How to Get Stronger With Suspension Training (Without Going to the Gym)

I have had the habit of exercising regularly for over 20 years and have gone through more phases than the moon over the decades.

The combination of elliptical and Nautilus training that was popular in the late 90s and early 2000s? Check. Training Camp? Kickboxing? Spin classes? Yeah. I’ve run a couple of marathons. When I got injured while running, I trained and completed the two mile swim in the Hudson. (There is no mutant disease yet!)

Then I discovered barbell training – deadlifts, squats, bench presses and overhead presses – combined with Iyengar yoga to keep my strong muscles flexible.

I loved lifting heavy things, but sticking to my routine got tricky when I started traveling regularly (in Before Times). It was not easy to find a gym with free-standing barbells, they were often located far from my accommodation and the places I wanted to visit, and day passes were expensive.

I needed an inexpensive, affordable workout that would allow me to stay strong enough to return to strength training when I returned to my home gym. Even after the pandemic ruined my travel plans, I still needed an alternative to the gym – first because of isolation and then because of my immunodeficiency status.

Discover Suspension Workout : Using suspension straps to increase resistance and instability to bodyweight exercises.

It’s been over a year since I started my WOFH (workout from home) regimen: three 20-minute lift-off workouts per week plus daily walks.

To my surprise, I am now 10 pounds lighter and slimmer. I am functionally strong, which I did not expect. What’s more, I am less likely to get injured during exercise and recover without the need for regular physical therapy sessions, as opposed to when I was lifting weights.

As with all exercise programs, individual results may vary. However, if the Delta option makes you wary of gym use, or you can’t afford or don’t have room for a well-stocked home gym, or you’re just looking for a quick and effective workout, you can work out just about anywhere, no matter your level. fitness, consider adding interruptions to your exercise regimen.

What to Look for in a Harness Training Kit

Using hanging straps or ropes as exercise equipment is nothing new: check out the adorable illustrations and instructions on pages 43-50 of the 1866 book Sports for Boys: A Storehouse of Fine Fun for Young People .

Nowadays, however, people are integrating suspension workout and TRX workout, the brand that popularized this system for the general fitness market. However, several companies manufacture suspension training kits at different prices. ( Mine , which I bought a couple of years ago and which seems to have been discontinued, costs about $ 30; Amazon currently shows a price range of $ 45 to $ 250).

Most kits weigh a pound or two (I have 1.2 pounds), assemble to fit easily into luggage, and can turn any room and many open spaces into a makeshift gym.

The basic system includes:

  • long adjustable strap
  • two handles that you attach to each end of the strap
  • multiple anchors for different settings, from hanging it over a door to a hinge around a branch, a rung, a railing, a lamppost … anything that actually holds your weight
  • drawstring storage bag
  • assembly instructions and a basic workout guide showing the different exercises you can do

As far as I can tell, the more expensive versions use more durable materials such as outdoor workout rubber grips instead of standard foam; have a sleeker or lighter design; and / or offer access to online training programs and apps. One feature my version lacks is the seam that holds the two ends of the center strap firmly, so you can only pull one handle at a time without the entire strap going through the D-ring. (Likewise, when jogging on thehamstring with the legs in the grips, the center strap will swing up and down.) This is a bit of a niggle that requires me to grab both arms when doing exercises with one arm. However, if I knew, I would buy one with this feature.

Another factor to consider when purchasing a suspension machine is, of course, how much weight the straps will hold. If you use it correctly, most shoes should hold your weight well; However, if you’re concerned, this affordable option claims to have been tested to maintain a body weight of 400 pounds. ( 350 pounds appears to be the maximum body weight limit for the various TRX versions.)

While most coaches have basic training guidelines, the keyword is “basic”. I have an online fitness trainer so she changes my workouts perfectly every six weeks or so.

However, a quick YouTube search reveals many suspension exercises that can be combined into a good workout. You can even buy something like this very affordable stack of cards, which offers you 52 separate exercises that you can mix and match. (In training, I do as many rounds of a superset of 5 exercises – a mixture of arm, leg, and body movements – as I can in 20 minutes.)

You can attach your harness trainer anywhere as long as it can support your weight.

I will anchor my suspension straps across the doorway to make sure the door opens away from you or by wrapping it around the pull-up bar of the door of glory. However, much more adventurous people than I have wrapped them around sturdy branches of trees, crossbeams in open parks, and even railings of bridges and lampposts. Here’s a good video on how to set up your hardware safely; remember to tighten the straps well before starting your workout to make sure your rig will hold up.

Suspension training increases the versatility and intensity of bodyweight training.

