Monday, May 07, 2018

Product review: Stack 52 strength (bodyweight), dumbbell, and suspension trainer workout cards

Currently, my main exercise has been taekwondo.  And on the side I also run.  As part of taekwondo training, we use a number of bodyweight exercises as part of warmup.  I've wanted to start doing workouts at home, but I was not terribly interested in joining a gym, as strength workouts for me were a secondary workout.  But I really did not have much variety and lacked a trainer (other than the workouts we do in taekwondo class).  The Stack 52 workout cards proved to be a great way to both try new exercises, see how they are done, and generate workouts so they don't get old.

The Stack 52 cards have a series of 52 exercises per deck.  Some of the exercises are familiar, but then there are variations on a theme.  The thing is (and the weightlifting types already know this) that small variations in form will change which muscles are the most challenged.  So the 52 exercises, if done correctly, will challenge different muscles so they are in fact different.  There are three levels of difficulty (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and the primary muscle groups are identified.  However, these are not isolation exercises, so you will not get diagrams that identify specific muscles.

The Strength cards work as promised.  I use them to create random sets for warmup workouts.  And they are fun.  My kids (3 and 7) like to use them with me (when I'm with my kids I only use the beginner and intermediate cards).

With the suspension trainer deck I was in a similar position of not knowing many exercises.  One thing that is different about the suspension trainers is that the exercises have different positions: facing the mount, facing away, on your back facing up, on your front facing down.  So it is not convenient to constantly switch.  When I use the deck I would pull up cards, then I would reorder them in groups so that I would only do minor changes in between exercises, and major position changes as few times as possible.  But I still see a lot of value as I learned how to use my suspension trainer in new ways.  Here especially, the videos that are linked on the cards via QR code were very useful.

The dumbbell cards were probably the least useful set.  I quickly learned that there really needed to be an indication of how much weight should be used, low, medium, high (where low medium and high could be defined by the number of reps you can do a specific exercise)

Great for quick workouts. The many cards add to the variety in my warmups and for conditioning. I find that I can do the basic and intermediate cards, but the advanced workouts stretch me, and having them mingled keeps things interesting. My 7 yr old son loves them to. When we have workouts together, we use the beginner cards, and he flips over 7 and he leads us in the exercise. My 3 yr old daughter also likes to join in. She looks at her cards and does her own thing while I do the workout for real. I also enjoy taking these on travel. I usually take the extension deck and use these for morning and evening workouts in my hotel room or in their exercise room.

I already had the Strength Stack 52 cards and got these to add more variety to my workouts with dumbbells and suspension trainers (I have not broken open the resistance band or kettlebells decks yet, because at this point those are supplements for me). Note: I primarily run and do martial arts, so these decks for for strength and conditioning, but these are not my main workouts.

PROS: variety and instruction. For me, whose primary workout is not strength training, I don't have good access to trainers who could give me a workout and instruction, so these cards are good for giving me ideas on what exercises to do and basic instruction on how to do them. I had a set of dumbbells before getting this deck, but I really did not do much with them or my suspension trainer. These decks made both of them interesting.

CONS:
1. Unlike the bodyweight exercises of the Strength decks, the dumbbell and suspension exercises can actually require setup between exercises. So while I would use the bodyweight exercises in whatever random order they came up in, with the dubmbell and suspension decks, after I flipped the cards, I would reorder the cards to be in a natural order to reduce the setup (body position, position in the suspension handles, weights on dumbbells).
2. the dumbbell exercises probably require a range of weights (i.e. a low, medium, and heavy set) as these exercises are not meant to be at the same weight (e.g. you would not do circles with extended arms at the same weight that you would do presses or other high weight exercises) Given that part of the appeal of these decks is for those who do not have a large repertoire of exercises, it would have been useful to classify the dumbbell exercises by the type of dumbbell needed (I use light, medium, and heavy as these are specific to the person, and you can help people define them appropriately)

Overall, for general fitness and conditioning, I recommend the bodyweight cards without reservation.  I think that the suspension strap cards also work out pretty well.  I don't think the dumbbell cards would be helpful if your goal is strength or building mass, but could be useful as part of a general conditioning routine if you have a few pairs of hex dumbbell's available to you.

My kids, also give the bodyweight cards an unqualified endorsement.


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