Is Suspension Training Effective?
What is suspension training?
If you’re tired of the same old machines, barbells and dumbbells, there are different ways to challenge your body to burn fat and build muscle.
Remember, the best kind of exercise and diet program is the one that you are most likely to stick to.
Sustainability is key to long-term lifestyle changes. You don’t want to get ripped for the summer and then go back to having a one-pack in the winter, do you?
Why not stay shredded all year round if you can? Or even if your goal isn’t to get lean, who doesn’t want to be healthy and live longer?
For some, lifting weights is the only way to go and that’s fine because in some ways, lifting weights is superior for muscle building. However, that’s not the only way to build muscle.
In fact, there are other approaches that could be used as an all-around fat-burning and muscle-building protocol. This is where suspension training comes in.
Suspension training takes body weight exercises to a whole new level and shows that more equipment isn’t necessarily better. Originally developed by a former Navy SEAL, suspension training is a form of resistance exercise that purports to develop strength, balance, flexibility, and joint stability simultaneously.
How do they get so much workout for so little equipment?
Suspension training does this by using a variety of multi-planar, compound movements, while having you
“suspended” by a band that hangs from above. Instead of needing an entire gym, the suspension training bands are small and mobile.
Need to workout on a vacation? You can just pop the bands into your suitcase and go. The low technology, high intensity nature of suspension training makes it a favorite of some fitness enthusiasts.
Right now, suspension training is gaining in popularity. With fitness fanatics getting bored with the same old strength training and stability ball exercises, suspension training offers a workout that is both new and invigorating.
Suspension training workout groups are popping up all over the country, and are quickly growing in size. Chances are, if you walk into any gym in America, you’ll see a pair of yellow colored bands hanging down from above.
The term suspension training refers to a different approach to strength training that makes use of a system of bands or ropes and webbing called a suspension trainer. This allows the user to work with his/her own body weight.
Suspension Training is also a form of functional training, which is a classification of training that involves performing activities similar to those performed in daily life. By practicing these activities, we can better perform our daily activities more easily and without injuries. With suspension training, you utilize your body weight for resistance. This makes it convenient for those who travel often and want to keep fit on the go, as well as those who have limited space in their homes. If you cannot devote a large space to your gym equipment, Suspension Training requires little to no setup and can be dismantled before and after use with ease.
As briefly mentioned above, suspension training is efficient because it engages several muscle groups at the same time. Think whole body movements for maximum calorie burn. Whole body movements are guaranteed to get your heart rate going, which will help with fat-burning and cardiovascular health. It may be difficult for some people to attain the same heart rate when doing a split-type workout routine because when you are only working one muscle group, your body isn’t working as intensely. So while that may be conducive to your muscle-building goals, it may not be as good for your fat-burning goals, unlike with Suspension Training.
Is Suspension Training Effective – Suspension Training Exercises
The exercises for suspension training are not necessarily all that new, it’s just the way you do them. For instance, check out the following exercises. The lunge and press are both staples of the modern gym, but with suspension training, you are adding another level of difficulty.
- Lower Body Suspension Training Exercise
Let’s say you want to work out your lower body. Suspension training offers a lot of options, but let’s stick with a reverse single-leg lunge. While holding onto the bands at a 45-degree angle, keep your right foot solidly on the ground as you extend your left leg back, bending your right thigh parallel to the ground. Keep your left foot from touching the ground if you want to increase the difficulty. This lunge will work out your hamstrings, quads and supporting muscles in your legs. It will also work out your core, as you are required to use your core muscles to maintain stability.
- Upper-Body Suspension Training Exercise
How about the upper-body? Try the suspended chest press. Place your hands in the straps and lower your body to a 45-degree angle. Then, just like you’re doing a pushup lower your body down and then back up. In this exercise, you will work out your chest, and once again, your core will be worked out. You can also lower the straps down enough, stick your feet in them and do elevated push-ups. The amount of core strength and stability to execute this exercise will make you think regular push-ups are for wimps.
- Single Leg Squat
The Single Leg Squat is a great way to add resistance to your legs without increasing the overall load with weights. Those who have difficulty performing back squats because of a weak back would benefit from this exercises. The front squat, which also works out the legs, activates more core muscles and upper back muscles, but many find that they have to increase the weight in order for it to be more effective. This is troublesome for those with pre-existing disabilities or previous injuries, especially back injuries because you have to support the bar on your back during a squat. With a Single Leg Squat, you have the benefits for muscle-building in the legs without the heavy weights and barbells, and it becomes a great full body workout.
Place your elbows parallel to your shoulders, and with tension on the bands, center your right leg on the anchor point. Mark this spot on the floor as a guide if you have trouble sticking to the same spot. Place the opposite heel on the ground to assist your right leg which is the working leg. Lower your hips down and backwards, allowing the knee of your left leg, which is the assisting leg, to bend. The majority of the weight should be in your working leg, but still some weight to transfer to the assisting leg for balance, or as needed. Drive through your heels and stand tall. Repeat the movement with your left leg.
Common errors include: a rounded back, over arched back, knees going past the toes, knees buckling inward/outward and not pushing with the heels.
- Bulgarian Split Squats
Bulgarian Split Squats are very similar to lunges, except your back foot is elevated. This helps with overall symmetry, and helps make sure that you are working both sides independently and equally. Sometimes bodybuilders work hard only to find that once they are shredded and have peeled all the body fat off, that they have several muscle imbalances that impact their physiques.
