Suspension Training 101: Upper Body

TRX titleSuspension training is a relatively new exercise trend that has gained a fast following and for good reason. A suspension training system can provide a total full-body workout anywhere, anytime. The straps are portable and adaptable to any setting, including hotels, parks, gyms, or your home. Any body part can be worked at any level of difficulty with a quick re-position. What’s not to love?

The system most well-known today is the TRX (Total Resistance eXercise) developed by a Navy Seal in the 1990s. The one I use at home is actually the Lifeline Jungle Gym XT which is much less expensive and does the same thing.

Click to visit the TRX homepage

Click to visit the TRX homepage

Most suspension trainers don’t come with wall anchors, those much be purchased separately if you want to anchor to the wall like in my photos. This is not a requirement! All suspension trainers have multiple options for use. You can use the “door anchors” which hang over a closed door and stay anchored (as long as nobody opens the door!). You can also loop the ends through the straps (instructions come with the kit) and attach it to a tree branch, monkey bars, pull up bar, or any other sturdy place. It takes just seconds to prepare for a portable, total body workout. This makes it the ideal piece of workout equipment for travelling.

With a suspended training system, you can control the intensity of your workout by walking closer or further from the anchor point. This takes just seconds, instead of having to switch dumbbells or load more plates onto a bar. Your own body weight provides the resistance to improve your strength, power, core stability, and balance. Switching exercises also takes just moments, a quick change of hand or foot position. This will save a lot of time over the length of a whole workout. The number of exercises you can perform with a suspension training system is limited only by your imagination. A suspension system also utilizes your core more than traditional exercises, in almost every position. A strong core must be maintained or you will immediately feel your form fail. This really keeps you honest!

The anchor point should be approximately 7 to 9 feet off the ground and the handles approximately 3 to 4 inches off the ground when hanging. These are some of the fundamental upper-body exercises available to you with the suspension straps. You should keep a tight core and straight body throughout every movement.


Inverted Rows

These can be done either close grip or wide. Keeping your body in a straight line, move your feet to a position several feet in front of you.  Retract your shoulders, pulling your chest toward the straps. You should feel the activation in your upper lats. Experiment with foot positioning until you feel the proper resistance.


Rear Delt Flyes

Begin in the same position, angled backward with your body in a straight line. Slowly open your arms to the sides, keeping them straight, using your rear delts to pull your body into a standing position.


Bicep Curls

Begin with the body at an angle, palms face-up. Keeping elbows perpendicular to your chest, use your biceps to slowly pull you hands toward your face. Adjust your feet positioning further away to make the curl harder.

Curl1 Curl2

Single Arm Side Curl

Stand sideways to your anchor point, holding one strap with arm outstretched. The more you angle your body, the harder the curl. Slowly curl your hand toward your head using your bicep only. Keep shoulders static.


Chest Press

Begin with feet lined up under or behind the anchor point. Angle your body down and forward with arms stretched straight out in front of you. Keep a straight spine and bring your elbows back, performing a chest press. Bring your feet forward to make the exercise easier.


Chest Flyes

Begin with your arms straight out to the sides with palms facing in toward each-other. Then bring your hands back in together using your chest muscles, keeping arms straight. Adjust your feet position forward to make the move easier.

ChestFlye3 ChestFlye4

Triceps Extension

Begin facing away from the anchor position with arms up, elbows bent over your head with palms facing out. Using only your triceps, push the handles away from your head into a full tricep extension. Slowly return to start.

Triceps1 Triceps2

Tricep (Close grip) Pushups

Begin with elbows bent behind you, hands close by your sides facing in. Use your triceps to push your body backward, straightening the arms.

ClosePush2   ClosePush1

And those are the most basic upper body suspension moves, a great place to start with your new straps. Repeat each move for 3 sets of 8 – 10 reps, or superset your moves for a faster workout! It’s incredibly simple to move from position to position, so supersets are very easy to perform with a suspension trainer. Stay tuned for core and lower body suspension workouts!




  1. Sabrina S.

    Awesome! I definitely need to get this to take with me when I travel. Especially when I am not staying at a place where there is no gym! :-)

  2. Rashid

    JGXT definitely on my to get list!

  3. Daniel B.

    That is so cool. But I have to wonder about the install.


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