We have already discussed the value of bodyweight training . When done in good shape and at an intensity that challenges your muscles, exercises such as push-ups, squats, dips, bridges, lunges, planks, and burpees increase strength and endurance , can increase bone mass, and provide other benefits . Bodyweight training is strength training: no equipment required, easy to start at any time, and when done safely, it is great for all fitness levels.

Resistance training adds additional appeal to bodyweight exercises in three main areas. First, the straps will help you do upper-body exercises that would otherwise be awkward or impossible without equipment: deadlifts, chest flies (flies?), Triceps extensions, and biceps curls. (I’ve tried suggesting workarounds like grabbing onto a sturdy row table or using gallons of milk for curls, extensions, and the like, but I’ve always found these tricks uncomfortable. You can of course use dumbbells or other free weights, but that eliminates portability relief item.)

Second, you can change the resistance level by adjusting the length of the straps and / or your stance. Take the deadlift, for example: if you’re just starting out, you can do them from an almost upright standing position to add a little resistance to the deadlift. As you get stronger, you can gradually move your legs forward so that your stance is more horizontal and pulls more body weight.

I have scoliosis and other unstable biomechanics that often lead to excessive trauma, so I love how easy it is to change the exercise. By simply stepping forward or backward, or lengthening or shortening the strap a bit, you can get the adjustment you need to keep the exercise in my rotation. This is a more subtle decision than, say, moving to a lighter plate with a barbell or dumbbell, where you are usually limited to lifting or lowering at least 1.25 pounds per rep, and usually more.

Finally, you can use straps to create instability that requires more strength and balance (like Bosu balls or balance boards) to control. Climbers, hamstring curls, bridges, lunges, planks, and push-ups are more challenging when your legs or arms are off the ground.

Your body will tell you if it works

Suspension training research often focuses on the added elements of instability and balance, especially for older exercise machines . Studies in 2014 and 2015, for example, found that muscle activation in the trunk is increased if the core and “pushing” are performed. Non-standard and shoulder-blade push-ups and shoulder wires were performed using suspension trainers as opposed to the ground. (Activation is just a fancy way of saying your muscles are working harder.)

However, the question of how much more difficult is a matter of debate. A systematic review of 18 studies (not all) from 2018 found that muscle activation is higher when using suspension training for hamstring flexions, push-ups, and recumbency bridges. for upper body and core exercises, however, the data were all over the place and ultimately did not lead to a conclusion as to whether there was a difference.

To be honest, I’m less interested in what the research says than in the feedback my body gives me. I burn more severely and do fewer reps when doing side or front planks, bridges and push-ups with legs raised in the handles than when my legs are steady. There is enough evidence for me.

Moreover, as I get older, I understand that balance will become more and more important in preventing falls. Suspension training allows me to add a more complex component of balance to lunges and squats on one leg than if I were, say, holding onto a door frame or rail.

Suspension training can help you maintain strength, but it won’t increase it.

Over a year of suspension training has definitely increased my strength to a degree I didn’t expect. In fact, several studies show that bodyweight exercise is just as effective for building larger muscles (or hypertrophy ) as resistance training when you reach the full range of motion.

However, I would never have expected to go to the gym, grab a barbell and start deadlifts with ease. If your goal is to win a Powerlifting or Drag-a-KIA competition at the Strongman level, stable or bodyweight exercises won’t help you achieve that because, well, you’re working with your maximum body weight. Better to focus on deadlifts, squats, bench presses and KIA dragging.

How to Know if Suspension Workout is Right for You

For me, the best indicator of the effectiveness of a workout is whether you will do it or not. It depends on a lot of factors, your fitness goals, your schedule, and what you enjoy doing.

I used to love recording new deadlift PRs, but my desire to travel, and later the pandemic, changed my priorities. As life got weirder, I looked for short, effective workouts that I could do anywhere to keep my body and mind healthy. I needed strength to lug a 30-pound bag of cat litter up the stairs, cardiovascular fitness to get out of the house for daily walks in my hilly area, and to keep my balance from falling on my face as Mochi runs right under my feet. when I head to his platter with a can of Fancy Feast. (In short, I need to be strong and healthy to be a good feline mom.)

I cannot prove how much my fitness in the pandemic has to do with withdrawal from exercise rather than walking or any dietary changes. However, I am immensely impressed that the shortest strength training I have ever done has kept me in the healthiest shape of my life: light, lean, strong and, most importantly for me, not overwhelmed with injuries. Importantly, I am not bored yet after more than a year of using the same equipment thanks to the endless variety of exercises available with suspension workout.

No exercise is right for everyone, and suspension training could be just another step on my long list of short and long term training relationships. If you’re looking for an inexpensive, portable, affordable and effective way to build strength, balance, and endurance that you can do almost anywhere, try suspended training. I am immensely glad that I did it.

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