The arrival of a TRX Suspension Trainer brings a lot of confusion to the gym setting. Some find the straps intimidating because they don’t know what to do with them or they’ve heard they’re made for soldiers. Others think doing squats while ‘holding on’ looks way too easy. Of course, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
TRX stands for Total Body Resistance Exercise and it began as a way for creator, Randy Hetrick, to get in a full-body workout using little equipment and little space while he served as a Navy SEAL. Although the suspension trainer began as a way to workout on-the-go, over the years, it has evolved into classes, new equipment and more and more functional straps. Before you grab the handles or slide your feet into the cradles, here is everything you need to know to get started with TRX.
The Benefits of TRX
There are several benefits to using the TRX Suspension Trainer but here’s what TRX Master Trainer and owner of McCloud Fitness, Renae McCloud loves most:.
- TRX is adaptable for all-levels: You can modify every single exercise to make it work for you, no matter your age or fitness level!
- It’s is all about the core: You will use your core for almost every TRX exercise which is what truly makes it a full-body workout. Even bicep curls recruit the core so your workout is more efficient than with hand weights or body weight alone.
- The Suspension Trainer is travel-friendly: The equipment is light-weight and practical for travel, unlike most fitness gear.
- You’ll prevent injury through improved balance, flexibility, mobility and stability which is important because McCloud says building strength without all of the above is an injury waiting to happen.
Weight Loss and Fat Burning Potential
The TRX Suspension Trainer is a strength-building tool that can help increase muscle mass and burn fat. Ideally, a well-rounded weight loss program will include strength, cardio and a healthy diet but TRX can certainly play an effective role in a weight loss journey. For more impact and faster results, McCloud suggests you “Focus on High Intensity Interval Training, add plyometrics to your workout and, over time, reduce your rest periods between strength and cardio circuits.” To get the most out of each TRX exercise, she says you should “Pick a resistance that is challenging (but not to failure) that allows you to keep your heart rate elevated, sweat and most of all, have fun!”
Toning and Muscle Building Potential
What makes TRX so unique and effective is that, when you’re doing it right, you’re never really resting and your muscles are always active. Take that and combine the fact that your core is on fire for the entire workout and you have a recipe for toning success. “When using the TRX for strength and toning, your goal is to maintain constant tension in the straps,” says McCloud, “This high tension load is what gives you the strength and toning benefits. If you let the TRX straps slack, you’re letting the muscles rest (aka you’re getting no strength or toning benefit).”
Instructional TRX Videos and Training Tips
Online videos are a great resource for learning without the expense of a gym. Here are a few of our faves:
- Quality over Quantity: Go at your own pace and complete each move with intention rather than trying to speed through a bunch of sloppy reps.
- Take your Time: Much like quality over quantity, if you spend the time to get the correct alignment in each exercise, you’ll benefit so much more than rushing through with poor form since it’s more challenging to do resistance exercises slowly.
- Let Form and the Anchor Point Guide Intensity: If you can make an exercise harder without sacrificing form, you’re ready for the challenge! Move closer to the anchor point to increase intensity and move away to reduce your challenge.
- And McCloud’s best tip? “Have fun!”
- The anchor point: the spot where the TRX securely connects to something stable (the ceiling, the door, the tree, etc.)
- Handles: Anytime you’re holding on with your hands, use this spot that is usually rubber or a different material than the strap itself.
- Foot Cradles: The loops at the ends of the straps are the foot cradles and depending on the exercise, you would rest your heels in the cradles (for bridge pose and most supine positions on the ground) or place your feet into the cradles toe first (for planks, most prone positions and any standing exercises that utilize the foot cradles).
- Straps: In class or any video on the TRX website, your instructor will direct you in what length to make your straps and lengths include: short, long, mid-calf (foot cradles hit mid-calf when standing next to the trx) and mid-length (depending on the TRX, there will be marks at mid-length. Sometimes there are two hash marks while on newer TRX Suspension Trainers, the color of the strap changes right at mid-length.)
Lengthen the Straps: To make them longer, tip the buckles away from both straps and pull.
Shorten the Straps: One at a time, pull the buckle away from the strap with one hand and pull the tab up with the other.
Check out this video for further instruction!
Clothes, Gear and Proper Attire
TRX is pretty straight-forward. The only gear you really need is the TRX and a sturdy anchor point (a door or a tree both do the job). As far as clothing and footwear, your favorite workout gear should suffice and non-slip cross-training or running shoes work great. You’ll want to be able to comfortably move in all planes of motion, bend over and get up and down from the floor so avoid clothes that are too baggy but don’t worry about the fabric material since you shouldn’t be sweating buckets unless it’s a hybrid class that includes cardio.
Classes: What to Expect; Should I Take Them?
As with most forms of exercise, you’ll benefit so much more when you know what you’re doing and a little direction can go a long way. You can get a great TRX workout on your own but correct alignment and exposure to several exercises will aid in your success and an instructor will likely push you harder than you would challenge yourself on your own. Even if you do plan to use the TRX on your own or for travel, McCloud recommends starting in classes or with a personal trainer. “Honestly, I’d go to a trainer or class first, get hands on instruction and cueing for body alignment, make sure you are doing each exercise correctly…then get your personal TRX for home and travel,” she says, “It’s by far my favorite travel tool, I never leave home without it!”
Results and Success Stories
You wouldn’t think two little straps could make such a difference, but the results of these women speak for themselves.
“Like many working moms, I am always trying to figure out a way to carve out “me-time” and by that I mean “me-minutes”. With two children, a husband, our dog and a career I will take those “me-minutes” whenever and wherever I can.
The one way I usually can get the most free time from the above-mentioned is by heading into my workout space and cranking my music, while yelling out that the timer is set. In my world that means it is TABATA time, in their world that means mom is probably not looking and will be in the gym. These 15-25 minutes are my time to kick-ass, therapize and prioritize me and usually think about what I will make for dinner, all while getting my sweat on.
With such a short window of training I have to get the most effective routines to work for me and challenge my (entire) body. This is why my TRX is outstanding.
Let’s start with the basics — it is portable and weighs close to nothing so I can travel with it and still have room for everyone else’s stuff. If the girls are doing homework I can anchor it to our kitchen door and train while teaching the fundamentals of the ABC’s. I no longer need to clutter space with bars and weights because at this point it is me against my own body weight and the results are amazing.
Each exercise with the TRX demands you to engage your entire body with a great focus on your core for stability. After 2 c-sections, reconnecting to my core is always the ultimate goal. These two straps encourage you to maintain excellent posture and naturally forces you to increase your stability while coordinating your entire body to perform one move. At the end of the first workout I knew I was exhausted and would be in “good” pain the next day. After a few weeks of training I saw a new, greater level of definition and by that I mean lean muscles not “big” muscles that most women fear. And I am loving the results.”