ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Essential Guide to Suspension Training for Strength

Essential Guide to Suspension Training for Strength

Reading Time: 5 minutes 23 seconds

By: ISSA

Date: 2021-12-07T00:00:00-05:00


As a personal trainer, you already know that exercise variety is important. Changing things up from time to time keeps the body from adapting. It allows for muscle growth and cardio advances. Doing something different also keeps clients interested enough to continue coming back. This increases the likelihood that they will hit their fitness goals.

While several different training options exist, one to consider is TRX suspension training. If you are unfamiliar with this particular exercise system, this guide is for you.

What Is Suspension Training or TRX?

Suspension training is a form of bodyweight exercise in which you work against gravity to receive a total body workout. Sometimes referred to as TRX training—the TRX standing for total body resistance exercise—it uses ropes and/or webbing that is typically anchored to a ceiling, wall, or door.

Navy Seal Randy Hetrick developed this form of training in 1997, though the first TRX suspension trainer was not released to the public until 2001. Since then, the TRX system has been used by athletes and fitness enthusiasts worldwide to improve their health and physique.

Benefits of Suspension Training Exercises

First and foremost, TRX suspension is great for building muscle. Like other bodyweight exercises, it uses the force of gravity to provide an effective strength workout. And it can be used to work every muscle group in the body. This is beneficial whether the goal is to strengthen a specific area or when creating a training workout for the entire body.

In addition to building body strength, the TRX also boosts core stability. In a study of 20 synchronized swimmers, the use of a suspension trainer proved to strengthen their core. This offered them greater stability when performing their water sequences. A strong, stable core also contributes to better posture and can reduce the risk of back pain.

Anyone can use a suspension trainer. It’s available to all age groups and all training levels. Like with a resistance band, you can make the workout as easy or as difficult as you’d like. It is a universal training tool that can be used in a variety of environments, from the home to the gym to any other fitness facility.

Another benefit of TRX suspension is that it doesn’t require the use of a big, bulky machine. Simply attach the system to a secure fixture and you’re ready to go. It is also cheaper than some other pieces of exercise equipment commonly found in a gym setting.

Suspension Training for Strength

A complete strength-building TRX workout includes all of the muscles in the body. Incorporate exercise options for the upper body, lower body, and core for the best results.

Upper Body TRX Exercise Options

There are quite a few exercises you can do with a TRX to build strength in the arms, chest, and upper back. Ones to consider adding to your clients’ workout routines include:

Push-up – One study reports that this suspension exercise is good for activating the triceps and upper trapezius, as well as the core. To do it, get in a push-up position with your feet suspended via the TRX strap.

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Essential Guide to Suspension Training for Strength, Push-Up

Chest press– This exercise helps build the pecs, deltoids, and triceps. It involves doing a chest press while standing and leaning forward. You use the trainer to support your body weight while doing the press.

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Essential Guide to Suspension Training for Strength, Chest Press

Rows– You can use the TRX to do a row while in an almost-supine position, like the inverted row. This move is good for the biceps and upper back. For clients with less upper body strength, have them not lower their body so close to the floor (often called a low row). This enables them to perform the movement without risking injury. More advanced clients can make their rows harder by doing one arm at a time.

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Essential Guide to Suspension Training for Strength, Rows

Lower Body TRX Strength Training

There are also a few training exercises that benefit muscles in the lower body most. These include:

Squat – The TRX squat is similar to a regular squat. The only real difference is that you’re using the trainer to support and stabilize your body as you drop closer to the floor. Still, this squat provides a good quad workout.

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Essential Guide to Suspension Training for Strength, Squat

Lunge– This glute and hamstring-building move is best suited for clients with some level of leg strength. This is because it involves placing the back foot in the TRX strap while lowering into a lunge position. So, it requires a fair amount of balance.

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Essential Guide to Suspension Training for Strength, Lunge

Hamstring curl– To do this move, you lie on the floor, place your feet in the straps, and use your lower body muscles to extend and retract your legs while keeping your body straight. The legs, glutes, and hips all get a good workout with the hamstring curl.

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Essential Guide to Suspension Training for Strength, Hamstring Curl

TRX Suspension for Core Strength

What bodyweight exercises can you do on the TRX to build a stronger core? Here are a few to consider:

PlankResearch reveals doing a plank with a suspension training system is better at activating abdominal muscles than doing a plank on the floor. Furthermore, a TRX plank activates all of the ab muscles (the rectus abdominis, external obliques, rectus femoris, and serratus anterior muscles). You can make the plank position harder by having clients do it while suspended on their side.

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Essential Guide to Suspension Training for Strength, Plank

Crunch– The TRX system can be used while performing crunches, which also helps to build the biceps at the same time.

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Essential Guide to Suspension Training for Strength, Crunch

Suspended pike– A good exercise for more advanced clients, have them start in a suspended plank position then lift their hips so their body is in an inverted V. Their core muscles will engage in order to stay balanced. This move is good for the upper body too.

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Essential Guide to Suspension Training for Strength, Suspended Pike

How to Use a Suspension Trainer for Cardio

You can also use suspension training to help clients boost their heart rate. TRX cardio intervals are one way of achieving this goal. This involves alternating between cardio and bodyweight movements with the TRX, providing benefits to the muscles as well as the heart.

The level of intensity can be adjusted based on whether the client is a beginning exerciser or more advanced. Aim to do one to two-minute bursts of each type of exercise, not resting until the workout is over.

Individual Workouts vs Group TRX Class

Some clients prefer to exercise alone. This is easy enough with the TRX as it doesn’t require more than one person to perform. Others are more motivated when working out in groups. Clients falling into the latter category may find more enjoyment in a group TRX class.

TRX classes offer clients a way to stay fit while also being social. They meet other students interested in improving their fitness, giving them a built-in support network as they strive to reach their fitness goals.

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