A Look at Suspension Training Systems

September 14, 2013
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suspension exercise for seniors

One of the hottest trends in the fitness industry is Suspension Training Systems, and it makes so much sense. Those of us over 50 can get into the act as well. The idea is that you hang from your hands or feet in several different directions and then contract your muscles against gravity. Simple, easy to set up and transport – plus, you control how much effort you have to exert.

suspension exercise for seniors

One of the hottest trends in the fitness industry is Suspension Training Systems, and it makes so much sense. Those of us over 50 can get into the act as well. The idea is that you hang from your hands or feet in several different directions and then contract your muscles against gravity. Simple, easy to set up and transport – plus, you control how much effort you have to exert.

There are several brands on the market including TRX, Rip Trainer, Jungle Gym and even some similar products marketed by fitness equipment companies and fitness celebrities. They are all based on the principle of a nylon strap and some rubber-padded handles. For the purposes of what I am writing, I will refer to TRX.

As far as I can tell, it appears that TRX was first and according to their website, it was originally developed for the deployed armed forces personnel to take fitness with them wherever they found themselves. The original system was a single strap that had an anchor which could be attached to a pole, tree or other stationary object.

So, once you see the straps and understand you hold onto them, pull-ups and pushups seem to come to mind as the logical exercises. But, with a little creativity, shoulders, legs, biceps and triceps are also targeted muscle groups.

There are six body positions relative to the straps:

  • Standing while facing toward the anchor
  • Standing while facing away from the anchor
  • Standing sideways to the anchor
  • Lying face-down with feet in the straps
  • Lying face-up with feet in the straps
  • Lying in a side-plank with feet in the straps

From these six positions, you can target virtually every muscle group in your body from shoulders to biceps, back, chest, triceps and legs. And, there are multiple exercises for each muscle group which vary in intensity based on your strength, ability, flexibility, etc. There may be some things you want to repeat in every workout and some others that you strive to become capable of doing. These basic moves are great to help lose weight and gain muscle.

Controlling how much effort is done simply by controlling the angle of your body – the steeper the angle, the harder the exercise. So, if you are performing a suspended pushup, being parallel to the floor would be much more difficult than being at 45 degrees to the floor!

The biggest benefit of all however, is the core. Exercises done properly with a suspension trainer are truly the best core workout I have ever had. In order to perform most exercises, you will find yourself at an angle to the ground of something other than 90 degrees (standing upright). Because of this, you must contract your abs, glutes and legs to keep from “sagging.” So, if you are keeping all the muscles between your shoulders and knees contracted, you are getting a major workout of those muscles while you workout.

That being said, this makes suspension training ideal for almost everyone. There are videos all over the internet featuring “extreme” workouts using the suspension system but, I have developed exercises to stimulate and improve balance for a stroke victim as well as some of my senior clients who struggles with balance. So, yes, you can really work hard, using your own body weight against gravity or, work smart while targeting a specific problem. And I’ve just added TRX moves to our online fitness trainer, the 50plusPlusFit  Online Personal Trainer.

Some of my favorite exercises involve merely using your body weight with hands in the grips doing pull-ups (facing the anchor) and suspended pushups (facing the floor). The amount of exertion depends on the placement of your feet so, these exercises are possible for virtually everyone.

The suspension trainer has been widely adopted by fitness clubs as well. Many gyms have the suspension trainers set up for use by trainers and their clients. Some gyms offer group fitness classes in suspension training – very challenging and unique.

The possibilities are as limited as your imagination. So, if you want to augment your workouts with something fresh, new and fairly inexpensive, try a suspension trainer at your local gym or, at home – you’ll be 50plusPlusFit!

For more useful fitness advice for our resident expert, multi-certified personal trainer and 50+/+Fit author, Ron please review our site’s content pages. And if you have a specific question just Ask Ron The Trainer.

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