The Ultimate Suspension Training System Primer

Strength training is one of the most important components of any exercise regimen. It is effective in blasting away fat and gaining lean muscle mass. Doing strength training, whether alone or with other forms of exercise like cardio, is the most efficient way to burn calories. Does a suspension training system provide effective strength training option?

Suspension training systems are functional training devices built around a pulley style system. They utilise your body-weight for resistance so you can perform many types of exercises. You can train multiple muscle groups at the same time and it is easy to increase or decrease the difficulty of exercises.

What is Suspension Training and what is it good for?

A Suspension training system consist of straps, ropes, and/or webbing along with your body weight. The name is a bit misleading–you aren’t suspended in the air while exercising. While certain body parts may or may not be raised in the air, you will generally maintain some type of contact with the floor or ground.

Rope training has been around since the early 1800’s, but it wasn’t put into a “system” until the 1990’s. Suspension training was developed by and for the Navy Seals. Randy Hetrick, a former Navy Seal, developed the suspension training system and adapted it to every day use in 1997. 

Navy Seals are some of the toughest soldiers on the planet, so they need exercises that will challenge them at or above their skill level. Suspension training does this–in other words, it’s hard. Despite the difficulty level, it is recommended for civilians as well as soldiers who want to get in shape and build lean muscle.

Basic Design

One of the things that makes suspension training very popular is the fact that you can do it anywhere with minimal equipment. Hetrick created a suspension trainer with a jiu jitsu belt and webbing from a parachute. You basically just need your ropes/pulleys etc. and something to suspend it from. 

This could be a door, a tree, a wall, a fence, or anything sturdy enough to support you that your equipment can be suspended from. You don’t need a lot of space, an expensive gym membership, or bulky weights. So you can choose to scavenge some supplies from around your home/office like Hetrick did. Or you can go out and buy specific suspension training equipment.

malewellness_basic suspension trainer

What can suspension training do for you? The general answer is as stated before; burn fat and build lean muscle efficiently. Efficient is a term that can get thrown around a lot so what exactly does that mean? At its core, suspension training is an all-in-one system. It is something that can build strength, flexibility, balance, and stability all at the same time. 

This is what separates suspension training from other strength training exercises. You get the maximum amount of results in a minimal amount of time. This is what an efficient exercise does for you.

What is a Suspension Training System?

While making a suspension training is very cost efficient, buying a suspension trainer has many advantages. A suspension training system is professionally designed, featuring high quality construction and materials. With this type of system you can be sure that you are using safe and durable quality products. You want equipment that can last throughout your toughest workouts

There are many types of suspension trainers available. For example the TRX tactical is designed with soldiers in mind. This is the toughest, most rugged suspension trainer available. It can survive any harsh condition that a soldier may be in. Many professional athletes use this premium grade suspension training system as well. 

By contrast, a more basic suspension training system may be more suited for home use. This doesn’t mean that the quality is bad, or worse. It means that it may use different material and may be a different size. It is more suited for the average civilian who isn’t doing suspension training for professional reasons.

Modern Suspension Training System

Modern suspension training systems are more than ropes and pulleys. They can be fitted with a variety of foot loops, handles, or anything else that can make suspension training dynamic. Many of them have features such as antimicrobial material and ergonomic handles. Most also include training manuals, DVDs, or apps that can get you going in the right direction. 

Designed to handle body weight, torque, and any other stressors that could make a homemade system fall apart. You can worry less about injury with a high quality made suspension training system. If you are serious about functional and strength training, getting a professional system should be at the top of your to-do list.

Is This Type of Exercise Effective?

Suspension training is a very effective exercise when it comes to total body fitness. It is a remarkable discipline that gives you results if you put the work in. Where suspension training out shines other exercise and training equipment is developing a strong core.

All suspension training exercises need you to stabilise your core (abs, lower back, etc.). This allows you to get the maximum impact from gravity resistance. This means that no matter which muscle you are focusing on you are also working out your core. Research shows that suspension training outperforms any other type of exercise when it comes to building core strength

Want a six pack? Suspension training will get you there faster than doing sit ups all day. Furthermore building excellent core strength will benefit all your other exercise efforts. A strong core is needed in just about everything you do because your core is where your power comes from. Having a strong core can also help prevent injuries.

It’s safe to say that since suspension training gives you a strong core, it can give you a strong everything. There aren’t many total body exercises that can make this claim. Therefore, suspension training is effective for exercising all parts of the body.

Can Suspension Training Build Muscle?

The short answer to this is YES. Suspension training does an excellent job of building muscles in the body. Here is a brief explanation of how participating in suspension training can build your muscles.

The body is full of skeletal muscles. There are around 650 skeletal muscles in the body, all of which can be built up to be stronger. To build muscle, you have to tear it down first. This is done through resistance to gravity. You actually resist gravity every second that you aren’t laying down. 

Daily activity, however, isn’t enough to tear muscles down enough to activate hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is the term used for muscle growth. So, what is all this about tearing up your muscles and activating hypertrophy? Better yet, what does this have to do with suspension training? 

