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How to Exercise with the Suspension Trainer? Learn These Effective Full-Body Exercises

You may have heard about a suspension trainer workout or the popular TRX classes. Randy Hetrick, a former member of the United States Special Forces, is behind the invention of this training aid. One day, it simply occurred to him that he would make a knot on the jiu-jitsu tape, throw it over the door, close it, and see if pulling towards the tape would help him create a movement similar to climbing a ladder. He basically figured out how to use gravity and his own body weight as a fitness aid. At the end of the 1990s, his suspension trainer was popular mainly among soldiers, since it represented an easy way to exercise effectively almost anywhere. [1]

The original design had the shape of an inverted Y without the possibility of adjusting the length of the straps, as we know it today. Since then, there has been a huge shift in the appearance and properties of the suspension trainer. Training with TRX became gradually popular with the public and a new fitness trend was born. This effective fitness aid has spread from the USA all over the world, and nowadays, you can find TRX in almost every gym. In today’s article, we will explain everything, describe the benefits and introduce you effective exercises with the suspension trainer.

TRX is an effective fitness aid

How does the suspension trainer work?

Training with TRX works by exposing your body to instability. You then have to balance it and you automatically engage the core of the body during each exercise. Thanks to this, you work on a strong body and at the same time, you improve your ability to maintain balance. When you hang your arms or legs in the straps, your body weight becomes your load and you must resist gravity. You can easily affect difficulty by adjusting the length of the straps or changing the inclination of the body. By using TRX, you can work out almost like you would during a regular fitness workout in the gym. You can effectively do exercises based on traction, as well as pressure and rotation, but also squats or lunges. [2]

Workouts with the suspension trainer are popular in group fitness classes, and more and more people have been training with them in the gym or on the street workout park. This is a very compact and portable aid which you simply attach to a horizontal bar, a tree branch or attach to an x-mount and you can start exercising.

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Why should you exercise with a suspension trainer such as TRX? Discover its 8 biggest benefits

You can have a great workout with the suspension trainer almost anywhere. It is light, portable and easy to adjust. What are its other benefits and why should you include it in your training routine?

1. You will engage your whole body

Although the suspension trainer offers an intensive abdominal training, it is not the only body part you can use it for. TRX is an abbreviation for Total Body Resistance Exercise, which translates as full-body resistance or strength training. In addition to many variants of the plank, you can also work out a variety of exercises for your abdomen, arms, back, glutes and legs. Most of them are complex ones, which means that you will engage several body parts at once.

In addition, by exercising with the suspension trainer, you also build functional strength. This is not measured by the circumference of biceps, but by the ability to effectively perform common movements, such as carrying heavy purchases or moving furniture.

How does TRX work?

2. You will strengthen the core of your body

You will engage your core or deep spinal stabilizing system with almost every exercise using the suspension trainer. This is because these exercises require more emphasis on body stability and coordination.

The core connects the upper half of the body to the lower half of the body and, when properly engaged, maintains the stability of the spine and pelvis. This protects the locomotor system from injury.

A strong core improves flexibility, stability, coordination and posture during daily activities. Whether you lift a heavy barbell or clean the house, it is your reliable support.

Runners will certainly appreciate the fact that a strong core can also help them speed up and improve their running technique, since the power will be transferred to the lower limbs more effectively.

A strong core of the body also protects your back from injury or pain caused by poor posture. To have a strong, well-built abs you don’t have to do crunches all the time. Try functional training with TRX instead. [3-4]

If you want to do a quick workout focused on abs, try, for example, the one in our article Effective 6-Minute Abs Workout at Home.

3. You will build muscle mass and alleviate muscle imbalances

If you haven’t exercised with TRX yet, you may think it’s a light cardio activity and it will certainly not make your muscles grow. But the opposite is true. Once you try a few exercises or intense training with the suspension trainer, your tired and sore muscles will prove you wrong.

