Suspension straps – popularized by the TRX brand – are commonly used when trainers are working with complete beginners. If you're a newbie or very overweight, the straps allow you to squat, lunge, and press with assistance to ensure proper movement mechanics.
But for the hardcore lifter, suspension straps are seen as a sissy piece of equipment. That's a pretty close-minded bro mindset. In fact, some of the exercises below will have even the buffest meatheads begging for mercy after a few reps.
These exercises are subtly hard, especially when done at challenging angles. They'll provide a new stimulus, reveal weak areas, and build muscle and strength.
These will challenge you more than any dumbbell row. You'll be essentially rowing your bodyweight with one arm. Don't let your shoulder shrug up, keep your core braced, and pull with control. You'll feel your core work double-time to stabilize the offset load. Your pulling muscles will also contract deeply. To make it easier, simply go flat footed or adjust your angle.
Most people can't do a pistol squat and they neglect their single-leg work. This exercise will fix that. The straps help you maintain balance, proper hip position, and ideal lumbar position. Don't be fooled though, it's still stupid-hard after just a few reps. If you want your core to work even harder, you can hang from only one strap.
Most lifters are chronically internally rotated at the shoulders. They have the posture of a camel. To make matters worse they have a hard time feeling their upper back and rear delts. This exercise solves all of that. Your posture will improve, your back will contract with ease, and those stubborn posterior delts will finally get some love. To perform, simply row up, bring your hands back, and make a W.
These will make planks feel like a walk in the park. To do them, keep your core braced, move slowly, and fight the urge to go into lumbar extension. You'll know right away if your core is a weak point if you're shaking after just one rep.
Keep your core tight and don't use any momentum.
To finish your arms off, these TRX skull crushers will challenge your triceps like never before. Keep your core extremely tight and move slowly. It's very tempting to start using momentum with these. Don't!
Progressive Overload Still Applies
To make the pistol squat and bodysaw harder, you can add a weight vest. For the others you can do the same thing, but that probably won't be necessary as you can apply more stress simply by changing your angle. The more parallel your trunk is to the ground the harder it'll be.
A solid plan to build strength and trigger more muscle growth would be to alternate between increasing reps and changing your angle. For example:
- Week 1: Add more reps
- Week 2: Take a half step forward
- Week 3: Add more reps at new angle
- Week 4: Take another half step forward
Give these a try and you'll have newfound respect for suspension strap training.