Bulgarian Split Squats are like lunges, except the back leg is elevated and placed inside the handle of the training band, while the front leg is in a forward lunge position. Have a wide enough stride that will allow you to go reasonably low, but not too wide that your hip flexors start to hurt. Experiment with different stances because everybody is different, and you want to figure out which is best for you and your body type. Those with longer legs can afford a wider stride, while those with shorter legs may not have to go as low to feel the burn and the stretch in the legs.
- The Frog/Pike
This is arguably one of the most popular core exercises in Suspension Training because it works out the whole core, including the lower back, among other muscle groups. This movement is almost impossible to mess up, so long as you don’t over arch your back and you keep a tight core throughout the movement for better muscle engagement.
Start by assuming plank position. Place your feet in the handles or the foot cradles with your knees on the floor and your hands outstretched in front of your shoulders. From plank position, hinge at the hips and drive your butt up while keeping the torso straight.
- TRX straps at Mid Length
Start in plank position—place your feet in the foot cradles, your knees on floor, and your hands under your shoulders. Lower your chest to just above the ground. Keeping your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles in alignment, push back up to plank position then immediately hinge at hips. Drive your butt up while keeping your torso straight. Keep your body tight and engaged and lower back down to a plank position. Try to keep your legs straight and hinge at the hips, not at the back.
Rings are rather challenging and may require some time to learn, especially if you are a formerly sedentary individual with little to no strength. Training with rings requires a strong upper body especially, not to mention a firm grip as well. Rings are better suited for upper body exercises, though you can place your feet in the rings if you wished. However, there are other equipment that could make lower body suspension training easier.
One of the pitfalls of using rings is the lack of versatility. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s more for upper body because lower body movements are rather limited.
- Suspension Trainers
Suspension Trainers are like resistance bands. They are composed of handles, a stretchable band, door anchors and ankle straps if needed. TRX bands are almost synonymous with Suspension Training, but keep it mind that you are also paying for the name and the branding.
TRX bands are incredibly versatile and are built well. The signature black and yellow color are trademarks of the brand, so be mindful of those things when considering which brand to purchase. It’s a little pricier than the alternatives, but owners of the TRX bands have also mentioned that it’s a little overpriced given when you get, but that the quality more than makes up for it.
Currently, the TRX home set is priced at around $200.00.
- Jungle Gym Suspension Training
The Jungle Gym suspension training set is also similar to TRX bands, but they retail for a fraction of the cost. Also, instead of the black and yellow trademark, the Jungle Gym brand is decked out in black and red. The package includes: one 16 feet of high-density suspension straps with patented two-way steel buckles.
Currently, the Jungle Gym suspension training set is priced at around $40.00.
Is Suspension Training for Beginners
This rigorous exercise system might not be for beginners, however. Some sports scientists have pointed out that people without strong core stability or with weak joint integrity might be prone to injury from suspension training. This can be especially true if there is a history of joint or back injuries. The constant demands that make suspension training effective can be the limiting factor for people starting the exercise.
However, that doesn’t mean that beginners can’t start building up to suspension training. Start by doing regular strength training with an eye towards suspension training. Need to gain strength in the core? Try some plank positions to begin developing those muscles. When you think you are ready to take on the straps, start by keeping your body at a shallower angle. This will allow you to build up the steeper angles that will put more pressure on your joints. And of course, when starting any exercise program, make sure you check with your doctor.
Benefits of Suspension Training
- Increases your core strength
When you say “core”, you are referring to the four muscle groups surrounding the organs of our lower torso. The ab muscles strengthen out lower back. Improving core strength will also have a direct impact on your posture.
- Improves your balance and coordination
Because you are literally suspended, you make use of more stabilizer muscles, and more muscles recruited translates to great gains in balance and coordination. Whenever we perform intense workout routines, we gain mass, strength, endurance, stability and eventually, enviable abs.
- Back to basics with bodyweight exercises
Bodyweight exercise routines are efficient and easy to do. They are perfect for travelling without any equipment at all. Body weight exercises are adapted to our own bodies, so it can be safer, more portable and less expensive to keep up.
Suspension Training Program / Course
If you’ve already got a set of suspension training straps in the post or you’re looking to buy some, you’ll probably need some guidance on the best way to burn fat. Suspension Revolution 2.0 by Dan Long might be able to help you. Suspension Revolution 2.0 is a workout program designed to help you burn fat. I liked the workout program so much I even decided to do a review which you can find here.
Is Suspension Training Effective?
Advocates of suspension training point out that during any suspension training exercise, you can’t help but to engage your core to steady yourself.
They compare suspension training to doing “yoga on ropes.” This makes the trainee use every muscle in their body, maximizing the time spent exercising. When you try it for the first time, you’ll know exactly what they mean. A simple 10 minutes of suspension training can leave one sore the next day.
This also means that instead of using isolated muscles, suspension training uses a variety of muscles together, creating effective movement patterns.
Rigorous research into the effectiveness of suspension training has yet to be conducted. But if testimonials count for anything, suspension training is very effective.
Any exercise that can simultaneously exercise the core along with the direct muscle being worked has to be worth its weight.
There are still some concerns about whether or not suspension exercises are functionally effective, i.e. whether it helps you out in everyday life. But this is can be a complaint of many exercises. For example, when do you have to run for two miles in everyday life? Unless you live in Africa, never. And regardless, if an exercise is fun and gets you excited about going to the gym, then we should consider it effective.