Power Up Your SlingSystems

By Andrew Heffernan |

A long-standing exercise philosophy considered the body to be a collection of parts: one move or machine to isolate the chest, another for the back, yet another for the calves, and so on.

These days, experts see beyond the divide-and-conquer approach to fitness. “Movement isn’t isolated,” says Life Time master personal trainer Billy Anderson, NASM-CPT, PES, CES. “It’s integrated and connected.”

Groups of muscles, he says, work together to produce harmonious, full-body movements, such as running, jumping, and climbing.

Facilitating these movements are about a dozen sling subsystems — trains of muscle and connective tissue that crisscross the body like racing stripes. There are four primary slings:

  1. The lateral subsystem (LS), the smaller muscles around your pelvis and groin, aids single-leg movements and balancing.

“Once you understand the basics,” Anderson says, “you’ll see how you’re using these slings in everyday life.” (Learn more about sling systems at “Why You Should Activate Your Sling System“.)

That’s the main point of this approach: to help you develop and hone physical skills that are directly transferable from the gym to your real life — movements like twisting, bending, and balancing.

This workout was developed by Anderson and Minneapolis-based physical therapist Erika Mundinger, DPT, OCS, CIMT. It’s designed to build strength, burn fat, and leave you moving and feeling better — in less time than your typical workout. “Since you’re training so many muscles at once, you don’t have to train as long,” says Mundinger.

Isolation moves have their place, particularly if you’re rehabbing an injury or just beginning your fitness journey. But when you’re healthy, “go global,” Mundinger recommends. Integrate your sling systems and let your body become more than the sum of its parts.

The Workout

Warm up with five minutes of easy cardio, light dynamic stretching, or calisthenics. Then perform the following movements in sequence, focusing on excellent form. Stop each set as soon as your form starts to break down.

On exercises listed with just a number, perform what is called a straight set: Repeat two or three sets of just that movement.

On exercises marked with a number and a letter, perform supersets, alternating between the two exercises as a pair until you have completed the total number of sets. On exercises 1A and 1B, for example, do a set of eight to 12 renegade rows on each side, followed by a set of 10 to 15 cable lifts on each side, then repeat until you have completed two or three sets of each. Rest before performing supersets of 2A and 2B in the same fashion.

Perform this workout once or twice each week, doing cardio, mobility, or another full-body strength workout on the other days.

1A. Renegade Row (AOS)

  1. Reverse the movement, touching the dumbbell to the floor.

Sets and Reps: Do two or three sets of 8 to 12 reps per side.

1B. Cable Lift (POS)

  1. Slowly reverse the movement and repeat.

Sets and Reps: Do two or three sets of 10 to 15 reps per side.

2A. Bear-Crawl Bag Pull (POS)

  1. Repeat the movement, alternating hands.

Sets and Reps: Do two or three sets of 10 steps per side (alternating).

2B. Side Plank With Leg Raise (LS)

  1. Too hard? Drop the right knee to the floor for added support, or perform the move lying flat on the floor on your side.

Sets and Reps: Do two or three sets of 10 to 15 reps per side.

3. Single-Leg Windmill (DLS)

  1. Slowly reverse the movement, come back to standing upright on your right foot, and repeat for reps on the right foot before switching to your left.

Sets and Reps: Do two or three sets of 8 to 10 reps per side.

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