What is old is new again. More than 150 years ago people were creating better bodies with bodyweight exercise. Acrobats and gymnasts have used their own bodyweight and gravity as resistance while suspended from rings, ropes, and trapeze bars to generate tremendous, strength and the astonishing physiques. The modern fitness era has seen a rebirth in bodyweight exercises, body builders have adopted some of these suspended training techniques. On Muscle Beach in Venice, CA, you can see people hanging on rings suspended from chains doing amazing things.
With the shift toward isolation training in the 60's and 70's, Suspension Training largely disappeared, lost to all but a few classes of athletes (acrobats, gymnasts, wrestlers and climbers) who continued to strength train on ropes and rock in the practice of their craft.
The recent change in fitness programming toward traditional functional training styles has ushered a reawakening to the value of strength and body awareness; that is, the ability to move one’s own body-mass through space efficiently and powerfully. Recent design developments toward user friendly equipment for Suspension Training have also expanded the depth and breadth of exercises within this unique genre of functional conditioning. Programming adaptations have also broadened the population of users capable of integrating this amazingly effective old--but all-new--style of training. No longer is Suspension Training limited to the highly advanced athletes whose maneuvers continue to astonish and delight legions of fans of the Cirque du Soleil.
So why would I want to incorporate this genre of exercise into my training?
The trend of the new millennium in sports programming is inarguably functional training. Pros and amateurs alike recognize that while looking great is important, the ability to apply those aesthetics to performance is even more essential to long term performance and quality of life. So how does Suspension Training help to meet these goals?
The strength required to generate and control movement in a destabilized environment is a type of strength unlike any other. In such training environments, the core is in a complete and constant state of activity in every exercise. Core stabilization is required to maintain proper alignment and body position. This kind of full-body muscular engagement is even more apparent when performing some of the very demanding bodyweight exercises that can be employed to build strength using Suspension Training.
An inextricably linked "cause and affect" relationship exists between balance, body- awareness and core stability. Suspension Training places the body in a state of destabilization under load. This creates a challenging position where body or kinesthetic awareness must be developed to enable the core and other joint stabilizers to manage the center of gravity over its base of support. As this ability is enhanced it allows us to control our body position and produce smooth and efficient movement in increasingly more challenging postural situations. This increased ability to generate power and to stabilize in unbalanced positions correlates directly to increased performance in virtually every sport.
When any part of the body is destabilized in a suspended movement, there are instantly increased muscular demands. To counteract this instability, the chain of muscles must cooperatively adapt at a much higher level than in an exercise where position and range of motion are restricted and controlled by a defined and supported path of travel, as with most traditional machines. Increased demands on joint stability challenge stabilizer muscles to maintain joint integrity as neutralizer muscles work to produce smooth movement while simultaneously managing thousands of tiny disruptive forces. Suspension Training also necessitates increased levels of spinal stabilization in order to maintain proper exercise position and body alignment. Training under these conditions of loaded instability generates complete muscle activation of the prime movers.
Suspension Training is highly athletic. It creates proprioceptive challenges that reinforce muscle firing sequences and motor patterns that transfer directly into movements commonly found in sport and life. This style of training demands coordinated and integrated body movement and offers challenging, sport-specific variations that require power and agility--the mainstays of athleticism for any sport.
Recent design evolution also makes Suspension Training one of the easiest and most convenient ways to strength train as the required equipment is minimal, highly portable and it can be done virtually anywhere.
Still not convinced that Suspension Training is appropriate for you?
Consider the speed at which this unique style of training is migrating across athletic boundaries. Some of the world’s top triathletes and competitive fighters—along with training rooms in the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL—are now integrating Suspension Training into their athletes training regimens.
Todd Durkin, ACE Personal Trainer of the Year 2005 and IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year 2004, utilizes this mode of training with his NFL and MLB players, along with youth athletes and regular clients.
Pete Twist, renowned athletic training presenter and former strength and conditioning coach for the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, integrates Suspension Training into his unique system of performance training that emphasizes speed, quickness and agility for athletes in multi-directional sports.
Lastly, consider that many of the world’s most elite military units now employ Suspension Training to maintain peak physical performance at home and abroad.
In conclusion, Suspension Training represents the evolution of functional training and is a tremendous, new and effective way of integrating closed kinetic chain, body weight based movement into any training plan. This additional training modality will enhance program functionality and effectiveness, and bring you to peak results.