The sling trainer (also sling training) is one of the most effective and natural training methods for more strength and muscles.
My first home gym consisted of just three pieces of equipment: a pull-up bar, a kettlebell and a sling trainer . Not only was it inexpensive , but it also enabled me to do a variety of exercises . With these three fitness machines I could and can do 99% of the exercises in my home workout.
The sling trainer proves to be particularly helpful because I use it at home, in the park and on vacation . Because it is a real lightweight for a training device and also takes up little space, it is easy to transport.
As a sports scientist, I am also convinced of the training possibilities that the sling trainer can offer, because it enables the basic training method principles to be implemented, which are required for effective strength training.
In this post you will learn everything you need to know about sling training, the most important training principles and effective exercises.
What is a sling trainer?
Sling training is one of the functional training methods that start with the natural movement patterns of our body. With the help of rope and loop systems, all classic movement patterns that are important to us can be reproduced – for example pulling, pushing and bending movements.
The sling training follows the principle of instability. Due to the possibility of three-dimensional movement, the muscles must act in several directions and work together optimally in order to ensure the stability of the joints (intermuscular coordination).
The many movement possibilities of the three-dimensional training also ensure more variation and fun in training and demand creativity.
The first time you will feel that the workout with the sling trainer is very different from training with other devices. In my case it worked like this: Halfway through the planned workout, I was done – even though I was already quite athletic back then.
Why? During training, completely other muscle parts are involved. If you are performing a push-up with the sling trainer for the first time, you will feel as if you have never done any push-ups before. It will take a lot of strength for your body to maintain stability. Your abdominal muscles and arms will tremble like aspen leaves and even a clean push-up will cause sore muscles for several days. What a training effect!
What are the advantages of sling training?
I’ve been using my sling trainer for over eight years and I’m still completely convinced of it.
Especially at the beginning I made good progress with it, especially with regard to my body tension , my physique and my body awareness .
Another plus point: The sling trainer can accompany you on trips and is also suitable for an outdoor workout – a fitness studio in your pocket.
And that wasn’t all. The sling trainer has even more to offer:
- Great variety of exercises,
- New training stimuli for the muscles,
- Higher muscle activation through instability,
- Strengthening the passive musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, tendons, ligaments),
- Improving body awareness,
- Improving your balance,
- Injury prevention,
- Training in a confined space,
- Portable (takes up less space than a towel).
Why is sling training healthy?
As I have already described, sling training is a form of functional training that incorporates movement patterns that are as natural as possible.
The three-dimensional training with the sling trainer is a burden on our body that deserves the attribute “original”. Pulling, pushing and bending are movement patterns to which the human body has been used for millennia . Until recently – millennia are no more than the blink of an eye in human history – these movements were even necessary for survival. What push-ups, rowing and squats are today, used to be knocking over a tree, pulling it to shelter and bending over to work on the material gained. The structure of our skeletal and muscular system allows us such complex movements in space . Then as now, because our body is still the same as it was over 1000 years ago.
As provocative as it sounds: Just because we are sitting on soft office chairs in heated offices today does not mean that we are better off. The variation in movement in everyday life has decreased significantly because of this development, which has health consequences that we feel every day: bad posture, tension, back problems.
A sling training brings back naturalness . Furthermore, the three-dimensional training is a good complement to monotonous and two-dimensional movements , as they are e.g. B. on the chest press, the leg curl or the bicycle ergometer.
Note: More variation is not only good for your body in everyday life, but also as part of your physical activity.
Sling trainer compared to normal training
Of course, you can also perform the exercises described – squats, push-ups and rowing exercises – without the sling trainer. With regular training you will build up muscles, gain strength and gain stability.
But : What if I tell you that sling training is more effective and that it will help you achieve your training goals faster? Wouldn’t that be fantastic?
This is exactly what an American study from 2017 showed, in which researchers examined whether the muscle activity during exercises on a stable surface differs from that of sling training. 1 The same exercises were performed using EMG -Measurements (measurement of muscle activity) compared.
The result of the study? The training with the sling trainer causes a higher activation of the analyzed muscles. The biggest differences are in these exercises and muscle groups:
- Forearm support: abdominal muscles
- Push-ups: chest muscles, arm extensors, back extensors
- Rowing: shoulder muscles, abdominal muscles
- Bridges (pelvic lift): back muscles, glutes
Further studies can prove the effectiveness of sling training in terms of muscle activation. 2,3
Effective sling training for muscle and strength development
It should be emphasized that the classic training methods for effective muscle and strength training can be adhered to with sling training.
