Trainers share the super-easy tips every TRX virgin needs to know. (Photo: Shutterstock)
If you’ve ever seen someone working out with a TRX suspension-training system, two thoughts have probably crossed your mind. (1) That looks like an awesome workout. (2) That looks totally intimidating.
It is an awesome workout. TRX ups the ante on virtually every exercise known to woman by requiring you to not only work against your bodyweight and gravity, but also to constantly keep yourself stabilized. That means every single move is a veritable core exercise, says strength coach and TRX trainer Kourtney A. Thomas, C.S.C.S., owner of Lagniappe Fitness in St. Louis.
But, no, TRX doesn’t have to be intimidating. All you have to do is follow these pointers, not let go, and you’ll be in good shape.
If you’re new to TRX, you’re probably trying it out at your gym. Good. It should already have the TRX properly anchored and ready for you to take hold. Still, it’s never a bad idea to check the setup. Plus, if you eventually invest in your own TRX system, you’ll need to know how to anchor it: Just wrap the yellow suspension anchor around a strong anchor point about seven to nine feet high, and clip it in place with the carbineer. (You can also use the TRX door anchor to hang the system from the top of your door jam or the Xtender to hang it from a vertical anchor point like a post or tree.)
If the anchor point is at the right height, the black stabilizing loop should be about six feet off of the ground (probably just over your head), and with the TRX fully extended, the bottom of the foot cradles should hang about three inches off of the ground, says Thomas.
How long you want the TRX cables depends on the exercise you want to perform, so expect to adjust the straps pretty frequently. To shorten the system, hold one strap, press down on the buckle with one thumb, and pull up with the other hand on the yellow adjustment tab, says Thomas. Repeat with other strap. To lengthen them, hold both buckles down, and pull down. The two yellow tabs should always be even with one another.
Related: TRX Total Body Workout
For most TRX exercises, you’ll use one of four standard lengths: short, mid-calf, mid-length, and long. When the tabs are all the way up to the top, the system is adjusted to the short position. Mid-calf is reached when the bottom of the foot cradle is about mid-calf, usually eight to 12 inches off of the ground, says Thomas. Mid-length is marked right on the TRX straps with two yellow stitches about halfway up. Long is fully extended; the tabs should be all of the way at the end of the straps, she says.
When cranking out planks and pushups (with your hands on the ground and your feet in the straps), the straps should be adjusted to mid-calf. For rows, you’ll need them to be short. Pushups with your hands holding the handles and feet on the ground require fully lengthened straps. And squats are best performed with the TRX at mid-length, says Thomas.
Suspension training can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be. How far your step your feet out from your body largely determines how much weight you’ll have to push or pull with every rep, says Thomas. Fight the urge to make your first session super challenging. Keep your feet relatively close to your body so that you can focus on your form before taking things up a notch, she says.
That said…don’t step your feet too close to your body; you should be able to move through each exercise’s full range of motion while maintaining tension on the straps, says Meka Gibson, C.S.C.S., trainer at DavidBartonGym. They should never feel loose or hang about willy-nilly. If they do, step your feet out a bit. That will allow you to work against your body weight and gravity throughout the entire exercise.
Sure, you’re using different equipment, but with the TRX you can perform a lot of the same movements you do with dumbbells, kettlebells, or your bodyweight—they’ll just be harder and work your stabilizer muscles like crazy. Take overhead tricep extensions, for example. Instead of holding a dumbbell above your head, grab the TRX handles and face away from the anchor point in a split stance. Straighten your arms until your fists are at about eye level and the straps are taught. Keeping your elbows shoulder-width apart and pointing forward, bend your elbows to 90 degrees to slowly lower your body toward the floor. Pause, then push back up to start. “I’m not sure there is a better isolation exercise for the triceps,” says Thomas.
Want more TRX exercise ideas? This six-move resistance-strap workout tones your abs and back like whoa.
Even though all of the above tips are great for beginners, it never hurts to get some help from a pro. “I recommend people work with a personal trainer a few times before going off on their own,” says Gibson. “A trainer will make sure that you are performing the exercises correctly and will help you set up the TRX properly. They will also monitor and tweak your technique so that there’s less chance of injury.” Attending a TRX class can also be a good option if the class size is small and you tell the instructor beforehand that you’re new to the equipment, she says. That way, you’ll get the extra attention you need to master the basics.
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