Muscle growth

Muscle is built is through exercise, but more specifically through damaging the myofibril. These are the fibres that make up muscles. After exercising, as you rest, your body repairs these damaged myofibril by creating new myofibril. Fused together with the damaged myofibril it makes new, thicker myofibril. 

The best part about this process is that it is never-ending. So you can damage your myofibril over and over again to create bigger muscles (hypertrophy). For you to tear muscles down, you must have resistance to gravity. Every day activities don’t provide you with enough resistance as you’ve already developed your muscles enough to do them. That is why weight lifting is popular–it provides enough resistance to gravity to tear down muscles.

Suspension training is effective in tearing down muscles because it allows you to use your own body weight. By changing positions, you can make the suspension training more or less challenging. On top of that, not only are your core muscles resisting gravity, but they are supporting the rest of your muscles. This creates even more resistance on your core. This is why suspension training is great for building core muscles, or any muscles for that matter.

Are there some drawbacks in doing Suspension Training?

So far you’ve read all good news about suspension training. We’ve sworn by its effectiveness and we stand by it. Despite this, there are some things to be concerned about, as with any exercise or training program that you try. Suspension training is very beneficial, but there are a few drawbacks you may want to consider before diving in. It’s only fair that you know the good and the bad, so here are the drawbacks for you to consider.

If you aren’t actively engaging your core the entire time, you won’t get the full benefits from suspension training. Proper form for any exercise determines how well the exercise will work for you and it also helps to prevent injuries. Suspension training is no different in that you must use the correct form. In this case, the correct form is keeping tension in your core. Without the tension, you may not benefit much from the training which can lead you to think that suspension training doesn’t work.

Listen to your body

Since suspension training works out your entire body at one time, recovery can be tough. There is a good chance you will be sore everywhere all at once. This can be hard, especially if you are new to suspension training or new to exercise. It also means you may need extra recovery time until your body gets used to it. So you might not be able to exercise as much as you would like to when you first get started. Remember to always listen your body and make time for recovery.

Suspension training will actually have a limit in building muscle. On the bright side, it will take you a while to get to this limit. But the truth is that suspension training, like any body weight exercise, becomes ineffective once you reach a certain fitness level. This is because to build muscle, you need to keep adding weight. 


Suspension training is limited to your body weight, so this means you can max out as far as building muscles is concerned. In some cases, this can be alleviated by adding weights to yourself, such as a weight vest or ankle weights, but these are only going to help so much.

Range of motion

Adjusting the leverage point may cause an injury. A major plus of suspension training is the ability to change the range of motion of many exercises. Changing a movement by only a few degrees can make it a different exercise altogether. If you perform said new exercise in the way that you performed the first exercise, this could lead to an injury.

On top of that, shifting your body by only a few degrees can actually cause more resistance. This may seem like a great idea since more resistance means more tearing of the muscles, which means more muscle growth, but it isn’t. To clarify this, let’s say you are doing a bench press, for example, and you add ten pounds to each side, you know exactly how much more weight you’re adding. 

You know beforehand whether or not you can handle that much extra weight. However, in the case of shifting by a few degrees during a suspension training exercise, it can lead to an unknown amount of resistance. You could be doing too much too fast which can lead to an injury.

Can Exercise Newbies do Suspension Training?

Suspension training is great for people no matter what their fitness level is. It is good for people who are new to exercise because it’s so adjustable. It is one of those things where what you put in is what you get out of it. For newbies, they may not have a lot of strength yet so they won’t be doing any advanced training. This doesn’t mean that suspension training is easy for newbies. But newbies do have a larger learning curve with suspension training than with a lot of other exercises.

Suspension training is a very versatile type of fitness training. Because of its versatility, it is suitable for elderly people as well. It is also good because it’s simple to set up and simple to use, newbies don’t have to fumble around trying to figure out how to use complicated equipment. Cost-wise, newbies can get into fitness without having to spend a lot of money. 


Training with no fear

Another newbie benefit is anonymity (if the newbie chooses this). Many newbies can be intimidated by other, strong, more fit people so this deters them from going to the gym and going to work out. Since the suspension training is excellent for home use, newbies can workout from the comfort of their own home, on their own time. They still get an amazing workout without fear of from embarrassment.

There are a couple of concerns for newbies when it comes to suspension training. Some of these concerns were discussed in the drawbacks section. For newbies and elderly people, at the start, suspension training system is going to cause some soreness. This should not discourage them as it is proof that the exercise is effective.

Newbies may also have a problem with learning the correct forms to make suspension training effective. Although this can be remedied with time and practice, it can be discouraging at first when a newbie doesn’t see results as fast as they wanted to. 

There aren’t that many drawbacks for newbies and the drawbacks aren’t significant enough to impact the results from suspension training. So in short, yes, exercise newbies can do suspension training. They can do it safely and in any environment that they choose too.

Can this training improve performance in other sports?

Athletes have to perform at a much higher skill level than most people when it comes to physical and mental abilities. According to Very Well Fit to reach their potential in these areas, there are five components of fitness that athletes must develop and suspension training can help with that. 

