Whether you’re new to the gym or have been training for years, you’ve likely seen the TRX hanging around your local gym. Chances are you may have never tried it, not knowing how to use it or you tried a few exercises but don’t feel confident knowing you are performing them effective and efficiently.
The TRX Suspension Trainer was created by Navy SEAL commander, Randy Hetrick while on deployment. Using a Jiu Jitsu belt and parachute webbing, he created a way to train that required minimal equipment and was easy to travel with. Eventually, he and his SEAL team developed hundreds of exercises using this piece of equipment.
The TRX leverages gravity and your own bodyweight that can challenge your balance, flexibility and core. Unlike some equipment found in gyms, it uses a huge range of dynamic movements, moving through multiple planes; forward, backward, side to side, and rotating.
There have been numerous studies researching the benefits towards utilizing a TRX for strength development. One study examined the effect of TRX training on muscle activation during variations of planking exercises. Four traditional planks were observed for three seconds followed by four TRX variations of planks. Using electromyography core activation was recorded. The results concluded that greater muscle activation was achieved when arms were suspended and/or feet were suspended compared to a traditional plank (Byrne, et al., 2014). This indicates that TRX training seems to be an effective means of increasing core activation during planking exercises.
Below are visuals of two TRX planks that we would use with our clients at MPC. You could also try incorporating these variations into your own workout. They could be incorporated as part of your warm up or throughout your strength set. These are both progressions of your traditional plank so make sure you can successfully achieve a proper plank position before trying. We recommend holding the position for 30s and trying to incorporate 3 sets.
Place your feet in the stirrups of the TRX. Make sure elbows are lined up with shoulders, palms turned up. Try and maintain neutral alignment meaning your body should be straight from head to your toes. Tuck your rib cage towards your hip bone and hold. Do not allow your head to drop, hips to sag or lower back to hyperextend.
The TRX knee tuck is much more dynamic exercise. Start by stacking your wrists underneath shoulders. Bring your knees in towards your chest so that your hips stay level, meaning don’t allow your hips to pike up or sag below. Have control with the motion using a 1.1.1 tempo.
Not only is the TRX a valuable tool to help strengthen the core but research has also evaluated the effectiveness of TRX training compared to traditional resistance training. A 7-week period was observed in a study where 54 participants were analyzed. A select group performed traditional resistance training, another group trained just using the TRX and the final group did a combination of both. Findings indicated that TRX training improved muscular fitness when compared with other variations of resistance training. The group that did a combination of the two saw increased results in weight loss and strength (Janot, 2013).
As stated earlier there are tons of ways to utilize the TRX. The TRX row is a great upper body pulling exercise to strengthen the musculature of the back and core. It also strengthens the shoulders, and to a lesser degree, the arms. The great thing about this exercise is that you can modify how difficult it is instantly on the fly. The farther you walk down the more difficult it is because you’re lifting more of your body weight.
Start by setting your feet so they are hip to shoulder width apart. The farther forward your feet are, and the more horizontal your body is, the more challenging the exercise will be. Initiate the movement with your back, not by pulling with your arms. You should feel the muscles of your back, squeeze your shoulder blades together and down. You can pretend that you are tucking each shoulder blade into the opposite back pocket of your pants. Maintain a neutral spine for the duration of the exercise meaning your body should remain in a straight line from your head to heels.
Single leg exercises deliver great benefits too and using the TRX is a great tool when executed with proper form. Single leg exercises also promote better balance and stability. People often try to improve their balance and stability by training on unstable surfaces like the BOSU or a wobble board, but one of the most effective ways to improve your balance and stability is to perform single-leg exercises on a stable surface (Cressey EM, 2007). The TRX Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (RFESS) is a great single leg lower body push exercises. To start this exercise, place your one foot in the stirrup, place the opposite foot in front as if you were about to perform a lunge. Squat your hips; this will get your pelvis square and ensure you are getting proper hip extension and a good hip flexor stretch. Drop straight down; this will force you to engage your glutes and hamstrings more. Start this exercise by perform 8-10 repetitions per leg for 3 sets.
The TRX is a great piece of equipment that has a ton of benefits as showcased above. It is a great tool that people of any fitness level can utilize. Evidence shows that TRX training can be more beneficial when combined with other forms and resistance training.
Author: Megan Cook
Byrne, J. M., Bishop, N. S., Caines, A. M., Crane, K. A., Feaver, A. M., & Pearcey, G. E. (2014). Effect of Using a Suspension Training System on Muscle Activation During the Performance of a Front Plank Exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 3044-3055.
Cressey EM, W. C. (2007). The effects of ten weeks of lower-body unstable surface training on markers of athletic performance. J Strength Cond Res. 21(2), 561-7.
Janot, J. |. (2013). Effects of trx versus traditional resistance training programs on measures of muscular performance in adults. Journal of Fitness Research / Vol. 2, 23-28.
TRX Training Inc. (2018, March 26). Why TRX? Retrieved from TRX Training : https://www.trxtraining.com/why-trx#/