Suspension training has become very popular in many commercial fitness facilities and even entire classes have been devoted to this trending piece of equipment. I myself have used my fair share of suspension exercises with clients and enjoy using it for my own workouts. As with any exercise or piece of equipment, there are bound to be advantages, limitations and things to consider when using suspension training with your clients.
Stable Vs. Unstable
Suspension training’s main claim is that each movement challenges the body through every range of motion. This all sounds fine and dandy, but is this really what the body needs to be strong and fit? If we think about normal human movement, how often are we really performing an activity on an unstable surface? Most of us should answer almost never, so does it really make sense to exercise on an unstable surface? Exercise should mimic the things we do in our everyday life so it makes those activities easier and less prone to injury. Don’t get me wrong, suspension training can add a lot of fun and variety to a client’s workout. So is suspension training any more effective than closed chain exercises? In a study conducted by McGill et al., researchers analyzed pushing exercise muscle activity and spinal load on stable surfaces and suspension training straps (1). Results showed that suspension training required greater torso muscle activity and the standard pushup showed a significantly higher shear force (1). Some clients may need more muscle activation for calorie burning while other need more shear force for strength building.
Before I started researching this article, I had little knowledge of where the TRX straps originated. A navy seal created a jimmy rigged version of the suspension straps while trying to stay fit during deployment. The first advantage of the TRX lies here, it can be used ANYWHERE. You can connect these straps to a squat rack, cable cross over, door frame, jungle gym, and even a tree! The second awesome advantage is their compact nature and ease of portability. No more excuses while traveling on business or vacation. These straps are also great for trainers that don’t see clients in a gym setting. Many different exercises can also be done with only one set of straps. Suspension straps allow for unilateral as well as bilateral exercises, which just adds to the multitude of exercises that can be performed. Lastly my most favorite aspect of a TRX strap is that exercise intensity can be easily modified based on the client’s body angle. I love that there are so many different planes of motion that a client can train in while gradually increasing exercise intensity.
As with any program or product review, I feel compelled to present the cons of suspension training. I find suspension training to be harder to coach, can often be intimidating to clients, and requires a decent amount of core strength for even basic exercises. Suspension training is also limited to a client’s body weight unless a weight vest is used. This can be a major disadvantage for stronger clients. Suspension straps target more core and upper body muscle, and have few lower body variations for true strengthening. I have also found that many of the TRX endorsed exercises require significant joint stability, balance, and fully body mobility. These factors can be limiting to certain population, beginner clients, and can cause an increased risk of injury. Suspension training may also not be appropriate for clients that have little body awareness since hyperextension while using the straps can cause significant injuries. Lastly, many suspension straps claim that one set can provide hundreds of exercises for your clients. I feel that with the 200+ dollars that most straps cost, I could purchase a wide variety of equipment giving my clients thousands of exercises to choose from. So, if you're inclined to try it, here is an economical suspension training kit http://amzn.to/2hvIzsi we suggest and then search the Fiteeza Directory for a Pro to guide you.
Mcgill, Stuart M., Jordan Cannon, and Jordan T. Andersen. "Analysis of Pushing Exercises." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research28.1 (2014): 105-16. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.