TRX Training

Increase your muscle mass with the total-body workout designed by Navy SEALs.
TRX Training

Tired of the treadmill? Bored stiff with bench presses? TRX suspension training can give your fitness routine a lift.

Maybe you’ve seen those weird straps hanging from the ceiling in a room off to the side at your gym. Well, it ain’t a trapeze for aspiring circus performers: This is TRX, short for Total Resistance Exercise, a body-weight workout popularized by U.S. Navy SEALs. TRX may look like a workout designed for elite athletes, but with the right instruction and ample practice, even the novice exerciser can reap the rewards of this total-body workout.

The Origin of TRX

The workout was originally developed by Navy SEALs who needed a way to exercise in safe houses, submarines and other cramped quarters while on military missions. Today, thousands of athletic clubs and fitness centers feature TRX equipment and classes, and more than 30,000 personal trainers have been certified in TRX.

Enthusiasts like to say that with TRX, your body is the machine. They’re not exaggerating. Nylon TRX suspension straps, designed to support your body weight, get anchored to a wall, ceiling or overhead bar. You grab the straps and do a series of squats, push-ups, bicep curls or any other exercise you choose. Gravity does its thing, creating all the resistance you need for a killer total-body workout that rivals any you can get on a machine or with free weights.

Certified TRX trainer Jeff Peel calls it “sneaky cardio.” “You’re doing an exercise that isn’t you being a hamster on a treadmill or StairMaster, but you’re still getting the cardio results,” says Peel, fitness manager of 24 Hour Fitness in Glendale, California. By suspending you in the air, the TRX straps force you to work against your own body weight. (Anyone who has ever done a push-up or pull-up knows how rigorous body-weight exercises can be.) But instead of isolating one muscle group, as many weights and gym machines do, TRX exercises train your whole body.

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The moves
“You can do all the body-weight exercises: squats, lunges, push-ups, rows, dips, biceps, single-arm exercises, single-leg exercises,” says strength-and-conditioning specialist and certified TRX instructor Todd Cambio, who owns Precision Fitness in Pawcatuck, Connecticut. Only, rather than focusing on one muscle at a time, which can create imbalances in the body, you’re working your core and your entire body with every move.

The results
Sculpting, toning, increased strength, and helping to boost weight loss. Because TRX improves balance and tightens the body’s core, it can improve your posture and lead to a healthier back, Peel says. Weight Watchers Success Story John Vezina, who began TRX training with Peel in early 2011, quickly noticed changes in his core, arms and legs. “Within three or four weeks, I could tell that I was stronger,” the 50-year-old says. “I love it. It helps you gain strength in a very focused and intense way.”

The learning curve
Because there’s an element of balance involved with suspension workouts, beginners might find even the simplest movements tricky at first. The upside? You won’t plateau. To up the ante, simply add new exercises or adjust the length and angle of the straps — essentially, increase resistance. “There isn’t a set amount of workouts you can do with TRX,” Peel says. “This is a tool that will only become more challenging the more progress you make.”

What if you have an injury?

Remember how NFL quarterback Drew Brees rehabbed his way back to the game after suffering a potentially career-ending shoulder injury? TRX was a big part of his workout regimen. Weight Watchers Success Story John Vezina, who wanted to lose 40 pounds, started TRX for similar reasons. He’d been in physical therapy for bursitis in his right shoulder, so push-ups and free weights were out. Because TRX puts less strain on the joints, it was a safe bet for him. Adjusting the impact on your joints is as simple as adjusting the angle of the straps. “That let me continue working out without exacerbating the problem,” Vezina says.

Getting started
For first-timers, a session (or several) with a certified TRX trainer is a must to ensure proper form and avoid injury. A trainer can show you how to adjust the straps, easily step in and out of them, and choose the right exercise for the right strap length. Beginners might find one-legged squats difficult, but Peel advises pushing through the initial awkwardness. “You’re going to get better with practice. And from there, you’re going to start creating exercises on your own.”

Sample workouts
The following two TRX workouts, courtesy of certified TRX instructor Jeff Peel, should be done over a period of four weeks, four days a week, four sets of the circuit per day. Make sure to get clearance from your doctor before you begin this exercise routine.
Week 1: Do each exercise for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest. Rest 2 minutes, then repeat circuit.
Week 2: Do each exercise for 40 seconds, followed by 20 seconds of rest. Rest 2 minutes, then repeat circuit.
Week 3: Do each exercise for 60 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of rest. Rest 2 minutes, then repeat circuit.
Week 4: Do each exercise for 60 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest. Rest 2 minutes, then repeat circuit.

Workout 1
1 Incline runner: Step through the straps, keeping them under your arms. Grip with your thumb and take a big step back. Set up at a 45-degree angle and proceed to run.
2 Squat-row: Face the TRX and take a step forward with the straps. Lean back and do a squat. As you rise from the base of the squat, pull (row) yourself up using your back.
3 Lunge-fly: Grab the TRX and face away from the knot (the anchor point where the strap is attached to the bar it hangs from). With a strap in each hand, do a lunge. Let your arms travel backward while keeping them parallel to the floor. As you rise from the lunge, pull using your chest. Switch legs and repeat.
4 Bicep curl: Stand facing the knot. With a strap in each hand, step back to a desired distance. While keeping your upper arm still, curl up your bicep and let it down slowly.
5 Plank: Sit cross-legged facing the knot. Insert your feet into the straps and turn over your top leg to face the floor. Drop down to your elbows and maintain a flat plane parallel with the floor.

Workout 2
1 Burpee: Place the TRX in single-leg position. Put your foot through the loop. Lunge into a push-up. As you come up from the push-up, drive your base knee forward and return to a standing position. After 30 seconds, switch legs and repeat.
2Bow and arrow: Keep the TRX in single-arm position and grip the handle. Find a challenging angle. Let your free arm rotate toward the floor. As you reach the desired 180-degree angle, pull through the handle and attempt to touch, with your free hand, as high up the strap as you can. After 30 seconds, switch arms and repeat.
3 Press: Stand holding the straps, facing away from the knot. Find a challenging angle and perform a suspended push-up. Position your arms so the strap does not touch during the press. If it’s too easy, take a step back.
4 Tricep extension: From the same position as above, move your hands closer together. Keep your upper arms still and hinge your elbows so that your hands flex back toward them. Using your triceps, extend through and return to your starting position.
5Jump squat: Do a squat, jumping as you rise from the floor. Be sure to absorb your landing, making it a continuous movement.
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