Using a Suspension Trainer with Proper Technique
Using a Suspension Trainer with Proper Technique is extremely important. Good technique is a key ingredient teaching your maintain to use your core, and maintain good form. The term ‘form’ in suspension training is so important it’s worth even defining what is meant by the word ‘form’. Form is the exact shape and position of the entire body, from head to toe, and also particular parts of the body, when performing suspension training moves. The importance of correct form during suspension training movements is extremely important. To help demonstrate some fundamentals of correct form, we will use a traditional isometric (static) exercise called The Plank . Many people have heard of the plank and have experience using it in a training program.
HOW TO DO A PLANK
- Start in a ground position facing down.
- Consciously tighten up all the muscles you can from your toes to your shoulders.
- Raise your body up as one unit so you are making contact with the ground with only your forearms, and toes.
- Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to ankles.
- Engage your core by sucking your belly button into your spine.
- Hold with good form until you get tired.
If you have never done the plank, practice it several times over three-to-four workout sessions before starting a suspension training program. Suspension training requires that you have a good feeling for engaging the core muscles as demanded by correct performance of the plank. If you have done the plank in the past, but not recently, a little refresher would be good to reinforce the muscle memory. Time yourself and focus on increasing the amount of time you can hold this position for. You should aim for ??? seconds before starting a suspension training program.
How many seconds should a person be able to hold the plank before starting a suspension training program?
Just starting out?
If you are new to strength training, or it has been a while since you have done it, go ahead and start with a modified version until your body develops the strength and ability to hold the harder version. To do the modified version simply hold the position from your knees instead of your toes, as shown below. When you can properly hold this position for a full minute, progress to your toes. Initially reduce the amount of time you attempt to hold it when you move up to a more challenging position. Make a goal to increase your time 5 seconds each week until you reach 1 minute. At this point you may move to the suspension trainer. Don’t rush the progressions, and give your body time to increase its strength and stability during each one.
Why does the plank matter if we are doing suspension training?
Knowing how to perform a plank correctly can help you perfect your technique on a suspension trainer. You need to stabilize your core while your arms and legs have the job of moving the weight of your body. Your body will need to know how to properly engage the correct muscles, in the correct order, AND have the strength to hold the position throughout the movement. Losing “your plank” during a movement on the suspension training will result in losing your form.
Suspension Training Technique and Common Form Errors
Many beginners make the same mistakes at first with their technique. I will point these mistakes out here, so you’ll know not to make them! Incorrect starting position is often where problems begin, so get this right and you’ll be on a good track. Lack of concentration during the movement is another common error. When it comes to form, the mantra is: start strong and stay strong. If you cannot maintain your form throughout your set, it’s likely you’re trying to achieve too much, so adjust your resistance until you can maintain your form.
Hips: Both poor form and good form of the hips is shown in pic above(4.3). Keep a straight body, like a board. Avoid sagging, or having “slack” in the midsection. Avoid allowing your hips to be up in the air.
Shoulders: Avoid “shrugging” during the movement like what is shown in the pic to the right(Figure 4.4). Keep the shoulders down. To help with this, think about maintaining space between your ears and shoulders, and pulling your shoulder blades down toward your butt. Also, keep chest out and maintain good posture in a “stand up straight” type of way.
Core: Keep a tight core, beginning before you even start the movement, until you are finished. Contract and preload the muscle in your abdomen as if someone is going to punch you in the stomach. Mimic making your body as straight as a surfboard, or table.
Head and Neck: Keep alignment of the head with the spine. A common error is to look down or up, which often causes other poor posture habits such as a rounded back and shoulders. See the pic above(Figure 4.5) for an example of poor form and good form of the head and neck.
Knees: For the most part your knees will maintain alignment with your hips and feet. They should not cave inward or bow outward during squatting or lunging movements, and should stay centered over your feet during most of those movements. The pic above(Figure 4.7) shows a common form error of allowing the hips to drop back on a split squat movement, resulting in the knee being misaligned with the foot.
Loose straps: When using a suspension trainer, the straps should always have tension throughout any movement. A common mistake is to allow the straps to lose tension at the top or the bottom of your movement. If you find the straps are loose at any point during the movement, adjust your position to put tension back on them.
Sawing: Keep the straps even at all times. Sawing happens when one arm or leg pulls harder than the other and the strap will move back and forth through the support strap at the top. Most suspension trainers are not made to perform as a pulley. Sawing is not only poor form, but will also wear out your suspension trainer faster.
If you become familiar with what is good technique, you will go into your movements ready to execute them with the highest quality. This means to get the most of your time and effort. You also reduce chances for strains or injuries resulting from poor form. Once you know what good form feels like, remind yourself to check you for as you fatigue when perming sets of any movement. It is during this time when errors in technique tend to me made, and during this time that you are giving your body the stimulus it needs to get stronger and fitter. Make sure you teach you muscles to maintain the highest quality of movement execution during this time as well.
Check out the Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced Suspension Training workouts with video, to get an even better idea of how body position and technique during movements done on the suspension trainer!