I’m going to bet that you probably haven’t used gravity boots before.
Most guys have never even heard of them, much less actually seen them.
Well, let me be the one to break it to you here…
If you haven’t tried gravity boots before, you’re missing out on one of the most effective ab exercises.
Gravity boots offer an innovative abdominal workout that you’d be hard-pressed to replicate elsewhere, and provide an excellent range of motion compared to other ab exercises.
What’s more, they look pretty cool, and as soon as you pull them out of your gym bag, I guarantee that every other guy is going to want to try them.
In this article, I’m going to be covering everything you need to know about gravity boots – such as why they’re so effective, how to use them properly, and which brands I would recommend buying.
What Are Gravity Boots?
Gravity boots are a piece of workout apparatus that allow you to hang upside down from a pull-up bar.
For this reason, they are also commonly known as inversion boots, since they put your body in a fully inverted position.
Here’s a picture of a pair of gravity boots, so that you can get a better idea of what they look like:
As you can see, they almost look like padded leg shackles that you strap around your ankles.
You’ll also notice a hook on each boot, which is what you use to fasten yourself onto a pull-up bar, before hanging upside down.
Why Don’t I See Gravity Boots Around Very Much?
Gravity boots aren’t exactly a new invention.
In fact, they first become popular in the late 1970s, and were then brought to the public’s attention in movies like American Gigolo and Rocky.
But, like many fitness products, the fad eventually died, and soon enough people were on to the next big thing.
And this is a real shame, since gravity boots aren’t just some useless fitness gadget.
Nope, they’re not another incarnation of the ab rocker, or ab belt; on the contrary, gravity boots are more effective than most traditional gym ab exercises.
However, in addition to all of that, there is another good reason why you don’t often see gravity boots at the gym…
They are pretty elaborate, and can be quite intimidating if you haven’t used them before.
I mean, you have to get over the whole hanging upside down thing, which isn’t something that most of us have done since we were kids.
How Effective Are Gravity Boots?
Let me be clear here.
You will be hard-pressed to find too many better ab workouts than what you can achieve with gravity boots.
I first started using them over a decade ago, and swore by them for many years.
Then, for one reason or another (probably laziness) I stopped using them for awhile, focusing more on many of the traditional ab exercises instead.
This was fine, but upon rediscovering them again a few months ago I can see what I was missing!
First of all, they provide a much bigger range of motion than most other conventional ab exercises, which I find targets the full rectus abdominus muscle very effectively.
And since you’re upside down, you can’t really cheat and use other parts of your body to assist with the exercise.
Moreover, it is an exercise that is perfectly suited to progression, since you can easily add additional weight by holding a dumbbell once unweighted reps become too easy.
This means that there is no real limit to how far you can progress with gravity boot crunches, which makes them stand in a class of their own amongst most conventional ab exercises like regular crunches or sit-ups.
Now, in addition to offering a phenomenal ab workout, gravity boots also allow you to really stretch your body out and decompress after a long workout, or many hours sitting behind a computer screen.
Throughout the majority of the day, many of us are working and moving in positions that compress our spines, and gravity boots can help to alleviate some of this compression that we regularly put our bodies through.
This is also known as inversion therapy, and can sometimes be prescribed by physiotherapists to help with back pain and other ailments.
So, at the end of a workout, I may just hang there for a few minutes, relaxing and giving my body a good, long stretch.
Yes, you’ll get looks when you do this – but trust me, they’re just jealous that they don’t have cool gravity boots like you.
How To Use Gravity Boots Properly
As I mentioned above, gravity boots can be a bit intimidating at first – but once you get used to them I promise that it’ll all start to feel very second nature.
Here is how I recommend using them:
Step 1: Find a suitable pull-up bar
To use your gravity boots, first make sure that you have access to a pull-up bar that is high enough to allow you to hang from your ankles without hitting your head on the floor.
This is very important, so make sure of this before you start!
If you don’t have access to a regular, straight pull-up bar, you can also use the parallel pull-ups bars that they have in some gyms.
Step 2: Strap on the boots
Now this may differ slightly, depending on the brand of gravity boots that you’re using, but most designs have a 2 buckle system to keep them tight around your ankles.
You’ll want to make sure that the boots are pretty tight – not cutting-off-circulation tight, but definitely on the snug end.
Also, pay particular attention to where the hook part is after you’ve strapped them on.
You’ll want the hooks to be facing directly forward if you’re using a conventional pull-up bar.
