Do you dream of defying gravity, Cirque du Soleil style? Or flying through the air with the greatest of ease?
Suspension training can help you accomplish both and get a full body workout. This popular fitness trend entails leveraging your body weight by hanging, swinging or gripping straps while performing a variety of moves.
"Suspension training gives you the most bang for your buck," says Todd Durkin, an exercise physiologist and spokesperson for IDEA Health and Fitness Association. "You get your cardio while incorporating strength, stability and core training all at the same time."
By targeting the small muscles that stabilize the joints as well as the large physique muscles, suspension training is a great way to help prevent injury.
Here are some swinging classes that will likely be coming to a gym near you very soon.
Do It Military Style
A former Navy Seal's invention and Gwen Stefani's workout of choice, the TRX (Total Body Resistance Exercise) system is the most popular suspension option around. The system is comprised of a pair of straps with handles joined together, which can be anchored to a door or suspended from the ceiling at the gym. It allows you to harness your own body weight and create just the right amount of resistance by adjusting your body angles.
Whether you join a group class or buy an at-home system (about $170 to $230 from Fitness Anywhere online), take it slow in the beginning, advises Carol Espel, the national director of group fitness and Pilates for Equinox Fitness Clubs. "TRX can be extremely challenging," she says. "Since you're working with only two straps, you need to make sure you have the strength to keep your body stable."
Defy Gravity the Yoga Way
Spend a playful hour suspended from the ceiling in a white fabric hammock while you swing and stretch, using your core in ways you never dreamed possible. Developed by aerial artist Christopher Harrison, who put the likes of Mariah Carey and Jane Krakowski in the hammock for their stage shows, AntiGravity yoga classes are available at gyms and studios around the country.
The benefits: It decompresses joints and aligns the spine without strain, it makes inversions (upside-down poses) easier by offering the support you need without neck compression, and it helps increase flexibility and strength by allowing you to hold poses longer than you could in a conventional yoga class. Check the AntiGravity Yoga Web site to see if there's a class starting at your local studio.
Circus Training, Seriously
Circus-inspired suspension training -- at studios like Cirque School in Los Angeles and the Trapeze School, which offers classes in several major metropolitan areas -- begin with a circuit-training warm-up and then move on to some real trapeze swinging.
Equinox Fitness Clubs launched the Jukari Fit to Fly workout, in partnership with Cirque du Soleil.
"We wanted people to inject fun back into their workouts," explains Espel. And with Jukari, a gentler version of a pro circus workout, everyone can feel the sensation of flying through the air as they gain speed and a bit of altitude with the FlySet, a durable rope fixed to the ceiling.
Work out Like an Inka Warrior
Equinox's INKA fitness program is a graceful core-conditioning workout created by Kurt Dasbach, who based the INKA program on a South American folk workout he learned in Chile. There they used branches and ropes instead of a trapeze-like apparatus with straps and handles. Based on old-fashioned resistance training, INKA gives you the discipline and rigor of a TRX workout with the fun and flow of a trapeze experience. It's especially good for fine-tuning balance and improving range of motion as well as offering strength and flexibility training.
Stacie Stukin writes about health and beauty for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Yoga Journal and Natural Health.
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