Business trips, vacations, six-month deployments to Afghanistan: Life throws a lot of roadblocks between a guy and his gym routine. But you don't need a weight room to stay fit. Suspension trainers – adjustable straps like the TRX ($190; trxtraining.com) that use body weight to strengthen muscles – make gym-worthy workouts possible anywhere there's a door, a pole, or a tree on which to hang the device. The straps give you an effective, and different, workout than the gym does by engaging your primary and secondary muscles in almost every exercise.
"When you do a push-up or a bench press, your muscles don't have to work as hard because the floor or bench is holding you up," says Frank Salzone, a trainer at Equinox in Manhattan. "The first time someone tries a chest press on a suspension trainer, they shake like crazy and think, What's wrong with my arms?!"
Nothing's wrong, Salzone says, except you're being forced to recruit underused stabilizer muscles, which support joints and larger muscles. Most gym machines target only prime movers, like the pecs and quads, ignoring stabilizers and causing muscular imbalances that can lead to injury. Suspension trainers won't bulk you up, but they will strengthen muscles for real-life activity, one reason many pro athletes use them. "At the end of the day, it's just nylon straps," says TRX's Chris Frankel. "But it beats the gym in every way because it trains the whole body as an integrated unit, giving you functional strength that's hard to get any other way." Launch Gallery >>
With straight legs and your head and neck aligned, pull feet toward your head into an upright pike as smoothly as possible. Move hands forward to increase resistance.
Credit: Illustration by Nicole Wilkinson