When researchers compared the impact of training with the suspension trainer to the regular strength training in the gym, they found that the effect of both approaches was similar. This means that just using your own weight with the help of a suspension trainer can also help you grow muscle mass. It has also been found that the body responds to this type of exercise, as in traditional heavy weight training, with increased production of growth hormone which is one of the anabolic hormones that support the growth and protection of muscle mass. [5-7]

According to some studies, you can also reduce muscle imbalances by training with TRX. This is probably due to the fact that exercising with a suspension trainer requires the right technique and even involvement of muscle groups. Some sportsmen, such as swimmers, can also use TRX training to effectively prevent shoulder pain, since shoulder are put to a strain when swimming. [8-9]

If you are interested in how to effectively gain muscle mass, you will learn all the essentials in the article What to Eat and How to Exercise to Finally Gain Muscle?

Exercising with TRX helps you lose weight

4. You will burn calories, so you can lose weight faster

Do you want to lose some weight, you run regularly and you would like to alternate the running session with an exercise to strengthen your body, but you just don’t enjoy working out with dumbbells? Try an effective training with the suspension trainer. You will target your whole body with it, you will sweat a lot and at the same time you will support weight loss.

An average 60 kg-woman burns about 365 calories per hour of training and an 80kg-man burns 487 calories. This can significantly contribute to achieving a caloric deficit which is essential for weight loss. But it always depends on which training intensity you choose and which exercises you include. TRX exercise is also great for short-interval trainings such as HIIT which you can do in less than 30 minutes. You will exercise at a higher intensity, and thanks to that you will burn a lot of energy in a short time. [10]

If you want to learn more about weight loss, caloric deficit and other important weight loss rules, read our article Simple Basics of Weight Loss: You’ll Be Amazed What’s Really Important

5. You can choose the difficulty of each exercise

You may be convinced that TRX belongs only in the hands of advanced or professional sportsmen. This is not entirely the case because even a total beginner can exercise with the suspension trainer, preferably under the supervision of a personal trainer.

Advantages of exercise with a suspension trainer

The difficulty can be easily increased or decreased by adjusting the length of the straps and changing the inclination of your body. For example, you can make any exercise in the standing position easier by moving a few steps back. On the contrary, the deeper you are, the more difficult the exercise will be.

You can also control the difficulty of your performance by changing the position of the handles with metal clips. It is thus a universal tool usable for the whole spectrum of exercisers, including older age categories and beginners. [11]

6. You will simplify the performance of some exercises

For example, can you squat on one leg in full range of motion and without holding? Mastering this exercise is not easy. It requires strong legs, great mobility in the joints and stability. And that’s where TRX comes in handy thanks to its straps.

Therefore, you will not fall forward or backward and it will be easier to perform a squat. At the same time, you will strengthen the muscles that you engage when squatting on one leg, and with regular training, you will manage it over time even without TRX.

7. You can train anywhere

  • You have no time for a training in the gym? Hang TRX on the door and let the quick home workout begin.
  • Do you want to work out properly and do you feel like training in the open air? Then all you have to do is take the suspension trainer out, find a solid branch or crossbar to hold it, and you can exercise in the fresh air.
  • Do you want to stay active even on your holiday? Pack your TRX in your suitcase and then all you have to do is find a suitable place to exercise and start a quick HIIT or circuit training.

The suspension training system is a compact exercise aid which allows you to do a high-quality training almost anywhere. [12]

8. You will spice up your workouts

Tired of lifting dumbbells, training in the gym or exercising with bodyweight? A suspension training system can mean a pleasant change, a fresh impulse, motivation and, most importantly, a new dimension of training. You can work out with it as part of a circle training, intensive HIIT or strength training. When you combine TRX with other aids, such as kettlebell, skipping rope, ab wheel or plyometric box, you can have an even more diverse circuit training.

How to include exercises with the suspension training system in your training?

How to train with the suspension trainer?

Before you start training with the suspension trainer, warm up slightly. This part is also important for your mind which needs to be switched from working mode to training mode. It is out of place at the moment to think about what you missed at work or what awaits you at home. You are here to unwind and do something for your health and body. Whether you are going for HIIT, strength training or intense cardio, try to pay attention to all these parts.

  1. Warm up

Warming up helps prepare your muscles, heart and lungs for the upcoming exercise. Warming up can have many forms. A fast walk on the way to the gym, running on the spot or on the treadmill, a few burpees or jumping on the skipping rope will be great. All you have to do is perform this activity for 5-10 minutes. You should breathe lightly. You do not want to do your best in the first phase of your training.

