Constructed by former US Navy SEAL, Randy Hetrick, from an old Jiu-Jitsu belt and some parachute webbing, the then-called “Travel Fit” was born. He used this home-made contraption to keep mission fit while on deployment. Randy soon realised he was onto something great and developed his prototype after leaving the SEALs and graduating from business school.
The device’s existing name comes from it’s use: Total-body Resistance Exercise, now TRX.
This fantastic piece of training kit works strength, flexibility, mobility, stability, balance and coordination. And as TRX often say, it works “all core, all the time”.
While at the FitPro Convention I had the opportunity to meet with Dan McDonogh, the Group Training & Development Manager at TRX in San Francisco, who walked me through some of the benefits of TRX, and showed me a fun and challenging full body workout.
How Does It Work?
TRX is the original suspension trainer, leveraging your own body weight against gravity. With options to create standing exercises using your hands to pull or push yourself, or ground exercises with your feet in the cradles, there are literally hundreds of exercises that can be performed using TRX. You can create instability from the top down or the ground up.
Because TRX has a single anchor point (whether that’s from a purpose-made frame in a gym, or at home using a door anchor or beam), your body is always resisting rotation, meaning full core activation and increased challenge for all exercises performed. By simply changing the angle or position of your body, you can vary from high tension to low tension loads. The steeper the angle, the harder it is; and the narrower the base of support (e.g. your foot position on the ground) the more rotation you have to resist.
Who Can Use It?
The answer to this is simple: anyone!
The beauty of TRX is its versatility. It’s great for athletes and general fitness users alike. TRX is really popular with women because you don’t gain muscle bulk, instead training what you’ve got, similarly to Yoga and Pilates. It’s also a favourite of many sports teams, with professional footballers, cyclists and more using it as a key part of their sport training. And TRX can also be used as a rehabilitation tool, improving stability and strength as a priority, but also working on flexibility with some fantastic stretches.
For athletes, there is nothing more important than a strong core, and a super strong core is what TRX no doubt delivers.
Dan was kind enough to take me through a full body workout using TRX, from warming up with smaller movements, to a really tough strength routine, and finishing with a couple of amazing stretches.
Just to note, when performing standing exercises the straps of the TRX should be shortened until the adjusters are at shoulder level, and when performing ground exercises the handles and foot cradles should be at roughly knee level.
Here is the workout we went through:
Squat and Row
The first move Dan showed me was a squat and row, working primarily the quads, glutes, biceps and traps.
Stand facing the TRX with your feet hip-width apart. Grasp the handles with an overhand grip and take a few steps back with your arms outstretched until you feel tension in the handles.
Sink your weight back and down until you are sitting into a low squat – trust the TRX, it will support your body weight!
Use your thighs and glutes to push you back up to standing.
To finish the move off rotate your hands so your palms are facing in and squeeze your shoulder blades together, pulling yourself forwards until your hands reach your armpits.
Return to the start and repeat for 10-12 repetitions.
Lunge and Chest Fly
We then moved on to the lunge and chest fly, working the quads, hamstrings, glutes and pecs.
Stand facing away from the TRX and hold the handles with an overhand grip. The TRX should be at full tension with your arms outstretched.
Take a big step forwards with your right foot and sink down into a lunge until both knees are at right angles, as you do this allow your arms to drift out to the side, keeping them in line with your shoulders and rotate your palms so they are facing inwards.
Push back up with your legs, and push your arms back out in front of you, returning them to palms facing down.
Repeat for 10-12 reps.
For the next move, the hamstring curl, we hit the deck. This move mainly works the hamstrings and glutes.
To get your heels into the cradles, sit on the floor and take hold of each foot cradle with one finger. Pull them apart so the TRX resembles an inverted V. Roll onto your back and then slot your heels into the cradles, letting go with your fingers and pushing your heels down.
Now to perform the move; lying with your back flat on the ground and your legs out straight, lift your bum off the ground until you’re in a straight line from your shoulders to your heels. Keeping your heels digging into the cradles, pull them in towards your buttocks. Try to get your legs to a 90 degree angle at the hips, and then push your legs back out to return to the start.
