they can be extremely effective with a minimum of other equipment. Weights can be used if you want and have worked up to that point, but really the inversion table can provide a great workout all on its own.
Why You Might Use An Inversion Table
Using an inversion table provides an unparalleled core workout. As mentioned above, the difficulty of a simple pushup is multiplied by an order of magnitude when done fully inverted. Partially inverted sit-ups can also be great exercises.
Because of the use of body weight, and the arrangement of the table, the core becomes the focus of most exercises. Even when doing an inverted squat, or using weights to work your arms, the core is heavily activated in keep you inverted, and stable.
An inversion table is a simple piece of equipment, but it can take an already strong workout and make it even more effective. While perhaps it is not the first piece of equipment a beginner should invest in, it can give someone already in good shape a challenging way to vary his or her workout routine.