Fit and Functional with the TRX

Susan Dawson-Cook

Susan is an AFAA certified personal trainer/group exercise instructor and has worked for Vital Moves (850-4089) since 2006.

Many people are curious about the new suspension device personal trainers and members are using at the Fitness Center. Others are leery of it; sure this hanging assortment of straps, loops and handles is some kind of torture device. In reality, suspension training is an innovative training method that can improve strength, balance, joint range-of-motion and flexibility.

While deployed on top-secret missions in regions where comfortable gyms didn’t exist, Navy SEAL commando Randy Hetrick configured a device from straps and webbing to stay in top physical condition. After retiring from the military, Hetrick created equipment now known as the Total Body Resistance Exercise or TRX device. Hanging from handles and loops that are secured to a mount on a wall or ceiling, participants use their body weight and core muscles to support the execution of a variety of activities.

Although the TRX sounds like a fitness device for the elite athlete, virtually hundreds of exercises (easy to highly advanced) are available to participants. The simplest way to change degree of difficulty is to adjust the distance a person’s feet are planted away from the wall to increase or decrease percent of body weight supported by the device. For example, when performing a row, a person would “hang” back on the straps holding onto the handles (in a reverse plank position) and then use the trapezius muscles to pull at an angle upward. Core, pelvic muscles and shoulder complex muscles activate to assist the middle back muscles as the exerciser moves through this range of motion.

TRX strap lengths can be adjusted with a quick tug or pull to accommodate different participant heights and exercises. Most upper body exercises are done with shorter strap lengths so tension is felt on the straps in a standing or leaning position. Longer strap length is required for core work done in a horizontal position. For example, an exerciser aiming to do a suspended plank can lengthen the straps until they are about twelve inches from the floor and slip feet inside the straps before pushing up on the hands or elbows.

New TRX exercisers can be taught basic activities focusing on proper alignment. They can learn to activate core muscles during movement and improve mobility of the ankle, hip, thoracic spine and shoulder girdle. Participants of all levels can strengthen major muscle groups of the upper and lower body, challenge core muscles and improve balance and flexibility. Myriad sports specific activities such as body rotations, pulls and swings can be on the menu for more advanced participants.

TRX training redefines the word “integrative” since every exercise performed activates a multitude of muscles. No muscle works alone when you sit and stand, play golf or clean the house. Many function together to make those activities possible. TRX training can make everything you enjoy doing easier.