If you’re looking for a great piece of equipment that is extremely versatile for training with at home, at a gym, or on the go, suspension devices should be at the top of your list.
Suspension devices like the TRX, Jungle Gym, Rings, etc. are typically very strong fabric that is secured with a type of metal device that helps to adjust the length, and then some kind of handle.
Gymnastics rings are the OG suspension training device, which were once considered staples in all gyms for physical development. Over time as fitness transitioned from more general fitness characteristics to jogging and machine based fitness, we saw rings fall out of favor and progressively be removed from most gyms.
In time, as the “functional fitness” trend started and came to fruition, rings began to make a return to gyms which were looking to include different facets of physical preparedness, such as gymnastics. Soon enough there were more and more moves being practiced utilizing rings, such as pull ups, toes to bars, muscle ups, and much more.
At the same time, innovation was happening in the fitness space and people were looking to create new pieces of equipment for various purposes such transportability and creating more instability – which lead to the creation of the TRX and other commercial type suspension devices.
From there we saw an explosion of people beginning to utilize suspension devices for various purposes, some of which are great, some of which are a bit more convoluted and likely taking a way from the intent.
Today we want to feature 10 UPPER BODY moves that we are big fans of that feature the suspension device. These aren’t necessarily the only 10 you could do, but these 10 are the one with the most benefit based on using a suspension device.
In future blogs we will tackle lower body, core, and other variations that we like use in our programming with Citizen Athletics.
If you’re looking for a program that uses suspension training (as well as other devices), check out our programs! We offer a free trial week so you can test it out before committing!
One last thing before we get into it, if you don’t have a suspension device, you can make one with bed sheets over a door frame! Check it out here:
Alright, let’s tackle the top 10 upper body moves!
1. Suspension Row (Inverted Row , TRX Row, Reclined Row)
This move is hard not to start with.
First off, it’s featured in just about every program we write. Without a doubt, it’s one of our favorite overall upper body moves. Horizontal pulling is a critical pattern to develop and work on for shoulder health, developing a stronger back, and just building an overall healthy body.
Secondly, it’s extremely adjustable to the person. You want it easier? Step back or make the straps shorter. You want it harder? Step in or make the straps longer! You can add weight, add bands, and so much more (we should probably write a blog on our favorite inverted rows!).
We highly recommend using it in your rotation on a regular basis.
2. Suspension Reverse Fly
We love rows, but we also love training the upper back a lot! Reverse flys of all kinds are regular center pieces in our programming for their plethora of benefits. The suspension version is a great one since the hardest position is the extended out position, but due to the way the body arcs up, it reduces the relative load actually and gives it more a smooth tension challenge versus other variations like DBs or bands.
This is a great move to finish off a workout and cap out the full challenge to your posterior delts!
3. Suspension Row + Fly Combo
Talk about awesome, combine 1. & 2. Into one smooth move!
What’s great about this move is that the relatively the row is easier than the fly at any given position, so the row acts as a challenge, but not a full effort compared to the fly for the posterior delt and upper back muscles. This usually allows someone to go to a higher degree of challenge for the fly which lets you focus on strength development.
It’s also a nice little trunk challenger by adding in a bit of a rotational demand. Toss it in the rotation periodically when you’re looking to spice things up!
4. Suspension Push Up
If we flip over, now we can rock out some push ups! In the last exercise we mentioned rotational demand and that really kicks up when we flip over. With the body being further away from the ground and on the top point of the axis in relation to gravity, we are put at a high challenge to resist not falling over, and to keep control of the handles.
This challenge on controlling the handles does a few great things. Firstly, it makes us work way harder with our shoulder muscles to control our torso position and the placement of the rings (AKA stability). Secondly, it makes your pecs work harder since they’re essentially doing a fly now with your hands moving side to side as your press.
Much like the inverted row, we can easily scale this, which is a huge bonus for people who aren’t as strong with push ups.
5. Suspension 1 arm push up
For those who are stronger with push ups, try out this option.
Normally we have our two hands supporting us and working cohesively to press us back up in a push up. While a true 1 arm push up is savagely hard, this allows you to more easily get that (it’s still super hard) and also work your trunk to a higher degree.
With the removed hand, we have to start resisting rotation and controlling our torso to allow our upper body press up and down. This is a great one for lighting up your mid section and sneaking in some extra ab work!
6. Suspension Leg Assisted Pull Up
We highlighted how big of fans we are in this video were we broke down a pull up progression.
By being able to get to a more vertical position, we work our back muscles differently and can comprehensively develop our back. The leg assistance allows most people to get in better quality reps and more volume.
7. Suspension External Rotation Pulses
Earlier we referenced upper back work being a valuable thing and external rotation movements are another option for that. You can get in external rotation work in many ways, such as high rows, face pulls, etc. but we like to get in some dedicated external rotation work periodically.
This more in particular in brutal for making you focus in on it and absolutely expose any deficits you have with it. Try it out if you’re looking for a way to truly challenge your shoulders to the maximum.
8. Suspension Snatch
Most of the moves we highlighted so far are more strength based and this move makes the list for being a more power based movement. What makes it a great power move is that it trains the upper back to produce force quickly, which often gets neglected in a lot of other training programs which preference more pressing power work.
This is technically a whole body move, but we will let it slip in to the list for its awesomeness.
Our last two moves are some isolated work for the arms. Now before any functional experts out there come after us, lets clear it up, training curls and extensions is super functional and super valuable – don’t totally ignore it!
9. Suspension Tricep Extensions
10. Suspended Curl
As someone who has ruptured a biceps, I can attest it’s important to train them, and train them to be strong! What we like about these is that they allow for a lot of high challenge to them in different positions than people commonly hit up with dumbbells or bands.
The suspension tricep extension is at a long muscle length, kind of like a french press and you can get a really great stretch in there
The curl is more like a preacher curl for it’s muscle length, but allows more adjustment and less pressure on the elbows.
Hopefully these 10 movements give you some inspiration and ideas!
Thanks for reading and if you want us to cover other topics, let us know!