How to train with the suspension trainer?

2. Take your time for dynamic stretching

The warm-up should then be followed by dynamic stretching. Prepare all your joints for the upcoming workout by doing a circular motion, just as you learned in elementary school in physical education classes. This will improve the range of motion in the joints and reduce the risk of injury during your training. [13]

If you want to learn more detailed information about the topic of warming up and stretching, be sure to read our article Warming up, Stretching, Cool Down – Are They Really Important?

3. Move on to the main part of the workout

Try to plan in advance what training will you have that day. Choose one or more body parts to focus on. Then select specific exercises, number of reps and sets. You can also schedule a circuit training, HIIT training or tabata. Feel free to write down your training on a piece of paper or to your mobile phone, which you will have on hand during the exercise. Thanks to this, you will not walk confusingly from one exercise machine to another and you will save time.

Focus on the correct technique when exercising, and increase the load gradually. [14]

If you exercise at home, then our article can help you plan your training routine – How to Create a Proper Training Program for Home Workouts?

4. Add a cooldown especially after an intense workout

After the main part, you probably still have a higher heart rate, you are short of breath and your muscles are probably already calling for calm. The goal of the cool down phase is to get the heart rate back to normal, to calm down and relax the ongoing muscle tension. This part is especially important if you have just finished a high intensity workout, such as CrossFit WOD, HIIT or heavy leg training.

5. Stretch lightly at the end of a workout

Even if you are already looking forward to taking a shower and enjoying your post-workout meal, take a few more minutes of static stretching. It will help you improve your flexibility and posture. You can also speed up regeneration later after training by using massage rollers or a massage gun. [15]

If you are interested in things that will help you accelerate your regeneration, then read our article How to Support Regeneration Using a Massage Gun and Other Tools?

Post-workout stretching

Get to know 10 effective exercises with the suspension trainer

These are exercises for the abs, arms and back, and you will also engage your glutes and legs. You can include these exercises in the full-body training routine or choose specific exercises for the body part you are about to target. The suspension trainer can also become a part of your circuit training or intensive HIIT. Just set the exercise and rest interval. For example, an interval of 30 seconds of exercise and 30 seconds of rest is commonly used. Pay attention to the correct technique, start slowly and choose an easier variation.

What to watch out for when exercising with TRX?

  • Engage your core – it will help you to maintain balance and the right technique.
  • Remember to breathe regularly.
  • Adjust the difficulty – for most exercises, you can make the exercise less difficult by moving a few steps back. To increase difficulty, take a few steps forward and practice the full range of motion.

1. Pull-ups

Primarily engaging: back, chest and arms

What to watch out for? Keep your back straight all the time. Try to fix your shoulders in the lower position, do not raise them toward the ears. The elbows move alongside the body.

Pull-ups with TRX

2. TRX T’s

Primarily engaging: shoulders, back, chest

What to watch out for? Keep your back straight all the time. Try to keep your shoulders at the same level when going down, do not raise them toward the ears.

How to perform pull-ups for shoulders with TRX?

3. Push-ups

Primarily engaging: arms, chest

What to watch out for? Keep your back straight all the time. Try to keep your shoulders at the same level when going down, do not raise them toward the ears.

How to perform push-ups with TRX?

4. Biceps curls

Primarily engaging: arms, chest

What to watch out for? Try to keep your shoulders at the same level in the lower position. Pull your arms towards the ears and maintain your elbows in the same position throughout the whole exercise.

How to perform biceps curls with TRX?

5. Plank knee pull

Primarily engaged: core of the body, arms

What to watch out for? Keep your back straight, especially focus on the lumbar area.

How to perform plank with TRX?

6. TRX pike

Primarily engaged: core of the body, arms

What to watch out for? Focus on a straight back in the lower position, especially in the lumbar area.

How to perform raise the roof with TRX?

7. Reverse lunges

Primarily engaged: front of thighs, back of thighs, glutes

What to watch out for? Your knee should lightly touch the ground in the lower position. For greater comfort, put an exercise mat under your feet. You can alternate legs, or first do one set on one leg and then on the other.

How to perform reverse lunges with TRX?

