If you’re thinking about buying a suspension trainer, you probably want some idea of the different exercises you can do with this type of equipment. And, if you’ve watched a video or even seen some pictures of the exercises, you might be wondering how they’re better than other bodyweight exercises.
Exercises in suspension training circuits focus on the hinge, lunge, plank, pull, push, rotate and squat movements. Suspension training exercises add another dimension to bodyweight exercises. You can add more resistance and increase the intensity of any exercise, so they are great for circuit training.
The popularity of suspension training has grown dramatically since it hit the airwaves in the 1990's. Soldiers, professional athletes, and Olympians train with suspension trainers regularly. So can combining circuit training and suspension training be an effective workout routine?
What Are Training Circuits?
Body-weight training circuits are a series of timed exercises, one after the other, with short rest periods between them. The goal typically isn’t to do a specific number of repetitions but to see how many you can do in thirty seconds or a minute.
For example, in the following routine, you’d exercise for thirty seconds, rest for thirty, and then move on to the next activity. If you still have energy and strength left, you can repeat the entire circuit several times.
You can customise both the exercises and the time to your specific fitness needs.
Variations of Circuit Training
If you’ve started circuit training, you might be aware that you can also customise the format of the activities. The following are a few popular variations
Repetition circuit. If a large group of people is training, the number of reps required varies on each participant’s fitness level. The fittest attendees might do 20 reps, while those new to suspension circuits would do ten in the same amount of time.
- Repetition circuit. If a large group of people is training, the number of reps required varies on each participant’s fitness level. The fittest attendees might do 20 reps, while those new to suspension circuits would do ten in the same amount of time.
- Competition circuit. In a competition circuit, you push yourself to see how many repetitions you can do within the time limit.
- Sport-specific. The exercises in the routine focus on sport-related movements.
As the name implies, variations provide variety. This ensures that the training is more interesting and better-tailored to your needs.
What Are the Benefits to Circuit Training?
Circuit training has always been popular due to its numerous benefits. Most of them are related to flexibility. There is customisation to your specific needs, and if designed properly, the exercises work your body from head to toe
In addition, circuit training offers the following benefits:
- Time efficiency. Instead of five to ten minutes on one exercise, with longer rest times, circuit training has short resting periods. That’s more exercise in the same amount of time.
- Modifications. You can modify the circuit workout to give you a whole-body workout or a focus on a specific muscle set. You can also change the workout to emphasise strength, endurance, or whatever aspect of fitness interests you.
Although all training circuits have these benefits, some kinds of circuit training are better than others. One of the best is suspension training. Let’s explore why that is.
Why Are Suspension Training Circuits More Effective?
The exercises in traditional circuit training are usually classic bodyweight exercises. Suspension training takes traditional bodyweight exercises and increases the difficulty and intensity. A push-up becomes more challenging when performed on a suspension trainer. An example of this is the Atomic Push-Up. Having both hands and feet on the floor must be more difficult than having your feet in straps and bringing your legs forward.
Both a push-up and the Atomic Push-up target similar muscles, but suspension training is a more dynamic form of bodyweight exercise. Someone doing the Atomic needs to engage more muscles to stabilise their body, which is true for nearly all suspension exercises.
When doing a suspension training routine, you need to anchor your training straps. Then, you’re ready to begin—no need to move dumbbells, kettlebells, and weights between exercises. You’ll be either facing toward the anchor or facing away.
Facing toward or away from the anchor is the beginning of the many suspension training exercises and their variations. Some websites list ten essential exercises, others 25 or 44, and the Stack52 website lists over 100 different exercises.
Suspension Training Basic Movements
Almost all suspension exercises are based on a series of basic movements. Knowing those movements will help you understand more complex variations. For example, a Chest Press is an exercise where you’ll stand and face away from the TRX anchor.