This move can be quite challenging; to make it easier spread your arms out to provide a larger base of support, to make it more difficult you can cross your arms across your chest, or perform this one leg at a time.
The knee tuck works your core, as well as your shoulders, quads and glutes.
To get your feet in the cradles, start by sitting. Hold the foot cradles with your fingers and thumb like you’re holding a pair of smelly socks (Dan swears by this example!). Drop the cradles over your toes, with the handle under the ball of your foot, and the cradle over your mid-foot. Turn yourself onto your front while pushing your feet down into the cradles.
To begin the exercise, push yourself up onto your elbows, keeping them under your shoulders. Lift your hips off of the floor using your core to keep you off the ground. Draw your knees into your chest, using your abs and hip flexors to perform the move. Push your feet back to the start position, and repeat for 10-12 reps. This move should be quite explosive.
To make the move harder, lift yourself up onto your hands instead of your elbows.
For even more of a challenge, you can progress this move into the pike, as shown to the right. To perform this move, instead of drawing your knees inwards, use your core to pull your bum upwards into the air drawing your feet in towards your hands. Slowly return to the start.
Use your obliques to lift your body up, keeping your elbow underneath your shoulder. Really lift your hips up, imagining you have a candle underneath them. Stretch your top arm upwards to challenge your balance even further. Hold for 10-20 seconds or more.
Turn yourself onto your front, and then over onto the other side and repeat.
Dan showed me a couple of lovely stretches you can do using the TRX to really find your tight spots and sink further into the stretch.
Facing the TRX, hold onto the handles with an overhand grip. Take a few steps back until you feel tension with your arms outstretched. Sink your hips back keeping your legs straight, but not locked, and both feet firmly on the floor. You should feel a nice pull across your back and shoulders.
To increase the stretch, and transfer it into the illiotibial band (ITB, running down the side of your thigh) bend one leg and sink the opposite hip even further backwards. Twist your shoulders slightly in the direction of your straight leg and stay here for a few breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Next up was a stretch for the hip flexors and chest and biceps.
Standing facing away from the TRX, take hold of the handles with an overhand grip. Take a big step forwards, like with the lunge, but instead of drifting your arms to the side, reach one arm above you, and take the other downwards and behind you.
You should feel a deep stretch in the chest and your biceps, but also in your hip flexor of the back leg. To increase the hip stretch, drop your knee to the floor and drive your hips forwards.
Return to the start and repeat on the other side.
Benefits of TRX
By now you should have realised that the benefits of the TRX are endless. You can use it for strengthening, increasing stability and balance, improving your sports performance, and even for stretching.
Some favourite exercises for women are those that work the butt, core and upper arms – those such as the crossing balanced lunge, pike, crunch, and bicep and tricep extensions.
Some favourite moves for men and athletes are the lunge, hamstring curls (both particularly good for any sports that involve running), the atomic push up, overhead back extension, and standing hip drop.
To find out more about these moves, take a look at TRX’s website: http://www.trxtraining.com/train/exercises
TRX really is “fitness anywhere”, with various anchoring options, for example attaching the TRX to a set of swings, or using the door anchor to work out at home, it’s really flexible. If using the door anchor, make sure your target door has a strong frame, preferably a metal or wooden frame, and not glass patios.
By making just a few small adjustments you can make the moves as easy as you want or as hard as you want.
The TRX weighs less than 2lbs, or under a kilo, so is really great for travelling. You could even take it on holiday with you and use it on a palm tree! It really is your very own portable gym.
Most of all, the TRX is really fun to use, and we all know we’re prepared to work a little harder if we’re having fun!
Where to Buy
There are three options available for purchase from the TRX store:
TRX Suspenion Training Home Kit: features foam handles, comes with a door anchor and 6×15 minute workouts
TRX Pro Suspension Training Kit: all of the above, but has rubber handles, a locking caribena and an extra anchor option.
TRX Force Suspension Trainer: this is the military version of the TRX and is a bit beefier, has bigger foot cradles for military boots and is, of course, army green!
You can also pick up a Rip Trainer, which is a yellow bar with a cord. The Rip Trainer focuses on rotational power and speed and is great for golf, tennis, hockey, football and any other sports that involve a lot of change of direction.