If you want to achieve sustainable success, then the following methods are essential:
- Progression (regular increase in load),
- Variation (regular adaptation of the exercise execution),
- Training-effective load (training stimulus that leads to muscle fatigue),
- Periodization (change of training methods: e.g. strength endurance and hypertrophy).
With a little planning and creativity, maximum strength training can even be carried out (one-legged push-ups or one-legged squat).
Sling trainer principles for beginners and advanced learners
So that you can stick to the above-mentioned basics of the training methods, I would like to introduce you to the three principles of effective training with the sling trainer. So beginners and advanced users can make their training effective.
# 1 Winkelprinzip
The angle principle says: The further away you are from the attachment line, the easier the exercise will be.
The attachment line (zero line) means the line between the suspension of the sling trainer (e.g. a stable branch) and the ground.
Example rowing: If you move your feet away from the attachment point, i.e. stand more upright, the exercise becomes easier.
# 2 Stability principle
The principle of stability says: the more unstable your starting position, the higher the difficulty of the exercise.
Example push-ups: The level of difficulty increases when you perform these variations:
- Light: feet set wide
- Medium: feet close together
- Heavy: one-legged
# 3 Pendulum principle
The pendulum principle says: If you move your starting position away from the line of attachment, the level of difficulty increases because you have to fight against pendulum back to the zero line.
Example pelvic lift : The further you move away from the zero line, the more difficult the exercise becomes.
If you take these principles into account when performing your exercises, you can vary the load according to your fitness level. This makes sling training effective for beginners and advanced users.
You can of course vary the difficulty by the number of repetitions, the choice of exercises or the break times.
The best 5 sling trainer exercises
Manufacturers of sling trainers like TRX advertise that up to 300 exercises can be performed with the device. This means that “fitness studio in your pocket” gets to the heart of the matter. For an effective home workout, a few exercises that you can vary are sufficient.
Here you can find the best five sling trainer exercises .
You can squat in many different ways. To start with, simple squats with your hands on the loops are suitable. This variant may seem a bit simple to you, but for older people or as part of rehabilitation training after an injury, the support of the sling trainer is worth gold.
The lunge squat is more difficult. To do this, you attach one foot to the sling trainer.
By the way, I tried my hand at one-legged squats with the help of the sling trainer. With my hands in the loops, I was able to improve bit by bit.
Do you find normal pushups too easy? Then the sling trainer will present you with a real challenge. To vary the exercise, think of the angle principle. The further you move your hands away from the zero line, the easier the exercise becomes. It’s like a normal push-up: the more horizontal your posture, the more difficult.
Make sure that you have a feeling of stability even in the lowest position. Otherwise, choose a more upright starting position.
With the sling trainer, horizontal rowing is easy even at home. Perhaps you are satisfied with the edge of a table, but believe me when I tell you that the exercise is much more fun thanks to the grip.
As a beginner, you should start in a more upright position and move a little more horizontally with each further training session.
Professionals can put their feet on a chair or place an additional weight on the stomach (a backpack with weight is also good).
Stamina is required for the forearm support in the sling trainer. During the exercise you have to remain in a static position and maintain absolute body tension. It is up to you whether you place your hands or feet in the sling. Some professionals also use an exercise ball to take the instability to extremes.
If you want to increase the exercise, think of the pendulum principle: move a little away from the zero line so that the difficulty increases.
Do you want to crack nuts with your buttocks? Pelvic raises are a very effective exercise that tones the glutes.
To do this, lie on your back and place both feet in the loops. Keep your legs bent, then lift your buttocks and lower them back down so that they are just above the floor (pelvic lift). Make sure to tense your buttocks to the maximum when the distance from the floor is greatest.
If you consider the pendulum or stability principle, the exercise becomes more difficult.
Buy sling trainer – My sling trainer test
As you have probably noticed, I am a fan of sling training, which is why I can advise you to buy a sling trainer with complete conviction.
I myself have performed thousands of squats, pushups and rowing moves “in a sling”. The good thing about it: I’ve been using the same sling trainer for no less than eight years. No matter what I do or how hard I use it, it won’t break.
Because I wanted to buy a good, reliable product, I thought carefully about my purchase. Back then, there was only the original, i.e. the TRX suspension trainer and a few replicas. Today, however, there are a large number of different sling trainers on the market, so it is difficult not to get lost in the jungle on offer. That’s why I took the trouble and compared popular models in all price ranges with one another. Here you are guaranteed to find a model that suits you.
If I didn’t have sore muscles from yesterday’s sling training, I would start again right away – but regeneration is also an important training principle.
Even after many years, training “in the sling” is still a lot of fun! It is varied, effective and can be carried out anywhere.
I hope I was able to inspire you for training with this article, and I wish you maximum success!