Most people only use a suspension trainer, like a TRX, occasionally in their workouts.
However, I’m here to share that you may actually want to consider doing an entire workout using a suspension trainer.
So, what are the main benefits of using a suspension trainer?
The benefits of using a suspension trainer include improving your core strength, stability, and muscular endurance. Additionally, a suspension strap is the most versatile piece of home gym equipment, allowing you to do over 50 exercises. It’s also easily adjustable for many different skill levels.
In this article, I’ll explain:
- 8 pros of using a suspension strap
- 3 cons of using a suspension strap
- And give you a sample suspension workout using Fitbod
What Is Suspension Training?
Suspension training is training that involves a system of ropes and cables that enables you to use your body weight against gravity to provide resistance.
Common suspension equipment you may see at your gym include rings and TRX accessories.
It can increase the difficulty of any exercise as it provides an unstable platform that requires much more core engagement and aims to improve your strength, cardio endurance, balance, coordination and power in one workout.
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8 Benefits of Suspension Training
The 8 benefits of using a suspension training are:
- Improves Core Strength
- Builds Functional Strength, Agility and Power
- You Can Do Over 50 Exercises
- Portable/Easy To Set Up
- Can Adapt To Different Fitness Levels
- It’s A Great Workout For Older Adults
- It Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
- It Can Contribute to Weight Loss/Body Composition
1. Improves Core Strength
Suspension training will work your core to a greater extent.
Due to the unstable nature of this type of training, you’ll be constantly engaging your core to maintain your balance and stability, in almost every exercise you’ll do.
You also won’t be able to take shortcuts with your core work because it’ll impact your ability to perform the exercise as well as leave your lower back unsupported.
The positive effects on core work using a suspension trainer were actually tested.
In this study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the twenty-one participants executed 2 repetitions of four different front plank exercises for 3-seconds each.
This included plank with both your arms and feet on the floor (conventional floor-based plank), plank with arms suspended, plank with feet suspended and plank with both arms and feet suspended.
The studies showed that there was greater abdominal muscle activation in the 3 suspended planks than the floor-based one, particularly with the plank with the arms suspended and the one with both arms and feet suspended.
So your core will be getting much more out of the workout than you would without the suspension, as illustrated in this study.
2. Builds Functional Strength, Agility and Power
Another great benefit of suspension training is that it focuses on functional strength.
As opposed to other types of strength training that you might do in the gym, the exercises you’ll do with a TRX or other suspension tool will have a greater carryover to movements that you will perform in your day-to-day life.
So you won’t just be moving up and down but also laterally side-to-side as well as twists. It’ll also involve pushing, pulling, and hinging motions which are all movements that will translate well to your everyday life.
Not to mention, other skills that you may pick up using suspension training may also transfer to other sports that you may play such as basketball.
According to this study in the Journal of Education and Training Studies, 20 volunteer basketball players were used as both the control and experimental group.
In the first 6 weeks, they followed their training as per usual, taking measurements before and after the 6 weeks.
Afterwards, they then participated in suspension training twice a week, alongside their normal basketball training for another 6 weeks.
Later, they performed their test measurements again which consisted of right and left hip flexibility test, sitting down flexibility test, standing long jump test, vertical jump test, back and leg strength, T-test and 20-meter sprint tests.
The study showed that suspension training had positive effects on these elite-level basketball players, especially with hip flexion, jump, strength and agility.
It’s not just basketball and sports players that will benefit from suspension training but older adults will as well.
Healthy older adults have taken part in a study to measure its effectiveness in developing functional strength using TRX equipment.
The eleven participants completed a 12-week program that progressively advanced the movements in the sessions.
In the end, 91% of the participants claimed that they were motivated to continue with the program, reporting improvements in their fitness, notably with their strength.
So, whether you’re an athlete or sports star, younger or older, suspension training can really aid in developing that functional strength and power that you use in everyday life.
3. You Can Do Over 50 Exercises
Suspension training may look like a pretty simplistic tool—a system of ropes or pulleys—but it is an incredibly flexible piece of equipment.
You can do a variety of exercises using only a suspension trainer, your body weight and gravity.
Here are some of the exercises you can do:
- Face pull
- Bicep curls
- Tricep dips
- Clock pulls
- Push up
- Atomic push up
- Chest press
- Single leg squat
- Jumping squats
- Jumping lunges
- Curtsy lunge
- Hamstring pull-in
- Wall sit
- Bulgarian split squat
- Side plank
- Side plank with hip dip
- Oblique crunches
- Hamstring runners
- Body saw
- Standing roll out
4. Portable/Easy To Set Up
Unlike a barbell, dumbbells or machines that are heavy and bulky to move from place to place, suspension trainer tools are light and portable.
You can take them with it wherever you go, making it a perfect fitness tool to use while traveling.
Not to mention, it doesn’t take up as much space as a squat rack would or be as hard to carry as a machine.
