Outdoor Fitness: Shift into Gear at the Gym

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For the average person, standard gym training tactics used to involve a splash of treadmill cardio, a dabble in the free-weight area and a sprinkling of abdominal crunches to top it off.

Now, trends have shifted into more exciting freestyle training methodologies, which involve engaging with pieces of equipment that better suit functional movements and are far more accessible than the imposing barbell/dumbbell lifts that were common place before. Let’s take a look at one piece of equipment that has really exploded onto the gym scene, which offers a great alternative to developing functional strength; the Suspension Trainer.

What is a Suspension Trainer?
The Suspension Trainer has roots in military fitness training, but has now seen global success with its ability to add increasing load to functional based movements, with the user’s own bodyweight as resistance. The Suspension Trainer can be adjusted in length to suit the exercise and the proportions of the person when using it and is an ideal training tool for anyone looking to improve functional strength.

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Suspended Row
A great place to start is with the Suspended Row; it strengthens the upper back, which is a key weakness in many, and it also benefits the core and grip strength.

To perform it:
• Start by shortening the straps to the highest they can go
• Grab the handles in front and stand completely straight, with the spine in a neutral position
• Step backwards until there is full tension in the straps
• Have the feet shoulder-width apart for stability
• Have the palms facing each other and keep them close to the torso (just under the chest)
• Start to lean back and extend your arms out, rotate your wrists so that palms are facing down at full extension
• Pull yourself back in, while rotating the palms back to facing each other to complete the rep
• Keep the back straight and core engaged at all times

Top Tips
The great thing about using the Suspension Trainer is that the intensity of it is controlled entirely by you! The taller you stand, the easier this exercise becomes. If you lean further back at the start; it becomes more difficult to pull back in. Another progression is to bring the feet together, so there is less stability. You could even go for a single leg variation to make it even harder!

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Suspended Push-Up
Just like the row, it is an ideal place to start and works the opposing muscle groups, with the chest and shoulder getting engaged the most.

To perform it:
• Start by lengthening the straps to mid-level, as you will need additional length to get depth in this exercise
• Grab the handles in front and stand completely straight, with the spine in a neutral position
• Now walk forwards and extend the arms out until there is tension in the straps and the straps are both aligned slightly above the shoulders (not touching)
• Palms should be facing down throughout the exercise and arms shoulder-width apart
• Lower the body down to parallel with the chest, or just under the hands
• Push back up to the starting position to complete the rep
• Keep the back straight and core engaged at all times

Top Tips
Just like the row, you can adjust the intensity by modifying your stance for the exercise. This time you would lean further forward to increase intensity, or stand tall to reduce the effect of gravity and the amount of bodyweight involved. Again, going from a split leg stance to close feet and even single leg (advanced level only!) will progress this exercise.

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Suspended Squat Jumps
This one gives your cardio a run for its money, burns fat and also develops explosive strength by working all of the leg muscles.

To perform it:
• Set straps to mid-length for this exercise
• Grab the handles in front, so that the palms are facing each other, shoulder-width apart
• Standing straight, with a neutral spine and feet slightly further than shoulder-width apart, go into a deep squat and then explode up into a jump
• You can rotate the wrists down in the jump, if it feels more comfortable
• Immediately drop back into a squat and repeat
• Keep full tension on the straps at all times (leaning slightly back with your weight helps, however, the back must remain straight)

Top Tips
This one is a high-energy, cardio intensive exercise; the faster and higher you jump, the harder it gets! You could try a single-leg jump variation for a real burn, or, remove the jumping portion to take the intensity down a notch.

Suspension Trainers are a great way to kick-start a functional training routine in the gym. Give them a try next time you want to add some spice into your programme!

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James Sidhu
Senior FM DIFC Fitness First


Words by: James Sidhu

Photos by: Jung Francisco

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