Over the last 10 years, suspension trainers have established themselves as a valuable resource in anyone's training arsenal. As with most equipment that becomes popular, they have been misrepresented or misused in regards to hypertrophy training.
On a like for like basis, suspension trainers will always place second in a two man race, to dumbbells and barbells with respect to hypertrophy. This is for two reasons;
- The ability to increase the load used for a movement is limited both by the inherent instability caused by the interaction with the equipment and the placement of an external load itself.
- The instability of movements performed on suspension trainers mean that often it is the synergistic muscles that fatigue first rather than the prime movers.
So, if the above are true, does this mean that suspension trainers are worthless for those seeking muscle hypertrophy?
Yes and no.
Suspension trainers are beneficial when used to improve the structural balance of muscles around a joint and in turn joint stability. Often people are limited in their progress by the inability of synergistic muscles to maintain joint integrity during high intensity or high volume training. Suspension training therefore can lead to improved technique and higher levels of muscle recruitment by improving joint function. Not only that, but the reduced loads can allow users to work through a greater range of movement, potentially limiting future restrictions.
However, they should never be the mainstay of a resistance training programme if the goal is hypertrophy. That role should go to dumbbells, barbells, cables and machines.