Suspension training has been popularised by TRX a brand name that has lead the way when it comes to suspension training. This is in part due to two reasons, firstly an effective marketing campaign underlined with the creators association the US Navy SEALS and more importantly its utility across several exercise regimes (you can do lots with it). What I’m going to discuss why this bit of kit is of useful, what’s its strengths are and some of its limitations.
Our Thoughts and Uses. We have now run a number of suspension training introduction classes at SFEAR and they have been well received by the vast majority of clients of all abilities. I think that is a good starting point to discuss why it is so popular. Suspension training offers whole range of movements in many plains of movement, it is easy to regress or progress the difficulty of any given exercise and never really allows you do isolation exercises. I personally believe that its strength is in training the core area even when this is not the primary movement in a suspension exercise. Some would use the term functional, but I prefer the older term of complex movement. Without a strong and able core, most sports people will not effectively be able to transmit the force or movement of their legs, arms or shoulder movements through their body. This does not have to be just about transmitting large loads, it is also about being able to rotate, flex and extend the torso to gain maximum effect, accuracy and not to mention that an active and balanced core also protects against back injury and enables us to have sound posture as we shuffle along our mortal coil. Resistance machines do have their place, but they generally work one muscle group at a time and they’ll generally have a back support; they are truly isolation exercise machines. Therefore, over dependence upon these types of machines can lead to muscle imbalance, which can be a precursor to injury, they do not really engage the core in more than a handful of basic movements and neglects those all-important deep supporting and stabilising muscles that you cannot see! So ‘functional’ or ‘complex’ movements are far more useful for us mere mortals.
For some of my clients at SFEAR I have found that suspension training is a great way to enable them to understand how they can increase their range of movement with exercises like squats and allow them to gain confidence, flexibility and strength and to develop great form with the stand-alone deep squat or pistols. For other clients it has been really useful with being able to develop control and strength from the core. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research concluded in a study on the effectiveness of TRX (read suspension training) with core activation and stated that it out performed all exercises and was equal to any other bodyweight exercise. What I take from that, is for core work it’s great, other areas of body weight exercises equal to. Another thing I like about suspension training is that it is great at helping people improve their posture. You can tweak movements and positions to help individuals really challenge there poor posture, without having to be overly complex. This applies to the solid gym rat or gorilla or sedentary individual. So it is a really versatile piece of kit!
So what about its limitations? Firstly it isn’t going to get you big legs. Defined yes, but big no. The fact that it is unstable also means that pure strength during say a press is curtailed as the shoulder girdle stabilises itself. However merge suspension presses with bench press, you will have great results and reduced the likely hood of injury due increased strength with those stabilising muscles.
The Take Away Thought. We use the basic suspension movements in our circuit classes for high volume (reps) exercises. We use it more prescriptively for clients to help them develop range-of-movement or improve posture. Therefore, suspension training is a tool that we use several different training ‘methods’ for in order to achieve an overall fitness or health objective. It is not stand alone and we use several different tools and methods to help clients achieve what they want. But if you really want to challenge your core, then suspension training should have a place in your programme.
If you want to learn more about suspension training or would like to join one of our suspension training clinics, you can contact us by email, our Facebook page or by phone.