Suspension straps are one of the most inexpensive, portable and versatile pieces of equipment for strength training. Initially developed by military personnel for use on deployment, these straps facilitate an almost endless number of exercises.
Over the past two decades, strength training has become more nuanced and specific than ever before. There are so many variations, ranging from the highly functional to completely impractical. This is part of the reason why exercisers become confused, especially as their social media feeds suggest doing five sets of three repetitions each while drinking a pulverized chicken breast. (LOL)
Suspension training falls into the category of body weight training, which tends to address total body strength rather than specific muscle isolation. The core muscles are wonderfully engaged in most suspension training exercises, and that’s one reason I enjoy performing and prescribing them.
I also appreciate the approachability of suspension training. It doesn’t require a gym membership, dedicated space or extensive fitness knowledge. Most suspension straps come with an exercise guide or videos covering hundreds of different movements, and the initial financial investment is reasonable.
For those who do have access to a fitness center, suspension training will almost certainly be available there. Group exercise classes are a great place to learn new movements, develop modifications and become familiar with the benefits of suspension training.
Where individual workouts are preferred, most gyms leave the suspension straps hooked up 24/7. So, it’s easy to pop in and grab a few sets between classes.
I find value in the postural benefits of suspension training. Because most (if not all) exercises address the core muscles, I find myself standing more upright and feeling strong while supporting my body weight. It’s kind of a “light on your feet” feeling that makes it easier to ascend stairs, stand throughout concerts (yes, I’m that guy) or do yard work.
This week’s exercise specifically tackles the upper back through suspension training. The TRX Rear Delt Fly is simple, but a small variation in technique can dramatically change the difficulty level.
[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » arkansasonline.com/0123TRX/]
1. Set up a TRX strap so the anchor is overhead.
2. Grasp each handle and walk backward with your arms extended in front of your body until the straps are tight.
3. Take a step or two forward and lean your upper body back slightly. The straps should be supporting your body weight.
4. Ensuring the straps remain taut, spread the handles apart by extending both arms laterally away from the body’s midline. Keep the arms straight as your body rises forward during this motion.
5. Once both arms are fully “open” (think about your body creating a T shape), slowly reverse direction and allow the arms to move back to the center.
6. Continue for 12 repetitions; do 2 sets.
I like to perform the TRX Rear Delt Fly toward the end of a strength workout, mostly because the shoulders will be fully warm at that point. This movement does not provide much leverage for the shoulders, so it’s safer and more effective to ensure they are fully ready to rock. Enjoy!
Director of business development and population health solutions for Quest Diagnostics, Matt Parrott began this column Jan. 6, 2003, at Little Rock. He has a doctorate in education (sport studies), a master’s in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.