Suspension Training is a form of training which allows the user to operate a system of ropes/straps to perform load of dynamic, functional and multi-plane exercises using only your body weight as resistance.
Don’t be fooled thinking it will be easy as the demands on your stabiliser muscles as well as gravitational forces are so high you will get a very challenging workout!
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Suspension training using ropes has been around as early as the 1800s but more recently gained popularity by Randy Hetrick, a former Navy Seal graduate who developed a system called TRX (Total Resistance eXercise), which is user friendly and can be anchored in your own home, outdoors or in the gym environment.
It was designed to keep military personnel fit, strong and stable whilst on tour so essentially is robust, compact and easily portable making it one of the best forms of total body training that you can do literally anywhere.
As I said you can literally have a total body workout whereever you like. It weighs almost nothing and comes complete with a door anchor and options to hang on an immovable object such as a tree, playground, lamppost.
Best of all you can take it on your morning jog and keep a lookout for your perfect anchoring solution. One of my favourite things to do is to take it on beach holidays as you can enjoy a challenging workout in the sun without worrying if your hotel has a decent gym or not!
Rehab/Prehab to Elite Performance
It really is for all levels of fitness, even those nursing injuries. When I purchased my first Suspension Training System, I was also recovering from ACL repair surgery from a contact rugby collision. The TRX System I used had plenty of options in the manual for knee rehabilitation.
For example, a pre-requisite exercise in which you are simply holding the handles for support in a bilateral squat position helps you gain crucial mobility and strength. You can then build up the movement by suspending one foot and performing a “suspended lunge” from a more unilateral standpoint; which simultaneously requires strength, balance, flexibility and joint stability.
You can even ascend the exercises further by adding plyometric components.
Every time I’ve nailed all the movements I see an Instagram or YouTube clip with someone doing something new, exciting and next level; for me to try out.
I have incorporated Suspension training for back, shoulder and lower limb rehab and function, to develop incredible core strength, flexibility, mobility and more. As much as it works well with the rehabilitation/acute phase I currently use it for active recovery and high performance sessions. Many elite athletes/teams in sports such as football, UFC, tennis, golf etc are utilising suspension training into their programming for this very reason.
Personal Training/ Mobile PT/ Group Training – Ideal!
Suspension Training is literally a personal trainers dream. It’s compact and fits nicely in your kit bag if you’re a mobile PT. The variables in training it offers are really off the chart for this tiny piece of kit.
You can start the training session warming up with simple dynamic flexibility and mobility movements, already the participant feels like they’re activating muscles in places they never knew existed.
You can plan any type of session adding components of compound lower body, anterior chain, posterior chain, explosive and heart rate conditioning all in the mix.
You’re going to improve all the right areas to prevent injury, gain performance as well as strengthening muscles and shredding that body fat.
Targeting your problem areas
OK there’s the common argument about whether you can spot reduce or not. Well who cares really as with suspension training you can target specific muscle groups such as the triceps but effectively work your core musculature at the same time. Basically the key isolated areas that you’re hitting with the exercise will mean you’re still effectively recruiting motor units to other areas of your body giving you more bang for your buck.
Still not convinced that Suspension Training is for you? Well why not fuse it with other methods of training? You can mix it into a boxing session, HIIT circuits, kettlebells and even use it with forms of Pilates and Yoga. I love super-setting mixing free weights with suspension training. Why not after your set of bench press do a set of Atomic Push ups?!
We develop bad posture such as the poke neck/ rounded shoulders/ anterior pelvic tilt and patho-mechanics by how long our day is spent seated. Most gyms are packed with machines that you sit on and isolate a muscle whilst the rest of your body remains inactive. Suspension training has every muscle firing making your entire body do all the work against its own resistance and gravity, making it a great way to improve your tonic (postural) muscles.
Remember purchasing some gimmicky infomercial product and then it sits in the lounge room becoming a cats playpen? We all do! I see this all the time and as a professional I struggle to see how the abflex pro, Twist and Tone or Abdominiser gets you as shredded as the ripped fitness models on the telly… Even worse, how bulky is a home gym that takes up a whole spare room and then breaks down every month?
Best thing to solve your home gym issue is to get a Suspension Trainer with door anchor, Dvd and manual. There will be loads of exercises in the manual to start you off and if you need extra inspiration or you’re worried about your form you should start by joining a class such as ‘Hanging Tough’ or ‘TRX Body Blast’ there’s lots of gyms that promote such classes.
Test Yourself with the 40/40 challenge
The 40/40 challenge is where you target a completion of 40 atomic push ups – rest up for 1 minute – then set your feet directly under the anchor point whilst holding the handles and attempt to complete 40 low rows.
Ensure your form is perfect for each rep.
Mark your scores down and by then end to the month see if you can reach 40 of each… Good luck!
The Six Sins of suspension training (easy way to remember your form guidelines).
1. Starting in incorrect position or setting.
Each exercise will have a length preference such as: fully lengthened, fully shortened and mid length. If you don’t have that information find the end range of the exercise and adjust accordingly… You may also need to adjust your body position and/or foot stance.
If for example you’re doing a set of 15 reps on the low row but you’ve bitten more than you can chew, instead of stopping the exercise you can adjust your body angle to lessen the load and keep going.
When performing movements such as the Hamstring Runner you will notice it’s hard to perform the exercise without working it like a pulley. Ensure you have even pressure on both heels in the foot cradle and you’ll also get a more balanced workout.
So you’ve gone for a suspended push-up only to realize there’s an uncomfortable scraping on your skin. The straps should never rub against your skin. To avoid this simply move your hands away from you prior to performing the exercise.
5. Don’t be a slacker
Keep the tension of the ropes/straps tight all the way through the movement. Remember if the suspension device is slacking then so are you!
Alignment is important in order to avoid compromising your lower back. If for example you’re holding a plank position but your hips are sagging simply raise your hips back up and maintain alignment. If that seems impossible to sustain I would keep the duration of plank positions down and build it up over time.
So get out and learn the ropes! Keep in suspense and train without the hassle of waiting in line for machines, do it anywhere and save on hefty monthly gym dues.
It’s fun, liberating and most of all your posture and muscle tone will be amazing!
Connect with Expert Luke Marshall