The suspension push-up is a bodyweight-based exercise that utilizes high-hanging straps with handles to provide resistance during different muscle and strength-building exercises. The famous TRX trainer and its alternatives were designed with functional training benefits in mind, as the free-moving ends create instability, forcing you to engage more total body activation than you would during the more common, supported versions of chest presses like push-ups, bench presses, machine presses, and even cable variations. And that is exactly what makes it a unique training method, and hence a more functional strategy to build your chest muscle, strength, and power gains!
In this guide, you’ll probably learn about some benefits of suspension trainers that you never thought of. We’ll show you how to do a proper suspension chest press, go over the common mistakes, and leave you with the best variations and alternatives of this super exercise!
Muscles Worked During The Suspension Chest Press
Let’s learn some anatomy of your three key push muscles that make suspension chest presses possible.
Muscles Worked in Suspension Chest Press
Pectoralis major clavicular and sternal heads
While there’s no way to train one part of your chest, you can emphasize the upper or lower part with incline and decline angles, respectively. While beginners should stick with the fundamentals basics of push-up form during suspension push-ups, more advanced exercises are more capable of shifting the focus toward the clavicular, sternal, or overall chest.
A push requires not just potent chesticles but the forward arm action of your front deltoids, or one of the three heads that creates your shoulder muscles.
Capable of powerful elbow extension, you can only achieve your best press with strong triceps that accompany powerful pecs. And that’s thanks to three heads (Long, medial, and lateral) that cover the back and side of the upper arm and provide lots of muscle power during push movements.
How To Do The Suspension Chest Press
A bit different from your standard gym class push-up, adding suspension straps creates an unstable environment which requires more attention to detail. Not just for best results, but to safeguard your chest and delts. Here below are the detailed steps you need for safe and effective suspension chest press performance. You’ll also find a brief video demonstration and explanation of the technique too!
Step 1: Adjust your straps to the appropriate height relative to your strength ability or desired level of difficulty for a given workout session.
Step 2: Grip the handles with the straps on the outside or inside of your arms, depending which is most comfortable for you.
Step 3: Keep your arms fully extended and lean your weight forward onto the straps while gripping the handles firmly. Tighten your core muscles, glutes, and quadriceps to maintain a strong neutral body position.
Step 4: Determine if you need to adjust the straps or your stance to create more or less resistance. A more upright body angle reduces the resistance and makes the exercise easier.
Step 5: Next, bend your elbows then lower your chest down between the straps while maintaining control as you descend. Stop when you achieve the desired stretch in your chest muscles. Be careful not to go too far down that it starts causing discomfort in your shoulders. Pro tip: Avoid flaring your elbows too wide as it’s not recommended for healthy shoulders, or optimal pushing performance.
Step 6: Now, when you perform the press, squeeze your chest, push into the handles to extend the arms, and pull your hands together for the ultimate chest contraction! Repeat steps 4 and 5 for the optimal number of repetitions.
If you need more resistance, wear a weighted vest (Ideal), or backpack loaded with weighted objects (Make sure the weight is loaded evenly for symmetrical development). Just make sure the straps are rated for the desired resistance loading.
A more upright stance creates less resistance. If you want a more challenging workout, move your feet back further away from your hands. Likewise, the higher the straps, the more upright your body will be naturally. Drop them lower if you want to increase strength and muscle gains. But make this progress gradual, and train according to your experience level.
You don’t need to lower yourself as low as you can to get a beneficial stretch in your chest. In fact, this can place a lot of unnecessary stress on your shoulders with no added advantage.
Target muscle group: Pectoralis major
Type: Hypertrophy and strength
Equipment: Suspension straps
Sets and reps: 3 x failure
Benefits Of The Suspension Chest Press
There are a few clear advantages of suspension chest presses compared to a basic floor push-up and even suspension push-ups, which hang the feet above the ground.
A more functional dumbbell chest press alternative
It’s more functional because your entire body is activated, moving, and trying to keep stabilized during the suspension chest press. Not supported by a bench like a dumbbell press, or having your hands and feet in contact with the floor like in a push-up.
Therefore, you need to activate a little more mental focus. And a study comparing muscle activation during floor push-ups vs. suspension chest press found higher core activation in the suspension chest press variation (1).
Nail the stretch!
A normal floor push-up doesn’t stretch the chest nearly the same as something like a suspension chest press. That’s because the ground limits how far you can go down. Whereas straps offer unlimited range of motion. And there’s not a credible expert on this planet that wouldn’t agree on the importance of stretching your muscles under a training load.
But science has also shown the negatives to be a necessary component for getting those muscle gains (2).
You can’t just relax yourself in a suspension chest press the way you could during machine chest presses. You have to engage everything from your toes to pretty much every muscle in your body to maintain stability and control throughout the exercise.
So, if you’re looking to take your chest training to the next level, give the suspension chest press a try. It’s an effective and challenging exercise that will help you build strength, muscle, and power in your chest and upper body.