Most of the Element Training method requires no equipment. To take advantage of the full set of exercises, you'll need a set of dumbells; a chin-up bar is not necessary but it does enable some nice exercises. Garage sales & secondhand stores are good places to buy inexpensive workout equipment.
To learn the exercises and stretches of the Element Training program, click on the figure at left. Exercises that require equipment will be marked with a dumbell image on either side.
These are the most helpful piece of workout equipment you can own. Dumbells that are molded to one weight limit you to that weight; I do have an extra pair of 10 lb. dumbells, but my main set uses removable cast-iron plates attached with twist-clamp brackets. The cast iron plates are less bulky and can load a bar heavier than cement ones. Threaded brackets are not recommended, as they have a rigid grip and prevent the loading of plates in the middle for a two-handed grip. When you're using dumbells, always make sure the plates are securely attached.
Yoga Mat and Towel.
The yoga mat is essential to keep you clean and off the floor during reclining exercises. Inflatable mats are unstable and cloth mats are unstable and linty; I recommend a non-slip plastic mat, and I use a "Relaxus" brand mat with good results. A towel is handy for the Towel-Assisted Pec Stretch, for help with Forward Bends and Rotator Cuff Stretches, for cleaning up sweat, and for giving yourself a rubdown to bring blood to the area and carry away lactic acid.
My toy box contains a wheel with handles for the Dumbell Roll, two foam-padded grip exercisers, a homemade Dowel & Rope Tool, two straps to attach plates to my feet for the Chair Lift, and a set of heavy ankle weights for Leg Lifts and Standing Leg Raises. None of this stuff is really necessary, but it can add some fun and variety to your routine.
The Chin-Up Bar.
There are two ways to mount a chin-up bar: at the conventional height near the top of the door frame, or at a lower height closer to doorknob level. The lower spot is recommended as it enables more exercises. Getting the right height is a little tricky; for my 5'11" height the screws for the brackets are 40" off the ground and level with my hipbone. If you squat down and put your knuckles on the floor, the top of your head is a good indicator of where the bar should be.
Movements With the Bar Mounted Low
Lay on the floor with the bar above your shoulders. Now simply grab the bar with palms facing backward and pull your chest up to meet it, then release back down all the way. Since your feet stay on the floor, these are easier than regular chin-ups, and therefore helpful in training the more difficult reverse grip, in which the palms face forward. If you like you can curl into a ball and thus put all your weight into the exercise as you would with a high chin-up.
Leaning Tricep Extensions
Stand in front of the low bar and take hold of both sides. Step both feet back two steps, making yourself close to horizontal so you're pushing the bar forward with straight arms. Now let your elbows bend and slowly swing your head under the bar; then straighten your arms to push your weight right back again. Shift your feet forward to make this easier, though a little more awkward.
As well-rounded a chest & shoulder exercise as the name implies. First get into the push-up position, but with your feet elevated on the low bar. Slowly lower yourself and place your palms or fists beside your shoulders. Now push yourself in a cirle up/forward, up/back, then down/backward and down/forward. Touch your head or your chest to the floor, then do another one or reverse the circle and push up/backward, up/forward, down/forward, and down/back again.
Inverted Forearm Moves
Grip the bar with palms facing toward you, perhaps after a low chin-up or two, and swing your legs up so you're upside-down. The bar should be in front of your body for safety's sake. Just hanging there will give you all the benefits of inversion, including beneficial counterpressure for the spine, increased lymphatic circulation, and greater blood flow to the brain. You can also contract and release your grip to work the forearm muscles and strengthen your hands.
Vertical Bar Press-Ups
Stand with the bar in front of you, hold both sides with palms facing backward, and bend your knees to lift your feet off the ground. Lower yourself straight down and press yourself up again, exhaling upon exertion. Be sure that your shoulder and tricep muscles and ribcage are strong enough to handle some strain with this one.
Chinning Bar Perch
Stand with the bar behind you and take hold with your palms facing backward. Lift your feet off the ground and lift your hips to be directly above the chin-up bar. Balance here for as long as you like, taking the weight with your lats and lower pecs, and raising your straight legs forward if you can. If you start to lose your balance backwards, you better bring your feet behind the doorframe to block the fall in a hurry; be ready to do that at any time.
Movements With the Bar Mounted High
These are simple enough: grab the chin-up bar (with hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing toward you) and lift yourself up until your chin touches the bar. Lower yourself until your arms are fully straight and come back up again. A reverse grip with your palms facing forward is a helpful variation for chin-ups. You can also grip the bar with one hand and do a one-handed chin-up, assisting by holding the active forearm with the other hand. If you can't do any more full chin-ups and you want to keep going to get really sore and eventually really strong, try some negative reps: use your legs to get into the up position, then lift your feet to put your weight on your hands and lower slowly down.
Bow Stretch Sequence
Take hold of the bar, relax your legs and let yourself hang downward, keeping a little tension in the shoulders to protect the joints. Move your feet back so your body forms a bow shape, and take little steps forward to intensify the good ab stretch. Your body should approach a curve like this ). Alternatively, step one foot forward leaving the other behind, and focus the stretch on the back leg's hip flexors and that side of the stomach. Try rolling the stretch from hip flexor to inner thigh, to train a little split-style at well.
Standing Traps Stretch
Stand in front of the high bar, and grasp its right side with your left hand. Place your right hand on the wall beside the doorway. Now step your left foot forward, and use it along with your right arm to push your body back from your left shoulder. This should stretch out your upper back very well.