Standing and facing the anchor point
Squats and pulling
Standing and facing away from the anchor point
Pushing and lunging
Standing sideways to the anchor point
Rotation and pulling
Ground position facing the anchor
Planks and pulling
Ground position facing away
Ground position sideways to the anchor point
Planks and rotation
Another example: a Low Row starts in a standing facing away position (SFA). Grab the handles and lean back until your weight is on your heels and your arms are straight.
As you return to your original position (SFA), keep your torso tight. This beginner exercise focuses on your back, biceps, shoulders, and abs and strengthens those core muscles.
A Suspension Training Circuit Series
To give you an idea of what a series might look like, the following routine of ten exercises gives your body a full workout in thirty minutes.
Before you begin, stretch to warm up your body and muscles. Many fitness coaches recommend dynamic warm-ups, which incorporate movements in the stretches. Check out this Healthline.com article for examples of active warm-up exercises.
Here is a routine that works your lower body and upper body. Depending on your fitness level, exercise goals and familiarity with your suspension trainer you can mix and match the exercises. 30 minutes is a good length of time to spent doing a suspension training circuit. Beginners should start with smaller angles (not lean back so far, for example) and work their way to more intense workouts.
Facing away, lean forward, lift a leg as though you’re going to run. When the TRX pulls you back, alternate with the other leg. 3 levels of progression in this exercise: Static sprinter to start, next is sprinter start with moving leg extending and quick pause at top. Finally a dynamic sprinter start where you hop at the top.
Start by facing away. Lean forward, open your chest, and then pull yourself up. You want a nice strong plank, shoulders pulled down and back and core engaged. As you go through the chest press movement maintain the strong plank. Let you chest do the driving of the moving plank.
Facing the anchor, lie on your back with your lower back off the ground and your feet in the rings. Pull yourself up by your hamstrings. A great hamstring movement, this exercise is made increasingly difficult by pushing the hips higher off the ground during the action.
Start facing the anchor point, standing up. Grasp the handles and lean back, creating a strong plank from the shoulders. Fully extend your arms and then return your hands in towards your armpits. The handles should end up right under your chest.
Set the straps to mid calf and then put the handles to single handle mode. Face away from anchor point and stand tall with shoulders above the hips. Push the hips back and down till the knee is on the floor and the front knee is vertical to the ankle. Drive through the front heel and extend the hips. The suspension trainer lunge will add strength to you legs and improve your balance and endurance.
Start with your elbows bent higher than your shoulders, with your pinky fingers aligned to your temples. Maintain a strong plank in your upper body and engage your core. Lower your body down toward the floor until your arms are straight. Pull your body back up with control, curling your hands towards your head. Increase the intensity by moving your feet closer to the anchor point.
This is similar to a hamstring curl, except you start by lying on your back (facing the anchor) and rise up using your core. It's main target is your glutes but it also works out your abs, hip flexors, lower back and quads. The intensity of this exercise can be increased by lengthening the straps and positioning your body further away from under the anchor point.
Face away from the anchor, lean forward until your elbow is at a 90-degree angle. Then, use your biceps to push you back. Keep your core tight and maintain a straight body position during the exercise keeping your head and spine neutral. Avoid sagging or arching your low back/hips.
Crossing balance lunge
Setup the straps to Mid-Length, grasp the handles and stand facing the anchor point. Keep one leg on the ground and raise the opposite leg so the knee is level with the hip. While lowering down, cross the knee of your non-working leg behind the knee of your working leg. Stand back up by extending your hips while keeping the shin of your working leg vertical.
Face the anchor, lean back with one hand grasping the handles and the other arm pointing down, and bring yourself upright with a one-arm bicep curl. The rotational movement of this exercise helps to strengthen both sides of your back. It also develops the large muscles in the upper back that you'd typically hit with other rowing variations, such as Dumbbell Rows.
Suspension training circuits are a form of circuit training that use TRX or other suspension systems for bodyweight workouts. Suspension training exercises are more challenging than traditional bodyweight exercises. You can increase the difficulty and intensity of any bodyweight on a suspension trainer with ease. This ensures that your workouts and have more variety and continue to be very challenging.