Suspension trainers are a fantastic tool that let you strength train anywhere, including your own home or while on vacation and they’re adaptable to any fitness level, from beginner to advanced athlete. Compared to other equipment like dumbbells or strength training machines, using a suspension trainer engages more of your core musculature. This means improved stability and strength in both your abdominals and lower back — important for good posture, alleviating and preventing low back pain and preventing falls in later life.
Once you’ve mastered the row, reverse lunge, and mountain climber in Part 1 of our suspension training series, you’re ready for the exercises below. In each installment of the series, we’re sharing one move each for your upper body, lower body and core.
3 Suspension Trainer Exercises for Older Adults
This upper body move focuses on your chest and triceps, while also improving core and shoulder stability. This is a great way for beginners to master push-up form (with feet further away from the anchor point), and for advanced trainees to make regular push-ups more challenging (with feet close to the anchor point).
Facing away from the suspension trainer’s anchor point with your feet shoulder-width apart, grasp the handles with an overhand grip, arms at shoulder height and extended in front of you. Keeping your core braced and your entire body in a straight line, bend your elbows and lower your chest between your hands. Exhale and push yourself back to the starting position. Aim for 3 sets of 10 repetitions at an angle that feels very challenging around the 7th repetition. As you gain strength, try to position your body more parallel to the floor.
2. Foot Elevated Split Squat
After you’ve mastered the reverse lunge in Part 1 of our series, you can up the ante with this exercise. You’ll strengthen your entire lower body, while also increasing your balance and stability and evening out any muscle imbalances you may have between your left and right sides.
Facing away from the anchor point, place your left foot in both suspension trainer strap handles. Firmly plant your right foot into the ground, toes pointing forward. Clasp your hands in front of you or put your hands on your hips. Bend your right knee, lowering into a lunge position until your right thigh is parallel to the floor. Your left leg will remain bent. Press through your right foot and return to the start position. Repeat for repetitions, then switch sides. Once my older clients are able to perform 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions per leg, they start holding a dumbbell in each hand.
If you’re finding the balance for this move too challenging, perform this move by elevating your foot on a bench, stool, or stability ball.
3. Side Tuck
Core strength becomes more and more important as we age. Strong abdominals reduce unnecessary strain on the back and help us maintain good posture. This exercise targets the obliques, which rotate your torso and contribute to spinal stability.
Start with your feet in the suspension trainer strap handles and your hands on the floor, shoulders positioned over your wrists and your body in a straight line from your head to your feet. Brace your abdominal muscles and as you exhale, bend your knees, tucking them toward your right elbow. Make sure you don’t go so far that your back starts to round. In one smooth motion, straighten your legs to the start position and tuck your knees toward your left elbow. With control, continue alternating sides. My beginner older adult clients aim for 5 repetitions on each side. Intermediate trainees aim for 10 repetitions each side, and advanced clients complete 15 repetitions.
If having your feet in the suspension trainer straps proves too challenging, perform tucks with your lower legs on a stability ball instead.
A unique feature of the suspension trainer is that you can adjust the difficulty of most exercises in any increment, in very little time — often during your set without interrupting it. With traditional weight-based strength training, you’d need to put down the weights you’re using and choose a different set. For the push-up, just move your feet closer to the suspension trainer’s anchor point to make the exercise more challenging, or further away from the anchor point to make it easier. For the split squat, the higher your back foot is elevated, the more challenging the move will be.