If you’re tired of circuiting 20 different machines just to finish your total-body workout, try TRX suspension training—an all-in-one motion that combines strength and flexibility.
Truth is, you don’t have to use stacks of weights to build muscle. Suspension training uses your own bodyweight from different angles to engage more muscle groups at the same time. Think of it this way: Something as simple as a chest press or biceps curl becomes a core-stabilization exercise.
“TRX trains for reactive stability," says Chris Frankel, head of human performance at TRX. “If your core isn’t tight, you’ll lose balance on the straps. Bracing your core before you move becomes second nature. You’re relying on your own ability to marry your center of gravity with your base of support.”
Here are Frankel's five favorite TRX exercises that’ll work your entire body. Start with 30-45 seconds of work to every 30 seconds of rest. Don’t rush. The slower you go, the more time with the tension, and the more strength you’re building from each exercise.
1. TRX Single-Leg Squat (TRX straps at mid-length)
Place your elbows under your shoulders and, with tension on TRX, center right leg to anchor point. Place the opposite heel on the ground to assist working leg. Then, lower your hips down and back, allowing the knee of your assisting leg to bend. Keep the majority of weight in your working leg and allow the weight to transfer to your assisting leg as needed. Drive through your heels, extend your hips and stand tall. Repeat with left leg.
Common faults: Leaning too far back; bending too far forward at the waist.
Frankel says: “Most people don’t have the strength or balance it takes to do a single-leg squat on their own. TRX trains your ability to resist rotation in the hips and builds stronger hamstrings, glutes, and core because you have to resist the force of your torso tilting or rotating. Often, when you’re doing a two-leg squat with bodyweight, you default to your weakest link and don’t notice if one hip rotates a little bit because you can counteract it with the other. When you have one leg off the ground all your weaknesses are exposed, and you get immediate feedback. It develops durability because you can add more stress to muscle without adding more stress to the knees and spine.”
2. TRX Y Fly (TRX straps at mid-length)
Extend your arms overhead in a "Y" position—palms forward, tension on TRX, offset feet. Lower your body down, keep your arms extended, and maintain a plank. Pull on the handles, drive your knuckles back, and lift your chest while keeping your eyes on the anchor point.
Common faults: Breaking at the hips; bending elbows.
Frankel says: “Here, your arms go up over your head, allowing you to maintain a rigid spine so that you’re getting that core work as you reach up overhead. TRX forces you to establish stability in your core and legs to get your arms to move, as opposed to resting on a ball or bench. It gives you a big bang for your buck: More muscles are working and integrated into the movement, and everything becomes a core exercise.”
3. TRX Atomic Pike (TRX straps at mid-length)
Start in plank position—place your feet in the foot cradles, your knees on floor, and your hands under your shoulders. Lower your chest to just above the ground. Keeping your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles in alignment, push back up to plank position then immediately hinge at hips. Drive your butt up while keeping your torso straight. Keep your body tight and engaged, and lower back down to a plank position.
Common faults: Dropping chin; looking forward; bending knees.
Frankel says: “This is a desert island exercise. You’re getting a push from the arms, core movement from the plank, and a hinge in the hips for stretching and flexibility at the legs. The core, abs, back, shoulders, and hips are working to do different things at different times, so it’s not one repetitive motion. For more of a challenge, walk your feet away from the anchor point until they're behind you and your entire body is positioned to the left.”
4. TRX Power Pull (TRX straps at mid-length)
Place your working hand beside your chest, and reach your free hand up the TRX main strap toward anchor point. Drop your shoulders down. In a circular motion, rotate your free arm toward the ground while extending your working arm. Keep your hips square. Drive your working elbow straight back while rotating your free arm up toward the anchor point.
Common faults: Breaking at the hips; using rotational momentum to pull body up.
Frankel says: “Once you get good at two-handed rows, do a single-handed row and then try a powerpull. You’re reaching up as high as you can on strap and then lowering down like you’re doing row. It ends up being a one-armed row, but you’re adding this rotation so you’ll notice a long center line as you’re rotating around that plank and reaching up. The right side—the arm, the lat, and the back—are all getting worked at the same time.”
5. TRX Burpee (TRX straps at mid-calf)
Place one foot in foot cradle and center with anchor point, placing your shoulders over your hips. Drive your suspended knee back and lower your hips until back knee is 2" from the ground. Place your hands on the ground, hop your grounded leg straight back to a plank, and do a pushup. Hop your grounded leg forward and explode up to a jump.
Common faults: Dropping hips during pushup; not hopping leg forward far enough.
Frankel says: “This high-intensity cardio exercise works your quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, and chest. You get a great stretch as you go down, go to a plank for strong push, and drive that knee and jump up.”