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Understand the foundation of Suspension Training

This is an excerpt from Complete Guide to TRX Suspension Training by Jay Dawes.

It is generally well accepted that performing resistance training on a regular basis can help maintain and improve health, fitness, and quality of life. However, people often encounter obstacles to resistance training, such as time, space, equipment, and cost. Suspension Training® offers a unique approach to resistance training that requires only one portable piece of equipment, and it can be done almost anywhere. In addition, Suspension Training exercises can be used to address a wide range of fitness needs such as enhancing and maintaining general fitness, improving sport performance, and as a rehabilitation or injury prevention tool. This mode of training can be used as a stand-alone exercise regime or be integrated it into a more traditional training program to add variety and prevent staleness and boredom. Additionally, Suspension Training is popular among those who are traveling or who do not have access to a training facility because of its versatility and portability. Based on this, it is no wonder this form of training has become so popular.

Although Suspension Training seems to be a very straightforward concept, a good deal of science is involved in setting up a workout. Suspension Training is based on principles of anatomy, exercise physiology, physics, and biomechanics. The better these principles are understood, the more Suspension Training will make sense as a training option. However, one of the primary goals of this book is to keep it simple. This chapter presents some basic principles to help the reader manipulate training programs and learn how to progress or regress exercises to change the intensity of a training program. It also presents foundational program design concepts to help in the development of fun, challenging, and productive training sessions.

By using a single-point anchor, Suspension Training allows users to take advantage of some basic principles of physics, including Newton's law of gravitation using force vectors, center of gravity, and pendulum. Creating resistance or force requires changing the direction of the force. The Suspension TrainerTM has a single-point anchor with straps, handles, and foot cradlesthat are perpendicular to the floor when it is allowed to hang, as a result of the object's center of gravity. When a person grabs the handles, mass increases (due to the person's body mass), resulting in a change in the object's center of gravity. Changing the angle of the straps on the Suspension Trainer changes the application, or direction of the force on the musculoskeletal system, thereby increasing the force of pull, or resistance placed on the body. The result of these forces, or force vectors, and the center of gravity being pulled away creates gravitational potential energy. A single-point anchor system creates a pendulum, converting gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy into work, or resistance.

A variety of ways are available to manipulate the intensity or difficulty of a Suspension Training program based on these principles. For the purposes of this text, intensity will be defined as increasing the load on the musculoskeletal system, or increasing the absolute load (i.e., amount of weight which must be moved) such as when changing the vector resistance, angle, or pendulum. Difficulty will be defined as any variations that may increase the complexity, or stability demands of a movement or action (e.g., single-arm, single-leg, balance, coordination). Stepping toward or away from the single-point anchor (depending on the exercise), and thus increasing the angle of pull, increases the intensity of an exercise. Ground contact is necessary to resist the forces that are trying to bring the mass back to perpendicular. The wider the floor contact base in the direction of the force vector is, the easier it is to resist the force vector. On the contrary, the narrower the ground contact base in the direction of the force vector is, the more difficult it is to resist the force vector. Consider the game tug of war. As one opponent pulls, creating a force vector, the other opponent must split the feet from front to back to keep from being pulled forward. This increases the base of support along the direction of pull created from the resultant vector, increasing stability along this vector.

There are three methods for varying the intensity or difficulty, or both, of a single-point anchor Suspension Trainer. These methods include:

  • changing the stability demands of the exercise (e.g., from dual handles to a single handle, or by altering stance),
  • manipulating the angle of pull, and
  • changing the position of the center of gravity.

Learn more about Complete Guide to TRX® Suspension Training®.

More Excerpts From Complete Guide to TRX Suspension Training