Men love to lift heavy dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells and make use of many of the machines in the gym. But, you don't always have to train that way. In fact, there's one piece of equipment you may be neglecting that could seriously help you to improve your lifts:
"The TRX® Suspension Trainer™ improves functionality for power lifts (i.e., the squat, deadlift, hang clean and overhead press)," says TRX master instructor Neil Mallinson, CSCS, by challenging your stability, overall strength, and mobility—elements that are absolutely crucial for complex, multi-joint strength training moves and power production.
"In this workout, the emphasis is on hip, knee, and shoulder mobility, designed to improve function for lifting and also significantly improve your strength," says Mallinson, noting that you'll also be required to use small stabilizer muscles to keep your body balanced while you're elevated off the ground or in the air.
So, if you want to improve your PR in all the major lifts and difficult power moves, you'd be wise to put down to weights for a day or two and try these 10 moves instead. You'll see those numbers sky rocket over time.
Note: You'll need to be able to hold a strong, solid plank as a foundation for the movements in this workout. If you're a beginner, work on strengthening your core before progressing to the more difficult exercises.
A proper dynamic warmup including mobility drills is highly recommended before you jump into this routine.
Specific sets and reps are only recommendations based on your experience and training level.
Prescription: Repeat as many times as necessary to feel the movement has become efficient and your body feels fired up.
How to do it: Fix the straps to mid-length and face the anchor point. Start with your body at an angle where your core is engaged and the handles are next to your rib cage. Extend the arms back and sit down between your knees as deep as possible. If you experience any pain, don’t go lower than your knees allow. Shift forward into a deep squat with your feet shoulder-width or wider apart. “This is called ‘grease the groove,’" Mallinson says. Sit in this bottom phase long enough to feel mobile and pain free, then drive both arms directly over your shoulders. Maintain a strong, straight spine and stand straight up, powering through the heels.
Common mistakes: - Putting your weight in your toes at the bottom of the squat - Leaning forward at the bottom of the squat - Leaning your head forward or looking down on the ascent from the bottom of the squat - Not breathing
Benefits: “The move improves hip mobility and range of motion at the knee joint, encourages proper engagement and position of the rotator cuff and shoulder girdle as well as proper spinal alignment,” Mallinson says.
Prescription: Complete 5 total rounds, including one hip hinge and cossack stretch both left and right. Each round should take about 30-45 seconds. Dictate rest based on your body's response to the stretch. Transitions should take about 10 seconds, but don't rush through the exercises if it takes you longer to get in and out of the movements.
How to do it: Fix the straps at mid-length and face the anchor point. Grasp the handles or the straps right above them. Start in a wide stance, then hinge back from your hips, maintaining a flat back and straight spine, as your arms stretch in front of you. Return to standing, shift to one side, and sit deep into that hip and glute. Keep a light grip on the TRX handles so you challenge your mobility as you settle deeper into the stretch and raise the opposite foot’s toes off the floor. Repeat on the opposite side.
Common mistakes: - Rounded shoulders - Extending the arms forward prior to hinging the hips back - Extending the arms too far during the Cossack stretch - Not breathing
Benefits: “These stretches will improve hip, groin, and ankle mobility, range of motion, and proper hip hinging,” Mallinson says.
Prescription: Complete 2 rounds total, per side. Hold each side stretch for 30 seconds. Dictate rest based on your body's response to the stretch. Transitions should take about 10 seconds, but don't rush through the exercises if it takes you longer to get in and out of the movements.
How to do it: Fix the straps to mid-length or shoulder-height, and face the anchor point. Cross your foot on top of your opposite leg, so the outside of your ankle is resting just above the knee. Grab hold of the handles at sternum-height, keeping your arms bent, and come down as if you were sitting in a chair. From here, extend your arms and tuck your chin to your chest.
Common mistakes: - Extending your arms prior to sitting back into the stretch - Pointing the toe of your raised foot - Rounding your spine - Not breathing
Benefits: “You’ll improve range of motion and mobility through your knees, hips, and glutes, and overall balance,” Mallinson says.
Prescription: Complete 5 reps total per side. On the 5th rep, hold the stretch to let your hips fully sink into the movement and benefit. Dictate rest based on your body's response to the stretch. Transitions should take about 10 seconds, but don't rush through the exercises if it takes you longer to get in and out of the movements.
How to do it: Fix the straps to mid-length, and face away from the anchor point. Start by holding the handles at shoulder-height. Take a large step forward, allowing your arms to line up over your shoulders and fall in line with your ears. Bend both knees to 90 degrees. Drive your back leg’s hip forward as your arms reach across your body. If you feel you need to, drop your back knee for added stability and range of motion.
Common mistakes: - Standing too close to the anchor point at the beginning of the movement, which limits hip mobility and your ability to stretch your hip - Turning your head to the open hip - Not breathing
Benefits: Tight hips are generally one of the greatest weaknesses for men. This stretch will relieve immobility and prime you for the exercises to come.