Step 3: Hook onto the bar
Once you’ve gotten the gravity boots strapped on tight, approach the pull-up bar, and hold onto the sides as if you were going to do hanging leg raises.
Then, just as with hanging leg raises, you should lift your legs up, so that they are in line with the pull-up bar.
At this point, the easiest thing to do is to deliberately hook each boot onto the bar, one at a time. I find that many times people try to hook them both on too quickly, making the whole thing a lot harder than it needs to be.
You should now be firmly attached to the bar with both boot hooks, while holding on with your hands at either side.
The only thing left is to let go…
Step 4: Do your inverted sit-ups
If you took the plunge, you should find yourself hanging upside down, supported comfortably by your ankles.
At first this may be kind of jarring, so take a few seconds to get your bearings before you begin.
Once you’re ready, stabilize your lower body by tensing your legs, and then focus on using your abs to crunch upwards towards your ankles.
You can either hold your arms out in front of you, trying to touch your toes for each rep, or keep your arms folded across your chest if you find that more comfortable.
Either way, you should be trying to go for as full a range of motion as possible, going down to a dead hang between each rep.
You may also find it useful to stabilize yourself by touching the floor at the bottom of each rep, since it is normal to swing until you learn how to stabilize your lower body properly.
Note: Once you can do a good number of reps easily with just your body weight, I would suggest holding onto a dumbbell to make it more challenging.
Step 5: Carefully dismount
Once you’re done with your set, you may want to just hang for a moment to get your bearings.
Then, when you’re ready, do one more crunch up and grab onto the pull-up bar handles with both hands.
Now this can be tricky, especially when you’re tired from doing your set, so if you have trouble doing this then I’d suggest using my little trick…
Instead of trying to forcefully crunch yourself up and grab the bar, use your hands to literally climb up your legs, so that you can reach the bar that way.
This makes the whole thing far easier, and ensures that you won’t be left dangling there if you don’t have the strength to hurl yourself back up.
After that, simply unhook each of the boots from the bar, one by one, and then lower your legs back down to the ground.
Here is a video of me doing a set of inverted sit-ups with gravity boots, so you can see how it all comes together:
In this video, I’m using a 40 lb dumbbell to make the exercise more challenging, but if you’re new to using gravity boots I’d suggest starting out with just your body weight and building up from there.
Are Gravity Boots Safe?
In all of the years that I have used gravity boots, I have never been injured. Not once.
Obviously the possibility of hurting yourself is always there, but that is only likely to happen if you don’t use the boots properly.
This includes making sure that the buckles are sufficiently tight and that the boots are properly hooked onto the bar before using them.
The build quality of the gravity boots themselves is very solid, so you are unlikely to have problems on that end either.
Now, another concern when using gravity boots is the possibility of getting stuck hanging upside down.
This is a valid fear, so you should make sure not to use these alone, at least initially, until you are very comfortable dismounting without any assistance.
Finally, there is also some evidence that longer periods of inversion aren’t good for people with certain health conditions – such as high blood pressure or glaucoma – so if you suffer from either of these I’d advise holding off on the gravity boots, or checking with your doctor before you use them.
Which Brand Of Gravity Boots Do You Recommend?
I’ll be honest here and tell you that I have only actually ever tried one brand of gravity boots, the Teeters Hang Ups Gravity Boots.
I purchased my first pair back in 2005, which I ended up giving to a friend when I moved to NYC.
I then bought another pair about a year later, which I used consistently for 3-4 years before getting sidetracked and abandoning the exercise altogether, until I started up again with them recently.
In all of this time, I’ve never had ANY issues with the Teeter boots.
No obvious wear and tear, the foam padding hasn’t degraded at all – and, most importantly, the buckles and latches show no signs of breaking.
For this reason, I wholeheartedly recommend the Teeter Hang Ups Gravity Boots, which you can order here from Amazon for $99.
Alternatively, I have also heard very good things about the Body Solid Gravity Boots.
They have the same basic design, but are quite a bit cheaper, coming in at only $56 if you order from Amazon.
There may be some other quality brands out there, but I would recommend going with either of these two options.
The Bottom Line On Gravity Boots
If you are someone who appreciates a good ab workout, I can’t recommend gravity boots enough.
Once you get the hang of them (pun intended), you’ll find that they provide a better ab workout than most other exercises that you’ve tried.
I have shown them to many people over the years, and I have yet to come across anyone who didn’t enjoy using them (after they got over the initial fear of hanging upside down).
So give them a try and let me know what you think!