TRX Suspension Training is a fairly new fad, but athletes like New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees and professional volleyball player Mike Morrison have already sworn by it.
The system, which is now in many Washington gyms, is pretty light on equipment: It includes just a few bright yellow, two-pound TRX Suspension cables. They may not look intimidating, but don’t knock the workout just yet—it was developed by Navy Seals.
“You can complete an entire workout almost anywhere with TRX cables,” says Sports Club/LA trainer Monica Pampell. The cables come with an attachment to hook it up to a door frame, or you can wrap them around a tree branch if you want an outdoor workout.
Before You Start
Whether you’re using the door attachment or a tree branch, hang the cables they so they dangle without touching the ground. Wrap the webbing (where the cables come together) around your base, then hook the carabiner through one of the openings. (Watch the video for a demonstration.) Throughout this workout, you’ll adjust the cables to different heights for each exercise, so it’s important to know how to correctly set up the TRX cables. And in case you’re wondering, the cables can support up to 3,000 pounds, so “you’re not going to fall off or break it,” Pampell says.
You can perform TRX exercises either by rep count or timed intervals. A typical timed interval is about 30 seconds to one minute. Pampell likes doing intervals, moving through the exercises with little to no rest in between.
And as with other workouts, you should warm up for ten minutes before taking on the TRX trainer. Pampell suggests warming up on the ellipitcal or stationary bike.
Exercise 1: Full-Body Squat Pull
Muscle areas: Back muscles, biceps, glutes, and quads
Adjust the straps so the handles are at about waist height. Hold the handles with arms extended and position your body so you’re leaning back at a 45-degree angle.
Lower yourself into a squat. Use both your arms and legs to return to standing position.
For more difficulty, extend one leg in the air as you go into a squat. Or, use just one arm for the exercise.
Exercise 2: Chest Press
Muscle areas: Pecs, shoulders, triceps, and abs
Adjust the cables so they are completely lengthened. Hold the handles together with arms extended and position your body so you are leaning forward at a 45-degree angle. The closer you are to the floor, the more difficult the exercise will be.
Separate your hands and lower your body until your shoulders are in line with your hands. Push back up to starting position, bringing your hands together.
Your feet position in this exercise will determine the difficulty. For an easier exercise, position the feet so they’re staggered; for more difficulty, keep them together.
Exercise 3: T-Extensions
Muscle areas: Muscles between the shoulder blades and back muscles
Adjust the cables so they are about waist high. Hold the handles together with arms extended and lean back as far as you can with feet staggered. Keep your elbows close to your body.
Pull your body halfway up, then extend your arms out into a T-shape as you come to standing position. Your elbows should be kept close to your body throughout this entire exercise. Otherwise, “you wont get the same squeeze in your shoulder blades,” Pampell says.
This exercise is great for posture, but it can be stressful on the upper neck if you haven’t build up enough strength. If you feel any strain on your neck, try tucking in your chin.
Exercise 4: Bicep Curl
Muscle area: Biceps and forearms
Use the same starting position as the T-extensions, but keep your hands about a foot apart in front of you. Lift your body up as you do a bicep curl. Keep your upper arm stationary throughout the exercise. Remember to stagger your feet and tuck in your chin to keep extra pressure off the neck.
Exercise 5: Single-leg Squat
Muscle areas: Glutes and quads
Adjust the cables so they are about a foot and a half off the ground. Stand in front of the cable, and hook your right foot into the handles. Slowly go down into a single-legged squat. After you finish one set, switch legs and repeat.
This exercise puts a lot of pressure on the glutes of the standing leg. Putting one foot in the TRX cable provides you with structure and reduces chances of cheating or compensating.
Exercise 6: Plank
Muscle area: Core
With the cables completely lengthened, place one foot in each handle and get into a plank position—toes pointed towards the ground and forearms on the ground supporting the weight of your fully-extended body.
“This adds so much more difficulty because your feet are not on the ground,” Pampell says. “Gravity has a greater pull on your body and you’re less stable.”
For more difficulty, get in plank position but extend your arms so you’re in pushup position. From there, you can do pushups. Or, tuck your knees into your chest for an abs exercise.
For the super advanced, bring your legs straight up into a pike position by lifting your hips in the air. With these plank exercises, don’t do more than 15 reps. If you feel any discomfort in the lower back, stop and rest.
Exercise 7: Hamstring Curl
Muscle areas: Hamstrings and glutes
Keep the cables completely lengthened. Lie on your back, tuck your knees to your chest, and put your heels in the TRX handles. Extend your legs and keep your arms at your side. Lift your hips off the floor, then drop down. Repeat.
For more difficulty, keep your hips lifted and tuck your knees to your chest. Repeat. Or, you can alternate legs as you bring them to your chest.