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You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: “You don’t need equipment to get a great workout—just use your body weight.” It’s a cliché, but it’s also true. Many a man has built a great physique, not to mention tons of grit and respect, with nothing more than old-school military moves like pushups, pullups, situps, and body-weight squats.
Problem is, these exercises get a little boring after a while. But by adding just one simple piece of equipment to your arsenal—a suspension trainer—you can reap all the benefits of functional body-weight exercises and more. More exercises, that is, and a lot less boredom.
There are a number of different brands of suspension trainers, with TRX being the most recognizable name, but they all pretty much share the same design: long, sturdy straps with handles at either end that you attach to a solid anchor point overhead. And voilà, by having the ability to “suspend” your hands or feet above ground, you have a whole new world of exercises at your disposal: pulling moves like rows and curls that you couldn’t do without the straps; a variety of challenging lower-body exercises to give you a break from 50-rep sets of air squats and walking lunges; and intense core engagement on virtually every movement, since you’re forced to hold a rigid plank position while fighting to maintain stability with freely moving handles.
No home gym should be without a suspension trainer, and you can find one online for under $200. Once you get yours, try the following two workouts (one that takes 30 minutes, another that takes 15 minutes). Both were designed by Zach Even-Esh, who, in addition to being the founder of the Underground Strength Gym and author of the Amazon best-seller The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength & Conditioning, is the head strength and conditioning coach for the Rutgers University wrestling team. So you’re in good (strong) hands.
This workout is split into upper- and lower-body trisets. That is, you’ll perform one set of all three upper-body moves, one right after the other. After four sets, you’ll move on to the lower-body triset. “This routine will challenge each area of the body intensely,” notes Even-Esh.
This one is a full-body routine that incorporates a triset and a superset to raise intensity while increasing the amount of work you achieve in less time. “The triset and superset are what we call ‘mechanical advantage’ dropsets,” Even-Esh says. “You first perform an exercise in the toughest position, and then you continue changing the body angle to an easier position.” Meanwhile, the mountain climbers will attack the abs and the upper body (isometrically) and raise your heart rate.
The following routines were designed to be done with an adjustable suspension trainer. (Select the brand of your choice: TRX, Lifeline Jungle Gym XT, etc.) Keep in mind that it will likely take some trial and error on your part to determine appropriate strap length and body angles for individual exercises, as well as the best anchor point for the trainer. For optimal results, use an anchor point well above head level—e.g., a pullup bar or another sturdy gym rig.