During rush hour at the gym, you might make a mad dash to your favorite weight machine, only to find it already in use. Instead of standing around and wasting precious time waiting in line, consider expanding your gym repertoire to other highly effective training tools like TRX straps.
Invented by a Navy Seal and now used by every branch of the military, TRX (which stands for total resistance exercises) is a set of straps (think: ropes with handles) and utilizes both gravity and body weight to challenge your body, says Michael Wittig, IPE Natural Pro 3x Champion and ISSA-certified personal trainer.
Read more: 16 TRX Exercises for a Full-Body Workout
Why Should You Train With TRX?
"TRX is a great alternative to weight machines because it's portable and can be done anywhere including the gym, home or even on the road," Wittig says. Plus, suspension training is an effective training tool for people of all fitness levels since it's adjustable.
"By changing the angle of your body or where you stand, you can make exercises more difficult or easier," he says. "TRX is also a safe way to train many individuals with knee and back issues as it reduces the pressure on those areas."
And how you incorporate TRX into your workout determines whether you have more of an endurance or strength workout. "Doing TRX exercises back-to-back for 12 reps or more while keeping rest minimal can help increase cardio endurance and burn more calories at the same time," Wittig says.
But you can also build muscle by adapting standard exercises to the TRX equipment. "The TRX Chest Press or TRX Curl can be done at maximum resistance, depending on where you stand, and go to failure without breaking form," Wittig says. Performing movements slowly, focusing on maximum time under tension and resting longer between sets are also helpful strategies for gaining muscle with TRX.
How to Use TRX to Replace Weight Machines
Instead of hanging around until your favorite weight machine becomes available, try hanging your body in suspension straps. Just make sure the straps are properly attached before you use them, says Wittig, who recommends occasionally checking the straps for cuts or frays.
"When trying any single-limb movement with TRX straps, always have something sturdy close by to grab," in case you lose your balance, he adds. Most importantly, start slowly. When you begin, only attempt exercises within your ability and seek instruction before moving onto more advanced moves.
From biceps to booty, the following TRX moves use your body weight as resistance and are guaranteed to get your muscles trembling.
1. Instead of: the Squat Rack
Try: TRX Pistol Squats
- Face the attachment point, which should be anchored above your head, and grip the straps' handles.
- Step back until all slack is removed from the straps.
- Lift and extend your left leg in front of you. Flexing your right thigh and glute muscle, slowly lower into a deep squat, keeping your knee behind your toes, your hips down, torso upright and back straight.
- Push through your right heel back up to standing position.
- Repeat for desired reps, then switch legs.
2. Instead of: the Hip Thrust Machine
Try: the TRX Hip Raise
- Lie flat on your back with a pad beneath you and your legs pointed toward the TRX handles. Place a heel through each 'foot cradle.' Start with your legs fully extended and your palms pressing down on the ground.
- In one smooth motion, bring your heels in toward your body and raise your hips high at the same time. Lifting your hips as high as you can, concentrate on contracting your glutes.
- Slowly lower and return to the starting position.
3. Instead of: the Biceps Curl Machine
Try: TRX Biceps Curls
- Stand facing the attachment point, which should be anchored above your head, and hold the handles.
- Walk your feet in toward the anchor point until you feel a slight pull in the upper back. (The closer you step toward the attachment point, the harder the movement.)
- Bend your elbows and bring your hands toward your head (your forearms should be above your shoulders).
- Keeping your body straight (think: a strong, standing plank), lower down and away (toward the floor) until your arms are straight, then pull yourself back up to the starting position with a slow, controlled movement.
4. Instead of: the Bench Press
Try: the TRX Chest Press
- Stand facing away from the attachment point (anchored above you) with the straps fully lengthened. (The further away you stand and the lower your straps, the more difficult the movement will be.)
- Push against the handles, so that your arms are fully extended in front of you, and keep your body in a strong, straight plank position.
- Lower yourself into a push-up, until your elbows bend at about 90 degrees.
- Bracing your core, straighten your arms and press yourself back up to the starting position.
For an added challenge, try doing a push-up with one arm while swinging the other arm out to the side in a fly movement (as shown above), alternating sides with each rep.
5. Instead of: the Seated Cable Row Machine
Try: the TRX Inverted Row
- Grab the handles and hang down directly under the straps (facing the ceiling) with your back straight, hips tucked and feet shoulder-width apart.
- Retract your shoulder blades, bend your elbows and keep your wrists straight as you pull your body up until your hands are at the side of your chest.
- Slowly lower your body back down to the starting position.
6. Instead of: the Triceps Press Machine
Try: TRX Overheard Triceps Extensions
- Stand facing away from the anchor point leaning forward.
- Hold the handles up above your shoulders. Your upper arms should be parallel to the floor and your head down between the elbows.
- While keeping the elbows isolated, fully extend both arms until they're straight and the triceps are contracted.
- Slowly bring your arms back to the starting position.
7. Instead of: the Rear Delt Seated Fly Machine
Try: the TRX W Fly
- Face the attachment point, holding the handles with straight arms, palms down and slightly leaning back.
- Pull your hands up and back. At the top of the movement, your hands should be just above ear level and your arms should make a W shape.
- In a controlled movement, slowly lower back to starting position.
8. Instead of: the Ab Machine
Try: the TRX Pike
- Begin in a high plank on the ground, facing away from the attachment point. Hook your feet in the foot cradles.
- While keeping your legs straight, draw your feet inward by hinging at the hips. Lift your hips toward the ceiling until your body forms an upside-down V shape.
- Slowly lower down to the starting position.