Playground rules: Suspension-training gets back to basics

Suspension and functional training gyms were all the rage at IHRSA this year, including from a new portable product by veteran TRX to a huge gym by Italian company Queenax. Attendees told SNEWS the products recall the good old days, when we all played on jungle gyms and drank chocolate milk.
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SNEWS has had a special relationship with suspension training ever since our first visit to a personal trainer who was an avid TRX pusher. It’s a love/hate thing. Love it because it makes us look and feel great, hate it because it’s intensely challenging.

Perhaps that’s why suspension training in general, including items from the original TRX, has blown up in recent years. At IHRSA, there were more suspension training items than we saw at Health and Fitness Business Expo, including new suspension training gym from Life Fitness.

With one of the biggest, most prominent booths, it was hard to ignore Life Fitness and its plethora of new products, including the Synergy 360 (photo, right). Music pumped from the booth, so loud you couldn’t hear yourself think. But who needs to think with so much going on? People were laughing while they performed what looked like a dance on the Synergy360, a system that combines dynamic total body exercises and TRX (which partnered with Life Fitness on the product) suspension training.

The Life Fitness product took SNEWS back to the days of old, when getting active was as simple as playing on the jungle gym in the elementary school playground.

“We went back to our roots,” said Dan Willie, Life Fitness’ vice president of global marketing and product development. “We understand what the market trends are, and one of them is functional training.”

Synergy360 lends itself to group and individual training, Willie said, and there are two versions, a large and a small.

Of course, TRX brought something new to the table. After effectively launching the suspension-training trend years ago, TRX brought its Rip Trainer (MSRP $189.95, photo, left) to the forefront at IHRSA. This small item fits in a handy carrying case and can be toted around anywhere your customers go, giving them a chance to work out in the park, at home and anywhere in between.

It’s a long stick, and one side connects to a bungee cord. The other side of the bungee cord can be attached to any anchored point (think the leg of a swingset at the playground).

“Every day our bodies are designed to rotate,” said Pete Holman, TRX’s director of Rip Training. Many of the motions we perform are rotational, such as putting children into a car seat or lifting groceries out of the trunk, yet many of the exercises we do are linear, Holman said. The Rip Trainer, which forces your body to strengthen muscles used in rotational movements, gave SNEWS a great workout that kept us sore days after we tested the product.

The product comes with the carrying case and an instructional DVD, because TRX prides itself on educating consumers on how to engage properly in functional training.

The Human Trainer was at IHRSA last year, said founder Darren Shane, but this year the unit featured bulletproof glass and four stations with Olympic rings and resistance straps to be used for jumping off the glass, Spiderman-style.

Since that's a commercial unit, Shane hawked his consumer Home Kit (MSRP $169.99), which comes in a tin can for storage and includes a door anchor, two resistance straps, two handles, a DVD and an instruction manual.

At the opposite end of the trade show floor was the Suspended Bodyweight Trainer, an orange-and-blue, dome-like contraption with several spaces to attach suspension straps for group exercises. The straps had sweatproof, ergonomic grips, integrated wrist wraps and slip-free ankle cradles. While only the company’s biggest mount was on display, the company also offers a small training station that holds up to four straps, a three-point wall mount and a roof or wall solo mount.

Though Purmotion is currently only a direct-to-consumer company, its bright orange functional training 910XT system was buzzing with happy people working out. While other companies now include a cage in their functional and suspension-training systems, Trianer Jeff Flagg claims Purmotion was the first to do so.

But Italian company Queenax took the caged functional trainng system to a whole new level. Its giant, white-and-black cage hosted several classes a day, some featuring exercises with straps and others including yoga with hammocks, an antigravity experience (photo, right). Their product is truly commercial, with options to turn any gym classroom into a Queenax training heaven, with flooring and cage options available.

--Ana Trujillo

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