8. Single-leg lunges

Primarily engaged: front of thighs, back of thighs, glutes

What to watch out for? This exercise requires great stability, so perform it fully focused and try to balance with your arms. Make sure that the axis of the knee, ankle and toe of the working leg are at one level. Do one set on one leg first and then on the other.

lunges with TRX

9. Single-leg squats

Primarily engaged: front of thighs, back of thighs, glutes

What to watch out for? The deeper you get in the lower phase, the more difficult it will be to squat on one leg. Make sure that the axis of the knee, ankle and toe of the working leg are at one level. You can alternate your legs, or you first do one set on one leg and then on the other.

How to perform single-leg squats with TRX?

10. Jump squats

Primarily engaged: front of thighs, back of thighs, glutes

What to watch out for? Keep your back straight throughout the whole exercise. The deeper you get in the lower phase, the more difficult it will be to squat.

How to perform jump squats with TRX?

What should you remember?

Exercising with the TRX system can bring a whole new dimension to your training. It will help you on your way to a strong and functional body. At the same time, you will also improve your stability and coordination. In addition, you can pack the suspension training system with you on your travels or use it when exercising in the park or on the street workout area. This will make sure you can have a full body high-quality training almost anytime and anywhere.

Do you know TRX and tend to regularly include it in your training? Try the exercises we described in the article and let us know in the comments how you liked them. And don’t forget to share the article with your friends who will certainly appreciate the inspiration for a high-quality training with the suspension training system.

Sources:

[1] Lappe, M. How a Navy SEAL’s Mistakenly Packed Jiujitsu Belt Launched a Home Fitness Revolution. – http://gearpatrol.com/fitness/a725144/randy-hetrick-trx-origin-story/

[2] Verywell Fit. How TRX Training Improves Strength, Balance, and Flexibility – https://www.verywellfit.com/trx-suspension-training-4580454

[3] Seana. Why it’s all about core strength. – https://www.freeletics.com/en/blog/posts/core-strength/

[4] Harvard Health. The real-world benefits of strengthening your core. [https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-real-world-benefits-of-strengthening-your-core

[5] Angleri, V., Soligon, S. D., da Silva, D. G., Bergamasco, J. G. A., & Libardi, C. A. Suspension Training: A New Approach to Improve Muscle Strength, Mass, and Functional Performances in Older Adults? – https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2019.01576

[6] Soligon, S. D., da Silva, D. G., Bergamasco, J. G. A., Angleri, V., Júnior, R. A. M., Dias, N. F., Nóbrega, S. R., de Castro Cesar, M., & Libardi, C. A. Suspension training vs. traditional resistance training: Effects on muscle mass, strength and functional performance in older adults.– https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-020-04446-x

[7] Dudgeon, W. D., Aartun, J. D., Thomas, D. D., Herrin, J., & Scheett, T. P. Effects of Suspension Training on the Growth Hormone Axis. – https://doi.org/10.1097/01.JSC.0000395677.91938.83

[8] OriGym. 9 Benefits of TRX Training for Strength & Fitness – https://origympersonaltrainercourses.co.uk/blog/trx-training-benefits

[9] Sadek, M. T. EFFECT OF TRX SUSPENSION TRAINING AS A PREVENTION PROGRAM TO AVOID THE SHOULDER PAIN FOR SWIMMERS. – https://www.analefefs.ro/anale-fefs/2016/i2/pe-autori/13.pdf

[10] TRX, Definition, Description, Purpose, Results. – https://reference.jrank.org/fitness/TRX.html

[11] True Conditioning 4 Benefits of TRX Suspension Training [ https://www.trueconditioning.com/fitness/4-benefits-of-trx-suspension-training/

[12] PhysioRoom Blog. Sports Injury Products & Physiotherapy Advice. – https://www.physioroom.com/info/suspension-training-explained-physioroom-blog/

[13] Mayo Clinic.Weight-training do’s and don’ts. [https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/weight-training/art-2004584

[14] Work Out Plan to Build Muscle. – https://livehealthy.chron.com/work-out-plan-build-muscle-7895.html

[15] LIVESTRONG.COM. What Are the Three Parts of an Exercise Session & Why Are They Important? [https://www.livestrong.com/article/165240-what-are-the-three-parts-of-an-exercise-session-why-are-they-important