Towel Workouts: A Spartan's Secret Weapon

Towel Workouts: A Spartan's Secret Weapon
Presented by Spartan Training®

Towels come in handy for Spartan racers. We use them to dry off after a race. We use them to protect our car seats from all of the mud. We use them to train.

Wait, what was that?

Yes, you read that correctly. Towels are every Spartan racer’s secret weapon in grip strength training. They’re durable, practical, and very convenient. They can be used to simulate any rope-based obstacle. They will engage your intrinsic hand muscles to grip stronger, strengthening the wrists and forearms, and will even trigger the muscles within the shoulders and the core.

How To Train With Towels

So how should you use your towels?

  1. Pull-ups - throw a towel over any pull-up bar, monkey bar, or tree branch. Double it over, tie the bottom together, practice your rope climb hand-over-hand technique.
  2. Weights - loop a towel through any kettlebell, plate, milk jug, or dumbbell. Grip both ends and perform your strength training maneuver.

When you utilize towels for grip strength, your main focus should be on your grip. You will not be able to handle as many repetitions or as much weight, but you will feel your hands engaging in a new fashion. Make sure you are focusing on gripping with your entire hand, including your thumb. The tighter you squeeze, the more benefits you will get.

Try performing a towel pull-up with one towel in 2 hands and then try a pull up with one towel in each hand. Notice the difference? With towel strength training, the thickness of the towel will determine how much grip strength you will use and gain. If you do a pull-up with just one end of the towel in a hand, you do not need to grip quite as much as if you hold on to both ends of the towel.

While you’re predominantly working your grip strength with towel training, you will also notice a strong stabilization benefit. Towel training works similar to kettlebell training. It is a piece of functional equipment that relies on your core stability to control the motion. The towel is not a stable tool so things such as hand positioning, technique, and gravity will all cause different adaptations to the body. This is the best benefit for your body. This is functional training at its most pure form.

Need some new and fun ideas for towel training? Try adding a towel to your kettlebell swings, farmers carry, and lateral shoulder raises. Notice how your body now needs much more control on the eccentric (lengthening) phases. Slow down these motions and think about what your abs are doing. You’ll instantly feel your abdominals, shoulder stabilizers, and your back musculature work together. This creates a stronger neurological effect, developing the pathways from your brain to your back, giving your body stronger postural control.

We could talk for days on all of the ways that Spartans use towels in their training methods. But what about the days where you go on a run or you go to the gym and you don’t have a towel with you? You can simulate these same exercises with realistically any t-shirt or cloth. Take the shirt off your back, throw it over a branch or a bar, and try performing some pull-ups.

Use your resiliency, Spartan. Add towels to your workouts.