June 26, 2013
Life is always trying to throw you out of balance, so why not train that way on purpose? By taking advantage of some of the unique properties of a TRX® Suspension Trainer—one of my favorite training tools—you can develop total-body strength using asymmetrical movements that will prepare you to handle the unbalanced nature of life’s movements.
To get your schedule back in balance it helps to save time wherever you can, so if you can challenge more muscles per minute of exercise, you can get more done in less time. This helps fitness to fit your life rather than take it over.
These four exercises—demonstrated by myself and some of my students from my weekly TRX classes—do just that. You can use these moves as part of a longer workout or do just these exercises for several sets each for an effective, very short workout when you’re pressed for time.
Each exercise uses the unique properties of the suspension trainer and features asymmetrical movement and a challenge to coordination—characteristics that are essential for life, sport and just about any movement.
Standing Chest Press/Fly Combo
Suspension Trainer Length: Fully lengthened
Body Position: Standing, facing away from anchor
When I first discovered the TRX® Suspension Trainer in 2006 this was the first exercise I ever created with it. In the years I spent as a TRX® Master Instructor and even today it inspired new exercises. For this move, one arm performs a chest-press movement, while the other arm performs a chest-fly movement, with slightly more of your weight going into the arm performing the pressing movement. If you alternate each rep, you should expect that your body will shift a little bit to allow this transition in weight from arm to arm.
You can alternate arms within each repetition or perform one set with a designated arm, performing the press and fly and then switching the movements to the opposite arm on the next set.
Tip: Choose a body angle that is slightly easier than what you would normally use for the standing chest press as the asymmetry and the more unstable fly movement will warrant a lower intensity.
Standing Row/Fly Combo
Suspension Trainer Length: Fully shortened
Body Position: Standing, facing toward anchor
This exercise presents a theme similar to the previous one, only this time you are facing the other direction. One arm performs a back-row movement with a neutral grip and the arm kept close to the side of the body, while the other arm performs a reverse-fly movement. Slightly more of your weight should go into the arm performing the rowing movement.
You can alternate arms each repetition or perform one set with a designated arm, performing the row and fly and then switching the movements to the opposite arm on the next set.
Tip: Prevent the suspension trainer strap from shifting side-to-side as you perform the movement. You will have to balance the forces between the arms to do this and it will provide an interesting and novel challenge to strength and coordination.
Leg Pull/Leg Spread Combo
Suspension Trainer Length: Slightly less than fully lengthened
Body Position: Lying on your back facing up toward anchor with heels suspended in the foot cradles
To begin, lift your hips off of the floor. One leg will perform a hamstring curl (the pull) while the other leg pushes out to the side (the spread). You can alternate each repetition or perform one set with a designated leg, performing the pull and press and then switching the movements to the opposite leg on the next set.
Tip: Prevent the suspension trainer strap from shifting side-to-side as you perform the movement. You may need a few reps to find the exact amount of force to apply with each leg to balance out the pressure on each side to prevent movement of the suspension trainer strap. If you have trouble rebalancing the strap, pause for a moment, lower the hips, rebalance your feet and then continue.
Balance Lunge With Hop
Suspension Trainer Length: Mid-length
Body Position: Standing, facing toward anchor
Hold the handles lightly with relaxed, slightly bent arms. Standing with feet together and lined up with the anchor point, lift one leg and drive it back behind you, performing a single-leg squat with your stance leg. Keep the back leg off the ground at the bottom of the movement. Use the stance leg to return upright and drop down into the second rep. Quickly come out of the second rep and switch feet by gently hopping. Perform the two reps in similar fashion on that leg and then switch back to the first leg.
Tips: (1) For the handles: Pretend you are riding a horse and don’t want to pull on the reigns too hard. The straps should be firm, but not overly taught. You want to keep the weight in your leg as much as possible rather than shifting it to the arms. (2) Never “stick the landing;” instead, use your muscles to land softly and absorb forces. Every landing is the beginning of the next rep, so keep moving.
You can perform these exercises for reps or time—your choice should be based on the parameters of your program. Or you can simply make these four exercises an express workout and repeat them three times as a circuit, performing each move for 30 seconds and resting only as long as it takes to transition to the next exercise to get a lot of work done in little time.
Jonathan’s “800 pounds of parents” inspired his fitness career as a two-time Personal Trainer of the Year Award-Winner (ACE and IDEA), fitness thought leader, and fitness/media expert for Discovery Fit & Health. His book, Abs Revealed, is a modern, intelligent approach to abdominal training. He is a Master Instructor for ACE, SPRI, Tabata Bootcamp, and formerly for TRX. His brain-based fitness training is transforming lives by transforming attitudes about fitness. A former astronomer, Jonathan used to study stellar bodies – now he builds them!