And because it’s so easy to set up as well, you can workout at home, at the gym or even at the park.
Some areas where you can set up your workout station are over a door at home, over a goal post, and even over a stable tree branch. You definitely won’t be limited by space or place.
5. Can Adapt To Different Fitness Levels
Whether you’re a beginner or advanced gym-goer, you can be sure to get a doable yet challenging workout session.
To make your exercises easier and to change them to your level, you can adjust the straps to make them shorter or longer.
Also, you can decrease the amount of resistance by changing your body position, or more specifically your angle, to do so.
This could mean taking a more vertically-positioned stance with your body when doing certain exercises, like ring rows, as opposed to situating your body horizontally which will increase the difficulty.
This way, there’s less resistance working against you. In the same way, you can adjust your position to make it challenging.
Suspension training is easily modifiable so that there’s something for everyone.
This was illustrated in this study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in which 30 participants (16 men and 14 women) performed 14 static back-rows using 2 different elbow positions and different lengths of the straps of the suspension trainer.
Ultimately, it illustrated how suspension training can be adapted to suit different fitness levels.
6. It’s A Great Workout For Older Adults
Suspension training has been shown to have positive effects with older adult populations.
In The International Journal of Sports Medicine, a study showed that older adults performing HIIT using a TRX suspension trainer improved their BMI, gait, speed, handgrip strength and quality of life.
This study also was performed with older adults following a 12-week HIIT training program on the suspension trainer to determine the effect on sleep quality and fatigue. The participants in the HIIT group took part in a suspended workout session twice weekly for 45 min each.
Ultimately, they reported less fatigue and better sleep.
7. It Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Suspension training gives you health benefits particularly in cardiovascular endurance, blood pressure, waist circumference and body fat.
This was tested in a study published in the International Journal of Research in Exercise Physiology, which was established to measure the cardiovascular and metabolic responses to TRX suspension training.
Sixteen healthy adult men and women participated, performing 60-minute TRX suspension training programs three times a week.
The results from the study indicated that as long as you are working out within the moderate-intensity range, then suspension training is an effective way to work on your health and fitness, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
8. It Can Contribute to Weight Loss/Body Composition
Suspension training aims to improve your endurance, strength, coordination and power.
By doing so, it can have an impact on your weight and contribute to weight loss and changes in your body composition.
The International Journal of Sports Science published a study in which the experimental group of 12 overweight women partook in three training sessions over the course of eight weeks.
From the first to last week, the duration of each session increased from 12 to 30 minutes and the intensity was raised from 50 to 80 HR (heart rate) max.
At the conclusion of the study, it was shown that these women’s body fat percentage and body fat mass decreased while their strength and VO2max improved, leading to changes in their body composition as opposed to just weight loss.
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2 Cons of Suspension Training
While there are many benefits to doing suspension training, there are also a few cons that should be taken into account depending on your fitness goals and needs.
1. You May Need Additional Lower Body Weight Training
Suspension training is really helpful in building strength, especially functional strength.
However, if you want to lift big weights at the gym, then you’re going to need to actually lift weights at the gym and not just rely solely on a suspension trainer.
While this doesn’t mean that you have to dismiss suspension training altogether, if you do want to build raw strength, then consider adding barbell training to your workout as well.
In particular, suspension training does provide a full-body workout but there definitely is a focus on the upper body and core strength.
While you can train your legs, there is only so much you can do for them using the suspension training and if you want to add extra size and muscle, then it could be time to consider specific leg workouts at the gym using weights.
2. Disrupts the Flow of the Workout
Suspension training versatility does come at a price.
While you can do such a wide variety of exercises across all your muscle groups with it, having only one suspension tool means that you have one or two exercises at a time without having to then adjust it to accommodate a different movement.
It means that doing a circuit that consists of more than 2 or 3 exercises that require the use of a suspension trainer will be unlikely as that would mean having to constantly stop and adjust the TRX or other apparatus each time unless the exercises require the tool to be set up in the same or similar way.
Sample TRX Workout, using FitBod
If a TRX workout is sounding really good to you, then take a look at the FitBod app.
FitBod is a fitness tool that will recommend personalized training to you based on the muscle group/s you want to work out and the equipment that you have, in this case, a TRX.
When you go onto the app, it already has an option to choose for a TRX workout.
Here’s a sample suspension training session that you can find on FitBod. This workout trains your upper body and core and is great for intermediate levels. Complete the prescribed workout following the black bullet point before moving onto the next.
- 4-round circuit. Do the prescribed number of reps for each exercise before moving onto the next. Then, repeat for 4 rounds.
- Bicep curl – 4×10
- 4-round superset, rest for 60-seconds in between each round.
About The Author
As a health and fitness writer, Emily combines her two passions—powerlifting and writing. With a creative writing degree under her belt, she spends her mornings lifting weights, her nights putting pen to paper, and eating too many snacks in between.