By Blake Dillon
Photos Of Marie Blanchard By Brian Landis
If you’re looking for a change in routine, put down those heavy weights, get off the treadmill, and look up. No, there’s no bird, no plane, and Superman’s not there either. Look up at the black and yellow straps hanging from your gym’s ceiling, and say hello to your new best friends.
TRX straps, the versatile all-in-one fitness tools that they are, offer gym-goers a fun, dynamic, and effective way of shaking up their routine.
While suspension training in a general sense has been around for ages, it should come as no surprise that a variation as gruelling and efficient as TRX stems from a military background. Invented by Randy Hetrick, a former Navy SEAL, TRX training is an exciting method of using your body’s resistance to build strength, improve your balance, and even develop flexibility.
“There isn’t a whole lot that the TRX can’t do,” says Bryan Smith, owner of Catalyst Specialized Personal Training in Hamilton, Ontario. “It combines strength and stability through multiple planes and forces you to use your body as a stabilizer.”
Among the many perks of suspension training — convenience, safety, effectiveness, and so on — Smith says variety, both in terms of workout options and muscles activated, is arguably the biggest reason gym-goers continue to gravitate toward TRX training.
“The exercise selection is virtually endless,” he says. “On top of that, it forces you to control your body weight during each rep, which activates a variety of the smaller stabilizing muscles that you wouldn’t necessarily hit while performing the dumbbell equivalent.”
With all that in mind, get stretching! We’re about to break down one of the toughest upper-body and core suspension training regimens out there.
While TRX training can be equally effective on your lower body, this issue’s rundown is entirely upper-body and abdominal focused. Complete the following five exercises in sequence, resting for about 30 seconds between each set, and only switching to the next move when you’ve completed the prescribed amount of sets and reps for your current one. Once you’ve got the hang of it (pun intended), Smith suggests eventually taking things to the next level by performing eccentric supersets — complete the exercises in pairs, focusing on slow returns to your start position for each move. For this iteration, begin with the chest press (3×10) and reverse flyes (3×12), followed by the plank with knee-in (3×12) and suspended row (3×10 on each side), finishing up with the reverse mountain climbers (3×20).
Targets: Chest, triceps
Adjust your TRX so that the straps hang at about waist height. Holding them in your hands, take one step backward, and lean forward until your body is suspended at about 40 degrees. As if you’re doing a midair push-up, bend at the elbows and lower your body down until your chest lines up with the handles. Push yourself back up to your leaning position, and repeat.
Tip: This move is incredibly challenging. Beginners might want to try putting their feet through the straps and doing a push-up off the floor instead.
Targets: Shoulders, back
Start by grabbing the straps with your palms facing down and your arms fully extended. Lean back as far as you can while still keeping your feet flat, your legs straight, and the cables pulled tight. Pull your body into nearly a standing position by raising your right arm up and pulling your left arm down. Return to the starting position, and repeat. Alternate arms as you go.
Tip: Your arms should emulate the motion of an alligator snapping its jaws open and closed — hence why this move is occasionally called an alligator flye.
Plank with Knee-In
With your feet in the TRX handles, drop your palms to the floor and assume a push-up position. Activate your core as you would with any standard plank, and pull both of your knees in toward your chest. Repeat.
Tip: Focus on keeping your hips locked in place. The sturdier they stay, the harder your core will work.
Targets: Back, biceps, lats
Grasp the straps in your hands and lean back until your body forms a perfectly diagonal line. Extend your arms fully, and keep only your heels pinned to the floor. Commence your row by bringing your elbows in tight to your body and your chest up to where your hands are. Hold this position for a second or two, and return yourself to the start position. Repeat.
Tip: Where you position your feet will determine how challenging this move is. The farther away they are, the harder it will be to pull yourself up. The closer they are, the easier it will be.
Reverse Mountain Climbers
Targets: Abdominals, triceps, shoulders
To start, set your TRX handles to hang about a foot from the floor. Sitting underneath them, put your feet through the straps, and place your palms on the floor behind you, keeping your fingers pointed toward your feet. Push up, lifting your butt from the floor. Bring one knee in tight to your chest, stretch it back out to the start position, and immediately repeat with your other knee. Alternate at max speed for the prescribed amount of repetitions.
Tip: It’s better to maintain form than speed, so pace yourself if you have trouble with smooth repetitions.