A suspension trainer is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Using this nylon strap apparatus, you perform a range of exercises using your body weight as resistance. It REALLY works the core. Really really works it. You need to stabilize your body in these movements so those muscles are constantly at work. You adjust the difficulty of the exercises by where you place your feet. The greater the angle of your body, the more challenging the workout.
The straps have handles at the end of them that you either hold in your hands or slip your feet onto. The exercises range from traditional pushups and pullups to unique exercises that you wouldn't be able to perform without the trainer. I found that it made it easier for me to do pushups and pullups, since I struggle with doing these in a traditional way...and I also found that after a month of using a trainer once a week, I can actually do a regular pushup with much more ease that I could prior to the class.
Some photos of the exercises:
Some advantages to the trainers are:
- Take up VERY little space. Most come with a small bag so you can pack it up for travel.
- Works both the large muscles AND the smaller stabilizer muscles
- Grows with you - as you become stronger, changing your foot placement increases the difficulty
- Multiple mounting options allow you to install it in the way that works best for you
- Use it anywhere - a little Googling shows you examples of people suspending them from trees and playground equipment outside...or you can attach it to the ceiling or wall with a mounting bracket...or using a door anchor you can turn any door into an anchor point
- There are a variety of video workouts available to guide you if you need them
As for the different products on the market - you already know that I bought the Rip:60 this week (so anxious for it to arrive). There are several different products on the market and, quite frankly, most of them seem pretty comparable when you start delving into reviews. I am going to mention the top 3 commercially marketed products here: TRX, Jungle Gym, and Rip:60 and provide some videos of each.
(their official channel appears to be down, but here's a decent video that shows it off)
Is the most expensive at around $190. This is the one I used in my bootcamp class. There are videos available to workout with, but they are pricey! You can order it online - I've only seen it in one store locally (Fitter First), but that's not to say it isn't available in more. I know of several personal trainers who are distributors as well so you can always ask at a local gym if they can order them.
Jungle Gym XT
Made by LifelineUSA, this one is fairly widely available. I've seen it in several stores locally for around $100. Most reviewers have the TRX winning in comparisons, but it still appears to be a decent product and is cheaper than the other options.
This one is actually an infomercial product that is being marketed toward the same kind of crowd as P90X and Insanity. It is getting great reviews, though, and you can't beat the extras you get with infomercial stuff...12 videos makes this one a steal at $120. I've only seen it online, though. Also - it is made by Icon Fitness - the same people who make the Weider and NordicTrack products (I bought mine through NordicTrack)
Now, you don't necessarily need to buy one of these to get yourself a suspension trainer of your own. If you (or your spouse) happen to be handy/crafty, there are many tutorials on the web on how to make your own trainer for a fraction of the cost. If I was so inclined, I might attempt it myself...but I just don't have the time or inclination at the moment.
Hopefully this has given you a taste of what suspension trainers are. I am super enthusiastic about this kind of training and can't wait to continue when mine arrives. If you have a gym near you that offers TRX training - maybe see if you can take a class. Some gyms offer a free try-out class as a way to recruit new members so it might not even end up costing you a thing to give it a try.