Suspension training: as effective as weight training?
Suspension training is a good way to develop skills and to develop endurance.
The big three: rings, monkey bars, TRX
Rings are a good way to practice skills like handstands, static holds like the world-famous Iron Cross, and dismounts.
Monkey bars are a good way to practice American Ninja Warrior skills and skills that require the user to move her body from point a to point b using only the hands. They are also a good way to do hanging leg exercises.
TRX can be used to perform most anatomical movements using just bodyweight. For example, prone horizontal shoulder adduction plus elbow extension—also called a push-up—can be performed on a TRX. But it will be harder to do because the TRX straps will oscillate constantly. When they oscillate, TRX straps will make any movement more difficult than usual and they will force the exerciser to use supporting muscles to keep the body as still as possible. The supporting muscles reflexively counter the direction that the TRX straps want to travel, for example, if the straps move slightly leftward then the supporting muscles contract to move them slightly rightward.
Unanswered questions about suspension training
But suspension training is a difficult thing to track with precision. How do you measure strength gains in a TRX push up? You could track the number of reps performed over time. But would an increase in that number show improved strength or an improvement in something else, like neuromuscular efficiency?
If you climb across monkey bars, you could track the time that it takes to make a pass. But does a reduction in that time show improved strength, or does it just show improved speed?
If you eventually learn how to do a static hold—like a front lever—on the rings, did you get stronger or did you improve your coordination?
For all of those reasons, if you want clearer proof that you are getting stronger, weightlifting exercise may be the way that you have to go. If you do some exercise, like a seated chest press, during which some weight moves over some distance, and the weight gets heavier over months or more, that is a good sign that you are stronger.
Suspension training and weight training can produce results–if you know what you’re doing. If you’re not seeing the desired results, that may be a sign that you should do some one-to-one training with a personal trainer that you trust.