Suspension trainers are deceptively simple products: a set of two adjustable nylon straps with anchors, handles and loops for your feet. Hang them over a sturdy door, close the door, and then what? By changing the length of the straps, and the distance and angle of your body position, you can do an amazing number of exercises that work out every part of your body with a little or a lot of resistance.
No need to drag yourself to the gym in the evening post-DST darkness. You can store a suspension trainer in the smallest of apartments; in fact, they are very popular with travelers who put them in their carry-on bags to use in hotel rooms.
Resistance training gives you a triple advantage in staying (or getting) in shape: it burns calories, lowers your body fat percentage and increases the rate you burn calories at rest. Plus it moves the needle on the toned/flabby scale.
Several brands of suspension trainers are available. They all work on the same principle, using your body weight and position to increase or decrease resistance. Because the effectiveness of each exercise depends on the precision of your body position, each exercise also works your core muscles, which must be engaged to stabilize your body and maintain proper form through each series of repetitions. As we’ve all sadly learned with age, core strength was what you used to build and maintain naturally as you hoisted yourself up trees, across playground jungle gyms, and over the various obstacles you climbed rather than avoiding as a younger person. They also seem to be the first to go, and with their demise go your formerly flat abs and willingness to be seen in a swimsuit, while along come back pain and other joint strain that make ordinary activities more stressful. Since suspension trainers work your core with each exercise from multiple angles, they provide a more effective core workout than simple crunches — which everyone hates, and which aren’t really that effective, anyway.
The popular brands of suspension trainers come with DVD instructions to watch and a printed guide to post nearby as a workout reference. The Jungle Gym XT comes in a tasteful shade of Ferrari red and costs about $99 (maybe the price of 3 or 4 months of gym membership). The TRX is yellow and costs about twice as much — $200 (or maybe the price of 6 or 8 months of gym membership). Take a look and decide for yourself.