By Danielle Douglass and Neal Iwamoto
You don’t need fancy, expensive equipment to get a great workout. Sometimes just a nylon strap will do. The TRX® Suspension Trainer is a simple piece of equipment, but it can help you get a total body workout.
The straps allow you to use your bodyweight as the primary form of resistance. One advantage is you can control the resistance by simply adjusting your position. So it’s suitable for people of all fitness levels. A TRX workout builds strength, balance, and cardiovascular endurance.
You can find TRX at most gyms, but what’s really cool about it is you can use it just about anywhere. Attaching it to an elevated fixture—like a door or tree—allows you to use it at home, at the park, or any number of other places.
“The biggest benefits of TRX are convenience, cost, and functionality,” says personal trainer and strength conditioning coach Tim Rabetoy. “You can do dozens of exercises with the TRX for all body parts. It’s not an ‘end-all-be-all’ piece of equipment, but it’s a good tool in the toolbox of exercise equipment.”
Rabetoy showed us three TRX moves to get us started and we give our two cents on each one.
Muscle targets: Forearms, upper back, lats
How-To: Grab a handle with each hand. Go down as low as you can so that you can still pull yourself up. Pick a challenging position, straighten your arms (your elbows should be next to your sides), then pull yourself up. Bring your chest all the way to the top and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Go slow and controlled on the way down, then repeat.
Dani says: I like to start my upper body workouts with this one. It targets multiple muscle groups and it’s totally adjustable in degree of difficulty. The lower I go, the more challenging it becomes. When I’m doing the exercise, I open my chest and squeeze my lats, as if I have a tennis ball between them.
Neal says: This is good if you’re doing some circuit training and multiple sets. I love how you can change the trajectory of your body to adjust the difficulty. So it can be used from anything to a warmup, to a real strength-building exercise.
2. Chest Press
Muscle target: Chest, triceps
How-to: Grab the handles with the ropes on the outside of the arms. The lower you are to the ground and the further your feet are back, the harder it’s going to be. Place yourself in a challenging position, keeping your body and arms straight. Control yourself down to the chest, then press yourself back up.
Dani says: This one felt awkward. I couldn’t keep my body steady and felt nervous when pushing toward the ground without the stability of keeping a strong core. I prefer other types of chest exercise, such as traditional presses with dumbbells.
Neal says: I didn’t like this one too much. I wobbled the whole time. I’m sure “the shakes” might end with more practice. Just shows I need to work on my stability and core muscles more.
3. Atomic Crunch
Muscle target: Abdominals
How-to: Place your feet in the stirrups so that your heels are up against the handles and your feet are in the straps and hanging down to the bottom. Bring yourself out on your knees, then stand up in a suspended push up position. Your legs are going to be suspended, your arms are going to be straight, and your upper body should be as close as parallel to the ground. Bring your knees in, hold for a second, then slowly straighten your legs.
Dani says: This exercise is challenging. It was difficult to get into the position but once my feet were secure, I felt this move really isolating my abdominals. This is a good one to add to your ab routine if you’re looking for variety and a more advanced move.
Neal says: Getting my feet into the straps was a little tricky, but once I got in proper position I had no problem getting into the flow of this exercise. Love the suspension of this one. It makes me really work the abdominals.