Suspension training is a relatively new concept. Developed in the ’90s by former Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick (who designed the well established TRX System of suspension training). Randy’s research into improving his own exercise routine involved him experimenting with equipment readily available to him in his military role, equipment that would be easy to carry, extremely versatile and simple to set up. The TRX system was born, and the rest, as they say, is history.
There have been many other suspension training systems set up since, some very good ones if the reviews are anything to go by, although TRX very much remains (by a large margin) the top dog of suspension trainers out there.
What does this type of training involve?
The suspension trainer itself typically consists of two adjustable bands, straps or webbing. These attach to a fixed point above your head and act as support during exercises or as a greater resistance. Suspension training itself is very similar to callisthenics and bodyweight training in that it utilises your body’s own weight and gravity as resistance for workouts.
The focus of suspension training exercises is on functional muscle building, core stability training and cardiovascular workout. The core, in particular, is constantly engaged in many of these exercises and as such is one of the major targets of suspension training.
6 Benefits of using this type of training
1) Total Body Workout
Suspension training provides a total body workout and targets muscular strength, endurance and cardio training. It can also challenge balance, coordination, flexibility, core and joint stability. Regardless of your goals (fat loss, improving flexibility, increased endurance, washboard abs or building strength) suspension training covers all bases.
It is very easy to progress/regress a work out owing to how easy it is to shorten/lengthen the straps. Shortening and lengthening the straps reduces/increases the resistance depending on your body position. Another great thing about the ease of adjusting the straps is rest time reduction between stations. It literally takes seconds, compared to say messing around with weights on a dumbbell. This means quick setups between exercise stations, which translates as less rest and so a tougher workout.
2) Core Training
The instability provided by the movements undertaken on a suspension trainer requires great core stability and constant core engagement. The abdominal muscles, lower back, pelvic floor and obliques must always work hard to leverage the body’s weight as resistance for movement and so are always activated.
Also, upper and lower body exercises utilising functional movements often require much core engagement to power the moves and train the body to overcome the instability. Taking all of the above into account, it is evident that suspension training is a heavy hitter in the core workout circuit. Try pendulum swings for 40 seconds if you doubt me.
3) Decreased Stress on Joints
Because of its suspended nature, suspension training is low impact. This means that the joints are not put under much stress. Therefore there is a decreased chance of any injuries or aggravating any old injuries.
4) Accessible to All
Suspension training is beneficial to all levels (regardless of fitness level, age, ability or history). The user has control of the resistance or load on the muscles during an exercise. It is simply a case of adjusting the straps accordingly to a level that challenges you but is not going to be far too difficult.
5) Bring your gym with you!!
Due to the lightweight design of suspension trainers, they are versatile and portable. This means they can easily be transported anywhere in a small bag. Additionally, they can be set up near enough anywhere (at home, office, gyms or outdoors) due to the various anchor point attachments that come with the various brands. Ideal for backpack runs to the park to undertake exercises on a tree branch.
6) It provides great variety and is a lot of fun
Resistance training can be monotonous, not so with suspension training. The set up is easy, the exercises although quite challenging and requiring hard work are quite novel and a lot of fun. For those who struggle to keep motivated with training, this can be a boon as interest levels are kept high. This will keep you engaged so you look forward to future sessions.
In short, suspension training is a great addition or indeed alternative to traditional forms of resistance training. It is unlike any other method of training and can be easily integrated into a regular exercise regime to spice it up whilst also providing a challenging workout.
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