TRX, short for Total Resistance Exercises, is a brand of suspension trainer. Suspension trainers are straps that you suspend yourself from, using gravity to perform bodyweight movements. TRX brand offers classes through local gyms and online. To learn more about the brand, we spoke to certified instructors; read on for what they had to say.
Meet the Expert
TRX Training for Total Body Conditioning
“TRX offers so many wonderful benefits because it's a total body workout that increases core engagement and body awareness,” says Phoenix Carnevale, TRX-certified instructor and trainer with Daily Burn. “TRX workouts help you develop total body awareness as you're in control of every movement and can feel every imbalance,” says Carnevale.
TRX training will strengthen your muscles while also helping you become more stable and balanced. Suspension training leverages your body weight and gravity's force to create resistance in your workout. "This causes your nervous system also to get involved in the activity as that's how your body balances itself,” says Carnevale. TRX training can also be a useful tool for stretching, balance training, and rehabilitating after a lower extremity injury, according to Sara Mikulsky, physical therapist, certified personal trainer, and TRX-certified fitness instructor.
What To Expect in a TRX Class
TRX classes typically run from 45-50 minutes, including a warm-up and cool down with various stretches using the TRX trainer. “During a TRX training session, you may find yourself in many different positions—sometimes even suspended,” says Mikulsky.
Some TRX classes focus more on slower, sustained movements to build strength and stabilization, while others contain more cardio work with faster motions. The nature of the TRX allows for quick changes between movements without the need to pick up another piece of equipment. “For example, you can hold the straps, do full-body upright rows and then quickly transition to lunges, planks, and more with your feet in the stirrups. Quickly changing positions helps up the cardio impact,” says Carnevale.
The Benefits of TRX Training
- Better Balance: The TRX challenges your balance in a new and different way because the straps are unstable as you hold them out, and you must stabilize them. “So two things are going on: you are performing the exercise and at the same time holding the straps rigid, so they don't move as you perform the exercise,” says Theresa Marko, board-certified clinical specialist in orthopaedic physical therapy.
- Travels Easily: The TRX is easy to pack up and take with you when you’re traveling. All you need is a doorway to anchor it on. You can even take your TRX outside and strap it to a tree.
- Builds Core Strength: You need to balance yourself constantly while using the TRX, which forces your core to engage the whole time. If you consistently use a TRX, your core will adapt, getting stronger and more stable, helping you stay injury-free.
- Effective Workouts: Unlike some gimmicky fitness equipment, the TRX delivers on its promise. You can get a very effective workout using the suspension trainer alone. The TRX may even offer benefits that traditional weights do not. “The TRX is truly a great way to exercise every muscle in the body in multiplane positions—allowing for a better workout than if just using weights,” says Mikulsky.
- Adjusts to Your Fitness Level: “You can easily adjust the TRX to make the exercise harder or easier based on leg position, length of trainer straps, and body support,” says Mikulsky. Since you use your body weight as resistance, adjusting the difficulty of most movements is simply a matter of positioning. You can stand up straighter, lean back more, or use more or less of your weight on the straps to adjust resistance.
Although the TRX is generally safe, some people should practice extra care. “If you have severe balance disorders, the TRX trainer should be used with caution,” says Mikulsky.
If you are new to exercise, you might want to start with bodyweight exercises without a TRX to build strength first. Once you have some basic balance and stability, try using a TRX with smaller movements. “If someone is very weak, they would want to do small movements and not too big, so the straps don't get away from them, and they lose control,” says Carnevale. As always, if you experience pain while using a TRX, back off. “That might be the time to go see a physical therapist who can assess the movement and see if you have some joint restrictions or underlying weakness that needs to be addressed,” says Marko. Mikulsky also warns against using a TRX if you are recovering from shoulder surgery or other upper extremity surgery.
Be sure to install your TRX correctly as well. “You absolutely must make sure your TRX is properly anchored and attached to something that won't move! Do not use a TRX with worn or damaged components,” says Carnevale.
Tips for Using a TRX at Home
Carnevale recommends following online videos to learn the proper form if you are using a TRX for the first time at home. You may also want to have one training session with a certified TRX trainer who can show you have to properly adjust the straps, the proper use of the handles and loops, and other “tricks of the trade” such as safe arm and leg positions.
Anchoring your TRX correctly is vital for home workouts. “When doing TRX suspension training in a class, there is usually a “crossbar” anchor used to secure the TRX trainer. This allows for 360 degrees of movement with the trainer,” says Mikulsky. This setup is difficult to achieve at home, so make sure you have a sturdy door, wall, or ceiling anchor installed.