Prescription: 3x5 (beginner) or 3x10 (intermediate and advanced); rest as needed between sets
How to do it: Fix the straps at mid-calf length, and face away from the anchor point. Drop down to your hands and knees, and place a foot in either handle. Come into an active elbow plank (pull your elbows toward your toes to contract your abs as you hold a perfect plank position). Your shoulders should be stacked over your elbows. Now, using your shoulders, pull your body back and forth over your hands (resembling the motion of a saw). Your elbows will stay planted the entire time, but you're arms will straighten out as you pull back so your head is in line with your elbows. Saw back and forth for the desired reps, then press your hands into the floor and drive your body into the top portion of a pushup, using your shoulder and elbow joints. Return to the active elbow plank for one rep.
Common Faults: - Failing to maintain a plank - Using momentum to push your body off the floor - Sagging though your hips - Not breathing
Benefits: Not only does this move let you hone in on proper plank form, but it helps guide you into proper elbow and shoulder position for overhead press movements, Mallinson says. You'll also exponentially improve core strength.
Prescription: 4x10; rest as needed between sets How to do it: Fix the straps to mid-length, and stand facing the anchor point. With your arms extended straight up over your ears, engage your posterior chain (back, core, and glutes), and create tension on the straps. Hinge back at your hips and bring your arms toward the ground in front of your face, allowing your toes to come off the floor so your weight is sinking into your heels. Drop your chin to your chest, then powerfully extend your hips while simultaneously extending your arms back overhead to stand.
Common mistakes: - Incorrect starting position: standing too close or too far from the anchor point - Slack in the straps - Shortened range of motion on both the end and start position - Bending the knees - Not breathing
Benefits: “If the movements are done with correct form and with complete range of motion, you’ll benefit not only in strength but, more importantly, body awareness, balance, and overall stability in all joints and planes of motion,” Mallinson says.
Prescription: 3x12-15; rest as needed between sets
How to do it: Fix the straps to mid-calf length, and place either foot in the cradles so your toes are touching the handles. Begin in an active plank, keeping your core tight. Descend down to the floor, then push your body back up. Tuck your knees into your chest, then return to the active plank by extending your knees back.
Common mistakes: - Not coming into an active plank - Sagging your hips - Driving your knees to the floor - Descending halfway to the floor - Not breathing
Benefits: You’re primarily working your abdominals and obliques, but your whole core as well as upper and lower body needs to be engaged to maintain stability throughout the exercise. You’ll eliminate muscle weaknesses and shred fat in the process.
How to do it: Fix the straps so they’re fully lengthened, and stand facing away from the anchor point. Align your body directly under the anchor with your hands on both handles. Because the straps are low, your body should make a 45-degree angle with the ground as you extend your arms straight out in front of you. The straps should be in contact with your shoulders and your hands pointed toward the floor. Drive forward with your hips as you begin to extend your arms up from the shoulders until they’re fully extended. Flex your shoulders back until the straps make contact with them again.
Common mistakes: - Diving forward with the arms rather than using the hips as the main driver - Sagging the hips - Bending the elbows - Not breathing
Benefits: You'll maximize strength, stability, and awareness through your entire body, Mallinson says.
Prescription: 4x 5 (each side); rest as needed between sets
How to do it: Fix the straps to mid-calf length, and stand facing away from the anchor point. Place one foot in both handles. Assume an active plank so your arms and core are solid, and you float one leg so it’s parallel to the one suspended and fixed in the TRX handles. Descend to the floor as you would a normal pushup. Drive your floating leg toward the same side shoulder (think: Spider Man). Then, push off the floor and extend your floating leg back to the starting position.
Common Mistakes: - Failing to hold an active plank - Limiting your range of motion through the push and knee drive toward your shoulder - Not breathing
Benefits: This move will torch your core in a matter of seconds and challenge the major and minor stabilizing muscles in your upper and lower body.
How to do it: Fix the straps so they're hanging down to mid-calf length, and stand facing the anchor point. Place one foot through both handles (doesn't matter which one). Align your body directly under the anchor point and bring both hands to the floor. Drive your foot (that's in the TRX straps) into the air as you walk your hands away from the anchor point. Align your hands directly under your shoulders, flex your raised foot, and tuck your chin into your chest. You'll have a slight bend in your raised leg, but your hips and shoulders should make a straight line as if you're holding a plank. From here, descend toward the floor until the top of your head touches the ground. Drive your body straight up. To switch sides: Walk your hands toward the anchor point until your elevated foot makes contact with the floor. Drop that knee so you're in a bottom up lunge position.
Common mistakes: - Incorrect starting position - Failing to maintain a plank - Allowing your body to drop sideways while in a handstand - Not breathing
Benefits: Inversion training builds serious shoulder strength and stability.