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If you’re not using a suspension trainer, you’re missing out. This one tool provides a total-body workout and gives you more bang for your buck, so to speak, than other pieces of strength equipment. The bonus? It’s portable, so you can use it at the gym, your home or office (it’s one of the smartest and most cost-effective purchases for building the perfect home gym), and even on the road.
Suspension trainers, like TRX, feature adjustable straps and handles that hang from a fixed point — namely an anchor on a wall, door or ceiling — and they use your bodyweight and gravity for resistance. They not only build strength but also coordination, mobility, core strength and joint stabilization, says Andi Singh, NASM-certified personal trainer and TRX specialist at Life Time in Peoria, Arizona
Compared to other resistance-training tools, suspension trainers require more stability. “They challenge the core as well as the smaller stabilizer muscles around the joints that often get neglected while you focus on larger muscle groups with traditional resistance-training equipment,” she says. The upshot? “Better core strength and joint mobility mean safer training and living, regardless of your fitness level and goals.”
There is a small learning curve when using a suspension trainer, especially given that each exercise requires the straps to be at certain lengths. While it’s not difficult to adjust the straps, you will have to learn the proper lengths — therefore, Singh recommends that you work with a trainer who specializes in suspension training or that you watch a demo video created by the equipment’s manufacturer.
The 4-Move Suspension Trainer Circuit Workout
To give you a taste of how suspension training can challenge your body, Singh has designed a four-move circuit that you can do anywhere, whether that’s your home, a gym or even a hotel room. Do each exercise one after another without rest until you reach the end. Then repeat the circuit three times.
Squat and Row
Adjust the straps to midlength. Stand facing the anchor and grasp the handles. Step your feet forward so they’re 12 to 24 inches from the anchor and your elbows are bent to 90-degree angles, thumbs close to armpits. From this position, let your arms straighten, allowing your body to fall back against the resistance of the straps. As you lean back, bend your knees to squat so your butt almost touches the ground. Return to start by using your back muscles to pull yourself up as you straighten your legs, your body winding up in a long line at a slight angle. Repeat 15 times.
With the straps adjusted to midlength, stand facing the anchor and pull the straps taught. Grasp the handles and bend your elbows to 90-degree angles. Place your feet hip-width apart, and keeping torso tall, step your right foot back far enough that you can lower your right knee toward the ground until your thigh is parallel with floor. Using the strength of your legs versus your arms, release to start and switch sides. Repeat 15 times on each side.
Adjust the straps to midcalf length. Lie faceup on the floor and place your heels in the stirrups. Bend your knees to 90-degree angles, then adjust your body so your feet are under the anchor. From this position, lift your hips, keeping your knees bent and creating a straight line from shoulders to knees. Lower to start and repeat 15 times.
Keep the straps at midlength. Get onto the floor so you’re on your hands and knees, facing away from the anchor. Place one foot, then the other, into each stirrup. Walk your body forward until your feet are under the anchor. Place your elbows under your shoulders so that your forearms and hands form the No. 11. Lift your hips, creating a straight line from your ears to shoulders to hips to ankles. Hold 30 seconds and then release.