Cardiovascular Endurance

Cardiovascular endurance refers to how well your body takes in oxygen and distribute it to your cells via your heart and lungs. Not only will this improve an athlete’s performance, but it will also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

To improve cardiovascular endurance, you must challenge your cardiovascular system through cardio exercises. Suspension training is full body weight training system. It can provide a lot of cardiovascular benefits because athletes are able to change the speed and intensity of their workout.

Muscular Endurance

Muscular endurance is a muscle’s ability to continuously perform under fatigued conditions. Athletes often have to be able to complete entire games, circuits, competitions, etc. without taking a break. In other words, muscular endurance isn’t about how many you can do, but rather, how long you can do it. 

With the suspension training system, one easy way to increase muscular endurance is to speed up your exercises. You can also stop counting reps and simply do an exercise until you are fatigued. Make it a goal to increase the amount of time rather than the number of reps.

malewellness_ Suspension_training_muscle_strength

Muscular Strength

It’s already been stated a few times that suspension training helps you improve muscular strength. Athletes need muscular endurance and muscular strength to perform their best in sports. It could be throwing the farthest, hitting the ball the hardest, climbing, swimming, or anything else that athletes do. The more muscular strength they have, the more they can do. Suspension training is great because athletes can work on muscular strength and endurance at the same time.


Flexibility is incredibly important for athletes. One of the most important reasons that athletes need flexibility is to prevent injuries. This is because flexibility improves the range of motion of your joints. Having a good range of motion is incredibly important in all sport. It is even more so in sports like football, rugby, and others that involve a lot of impacts. 

Suspension training is great for improving flexibility because the straps allow you to stretch your body out in many different ways. They also allow you to add gentle movement to your stretching which can help you be more flexible in specific areas. 

Body Composition

Athletes need a low fat ratio on their bodies. Having too much fat can cause a whole host of health problems including making an athlete sluggish and causing them to not be able to perform well. Athletes gain and improve good body composition when they focus on the other four components of good health. Doing suspension training is great for the other four components, so it is great for improving body composition. 


Yoga is a great fitness and wellness activity that really compliments suspension training. Yoga will improve posture and balance, and increase flexibility. Many of the poses can be done using suspension training straps to make them a little more dynamic and challenging.

Suspension training will help you build the muscle you need to get better at doing yoga. And yoga will give you the flexibility and balance to increase your range in suspension training. These two types of exercises are a great support for one another. 


Pilates is another great compliment to suspension training. In Pilates, you use your body weight for resistance like you do in suspension training. Both of these training styles focuses on core strength. Suspension training builds core strength by suspending you in the air while Pilates builds core strength while you exercise on the ground.

malewellness_ Suspension_training_Yoga_pilates

Another similarity is the benefits you get from the equipment in both training types is similar. With Pilates, the equipment is bulkier, heavier, and not always accessible, so allow suspension training to pick up the slack. 


Cardio exercise also compliments suspension training well. While suspension training does give you some cardio benefits, it is more focused on building lean muscle. Supplementing your workout routine with cardio exercises can make your suspension training more complete. The additional cardio can help you to burn fat even faster which will, in turn, allow you to build even more lean muscle. 

Suspension Training when recovering from Injury

Before discussing doing suspension training when rehabbing from injury, it is worth noting that doing it regularly will reduce your risk of injury. Since suspension training is a total body workout, you enhance flexibility and build strength. 

This decreases your chance of injury when doing other exercise or playing sport. You also have to focus on having the proper form so once you nail that, there is even a smaller chance of injury. According to, the chance of injury is reduced by:

  • 39% for Lower limb injuries 
  • 54% for Acute knee injuries
  • 88% for ACL injuries 
  • 50% for Ankle Sprain

Suspension training is great to use as a rehab tool for existing injuries. You can adjust suspension training exercises according to your body weight and body placement. This makes it great for exercising injured areas without putting to much pressure on them. In fact, suspension training is regularly used in sports medicine to help injured athletes recover. 

Another consideration is that with suspension training, you can exercise specific muscles and parts of your body. This means that you can exercise the uninjured part of your body easily without disturbing or stressing the injured side. 

Continuing to work out while injured can actually help you heal quicker and better than if you don’t work out at all. When doing this, be mindful of how much pain you are feeling. If you are in pain while exercising, this is a clear sign that you should probably stop.


Suspension training is almost like an all-in-one solution to fitness training. You get to work out every single muscle in your body and you will spend less time in the gym to do it. It’s also cost-effective since you don’t need a bunch of bulky equipment or a costly gym membership.

Suspension Training A to Z

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Suspension training is a great, functional training system for everyone of all fitness and skill levels. Sure there are a few drawbacks (every exercise has them), but with caution and planning, you can get some of the best results you’ve ever seen from a training program. You’ll build muscle, burn fat, and get into the best shape of your life. Pair suspension training with the proper nutrition and the results could amaze you. When you find the right suspension trainer, you will learn so many great ways to train and benefit from it

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