What Is TRX?
Dr Josh Axe writes, If you’re bored with dumbbells, exercise bands and burpees, the TRX suspension trainer is a great way to mix things up and challenge your muscles and proprioception in new ways. What I really love about TRX exercises is that you can change the difficulty and resistance by simply changing your body position. In fact, TRX coined the phrase, “Make your body your machine.”
You can complete an entire whole-body workout using the TRX suspension trainer or you can mix it into your current fitness routine to challenge your stabilizer muscles and balance.
So what is the TRX workout and how does it work? The TRX suspension trainer consists of two adjustable main straps, handles and foot cradles. These straps are connected to a specific anchor, something you can install in your home or even use outside on trees, as long as the anchor is properly attached.
A TRX suspension trainer is a portable, economic piece of exercise equipment that leverages gravity and your own weight to perform hundreds of different bodyweight exercises.
TRX suspension trainer exercises are broken down into specific movement categories. Here they are, along with some common TRX exercises for each movement category:
- Push (TRX Chest Press, Pushups, Triceps Press)
- Pull (TRX Low Row, Biceps Curl, Inverted Row)
- Plank (TRX Plank, Mountain Climbers, Crunches)
- Rotate (TRX Rotational Ward, Power Pull, Oblique Crunch)
- Lunge (TRX Split Squat, Step Back Lunge, Balance Lunge)
- Squat (TRX Hamstring Curl, Squat, Squat Jump)
That brings me to a really fun part of the TRX story …
The History of TRX
Stationed in Southeast Asia in 1997 and far away from a gym with weights, Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick created the first version of what would become known as TRX using just a jiu-jitsu belt and parachute webbing.
With refinement, it became the suspension trainer used around the world.
So what does TRX stand for, anyway? Sometimes referred to as total resistance exercises, TRX suspension training develops:
- Core Stability
1. It’s a great option for active or inactive older adults
As we age, we naturally start losing muscle mass, a change that leads to more trouble getting around, p0or balance and less strength. When you put that all together, this decreased mobility results in a huge quality of life issue that often leads to less independence and happiness.
But when German researchers at the Institute of Movement and Sport Gerontology put older folks on a modified TRX regimen, promising results emerged. The first, and this is a biggie, is compliance. With so many get-fit-in-30-day gimmicks out there, it can be hard to sell moderation and common sense. But in this small study, 85 percent of participants stuck with the TRX program, including 91 percent who said they were motivated to continue with the program.
Using a TRX program adapted for older adults, participants focused on strengthening the core while working on bodyweight rows, chest presses, tricep presses and squats. According to the study, all participants noted positive effects whereas strength gains were the most.
2. It works
The American Council on Exercise commissioned a study to investigate the benefits of TRX and found benefits after just one 60-minute TRX training session, with steady improvements over an eight-week TRX training program.
The overall purpose of this study was twofold. Researchers initially set out to quantify the acute cardiovascular and metabolic responses to a single session of TRX Suspension Training. Part two involved investigating the effectiveness of an 8-week TRX program in relation to improving the following areas of fitness:
Improving cardiometabolic risk factors
Looking at acute impacts of one 60-minute TRX class, researchers found participants burned an average of almost 400 calories per session. The results of the eight-week training blocks are promising, too. This time, participants took part in three TRX training sessions a week for eight weeks. Participants experienced these perks in the form of significantly decreased:
Resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure
Resting diastolic blood pressure
Strength gains signified improved muscle strength and endurance. The biggest gains occurred in the following areas, with significant increases in:
1 repetition maximum leg press
1 repetition maximum bench press
Curl up and push-up tests
“This is perhaps what struck me most,” says study author Lance Dalleck, PhD, associate professor of exercise and sports science at Western State Colorado University. “These changes in muscular fitness, if they are maintained long-term, have been linked to the prevention of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and mortality.”
Other takeaways from the ACE study: Prehypertensive exercisers enjoyed up to a 12-point drop in blood pressure, something Dr. Dalleck called “more dramatic results than are typically seen with traditional aerobic exercise.” TRX Suspension Training is 86 percent “clinically beneficial in improving full 30-year cardiovascular disease risk.”
3. It gives your a bump of T without all of the stress.
Low testosterone is an issue plaguing American men and women, driving down libido, energy, muscle mass and more.
However, a small 2011 study suggests suspension training may serve as a way to increase testosterone levels without causing a dramatic spike in the stress hormone cortisol.
A moderate intensity suspension training workout using 30-second intervals followed by 60-second rest periods resulted in a positive anabolic profile lasting at least two hours after the workout.
4. It may activate muscles better than traditional lifting
A 2018 review study published in Sports Biomechanics found that that the instability of strength training activated in suspension training versus traditional lifting results in greater muscle activation in many cases.
This was especially true in TRX suspension for pushups, plank and hamstring curls.
5. It’s a great way to mix up your workouts to keep you interested in working out
In 2014, Spanish researchers looked at healthy men with little resistance training experience. Half of the men undertook a more traditional resistance training approach using weight machines, barbells and free weights. The other half used the TRX suspension trainers and Bosu balls to challenge stability more.
Researchers highlight the key points, mainly, that both training circuits produced similar results. The takeaway? Do what you love — or a mix of both — to keep your workout fresh and something you want to stick to.
As a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine since they started in Chicago back in 1991, master trainer and Level 1 TRX instructor, I like to incorporate some TRX suspension training into every workout. Usually a “mash up” of TRX, agility and balance work and traditional strength training, TRX offers a more unstable base to challenge your core and stabilizing muscles in ways unique to lifting on machines or with free weights.
But this is important: A TRX workout routine circuit must be catered to your current ability level and involve some common sense. If you aren’t able to hold a plank using good form on the floor, do not attempt to do a TRX plank, which is even more difficult.
However, there are appropriate TRX exercises for beginners, including older adults. The key is for the user (or their certified personal trainer) to understand how to properly use the TRX system.
TRX Exercises for Beginners