We Tried It: The TRX Workout

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I can't remember how I first heard about the TRX suspension trainer, but this portable piece of workout equipment caught my eye a few years ago. I continued to see it make appearances on shows like "The Biggest Loser" and in my fitness magazines, so I figured it was time to give it a try. When I contacted the company about receiving a product to review, they were happy to indulge us. (Hey, this job does have a few perks!)

It's difficult to describe the TRX to someone who has never seen it in action. It look like nothing more than a big band with handles and loops on the ends. So what's the big deal—and how do you use it?

Well, the TRX is a unique product if you ask me. If you're not familiar with it, I liken it to a resistance band in the sense that you can do some very similar movements, hook it to a closed door (via a door anchor), and strengthen every muscle in your body with a wide variety of exercises and body positions. But at the same time, it's quite different. Unlike a resistance band, which provides resistance when you shorten and lengthen it, the TRX itself does not stretch. It allows you to move your body as resistance, but to do so in ways that you can't do on your own. And unlike some body-weight training (you know, traditional squats, lunges, pushups and crunches), the same types of movements become more challenging when you add the TRX into the mix. Another cool thing is that you can "adjust" your own body's resistance by changing positions, which makes the TRX a great piece of equipment that you can grow into as you get fitter. To see what it's like, check out this video from their website.

Every movement you do with the TRX is also challenging your core strength and balance the entire time, which is multitasking at its best! Here's an example to help illustrate this. You probably know that using strength-training machines at the gym is good for beginners because the machine supports your body, helping to ensure proper form. Machines help you isolate the one muscle you want to work. The next step up would be moving to free weights (or bands), which require more coordination and control because you have to maintain your own posture and body positioning to do the exercise. This also engages more muscle fibers than machines do. From there, you can add more challenge with stability balls, BOSU balls or compound movements that target specific muscles you want to work while also training your core, balance and coordination a bit more. The TRX works much in the same way, although I found the chest presses and hamstring bridges using the TRX to be even more challenging than with stability devices like exercise balls. It's something you have to experience to fully understand!

After using my fancy new TRX equipment at home a few times (following along with its DVDs and workout cards), I was invited to try a TRX class at a local women's-only gym called Keep It Tight. What great timing! I brought along two other SparkPeople employees (fellow blogger, Stepfanie and co-worker, Beth who works in marketing) with me to try the equipment for the first time—and in a class setting no less! We had fun at Keep It Tight and loved the women's-only atmosphere and high-end feel at this gym, but that didn't mean the workout was easy—far from it!

TRX classes are popping up in many gyms these days and you may have even seen the equipment at your own gym. Several trainers where I teach use the TRX with some of their clients, too. Often, the TRX hangs from wall or ceiling mounts or big metal contraptions that resemble swing sets. The class we tried at Keep It Tight was an hour long and included a treadmill warm up, TRX exercises for most of our major muscle groups, and a treadmill cool down, but formats vary from gym to gym. We did a variety of squats, single-leg squats, hamstring bridges, plank-style core exercises, and upper body moves (various triceps presses, biceps curls, and rows). It definitely wasn't easy, especially with 30+ reps of each exercise—ouch!

Whether you're interested in trying the TRX at home or at the gym, here are some things you'll need to know about this strength-training regimen.

What We Like About It
  • A large variety of exercise options to try

  • Ability to strengthen every major muscle group with one piece of equipment. "Overall, I think it was a great workout but definitely challenging for a first-timer," one of my fellow testers said. "The exercises really made me focus on muscles that I have not worked as much in other strength training classes and exercises. So for that reason, I would try the class again and feel that over time I would become more comfortable with the format of the class and exercises overall. "

  • Pretty easy to use at home and during class, thanks to good guides that accompany it and a simple design

  • Doesn't take up much space at home; generally lightweight and portable for easy travel or storing

  • Every move challenges your core and coordination—seriously. Every. Single. One.

  • You can easily progress with this system. The more you "lean" during exercises, the more body-weight resistance you use and the more you stand upright, the less body-weight resistance you employ. This means you can work out at a variety of intensity levels, depending on your fitness level over time.
What We Didn't Like About It
  • At first, it's difficult to use it at home. You have to have a door that closes and you have to stand on the side of the door that pulls the door closed. (Think about that for a minute.) Most doors open into rooms, which, in my house, left only one option: exercising in the hallway upstairs so that I would "pull" the door closed while I leaned and used the TRX. This is a safety precaution and in theory, you could probably work out on the other side of a door (all videos on the TRX website actually show people doing that), but you'd be doing so at your own risk at against the advice of the instructions that come with the product. "At home, it's just not practical because I don't have space near a door that meets the system's requirements," one of our testers said.

  • Hard to follow along with the DVDs. This is related to the point above. Once you find that odd spot where you can work on the correct side of the door, provided there is enough space, you need to also find a way to watch the DVDs if you plan to follow them. I brought my laptop upstairs, but had to constantly move my laptop during a single workout so I could see it while standing, facing the door, facing away from the door, lying on my back and doing plank-style exercises facing the floor. It was a little bit annoying. That said, DVDs are not a must, although I do think they are helpful for learning to use the equipment.

  • Even though you can adjust the amount of body weight you use, these exercises would be difficult for beginners. I would consider this equipment to be good for experienced exercisers who have done strength training, have decent coordination, balance and core strength, and have done some balance and stability work. But even if you're not there yet, you could be in the future!

  • It can be awkward for some people. "I liked trying the TRX class, and would try it again, but I wouldn't use this as a regular exercise routine. Many of the exercises felt contrived and unnatural," said one tester. I don't personally agree with this standpoint, but I have also tried a wide variety of exercises and formats, so perhaps some of it just seemed more familiar to me.
While I thought the TRX was made well and will probably last a long time, it can be expensive depending on your perspective. It's about $190 for the smallest package and that doesn't include the door anchor, which is a necessity for almost everyone using it at home (unless you want to work out under a tree branch or the like). But if you consider what you might spend on home equipment or a gym membership, it's not a bad investment, especially considering that you can "grow" into the exercises as you get stronger and fitter. The TRX is definitely not for beginners, in my professional opinion, but it could be just the ticket to change up your workouts and continue challenging yourself if you've been strength training for a while and are looking for something new. Before you buy, perhaps you can find a TRX class near you to try as we did!

Special thanks to Keep It Tight in Cincinnati for showing us the ropes with our first TRX class! You can learn more about this gym and see their training schedule by visiting their website.

Does the TRX intrigue you? Have you ever tried it? Would you want to?

Photo courtesy of the TRX website, www.fitnessanywhere.com.

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_CYNDY55_ 2/23/2018
Thanks! Report
ABMOVING 10/28/2017
I didn't know they had a home option. I will definitely look for this Report
For anyone looking at getting one but put off by the cost, look at the Woss trainer. Made in the USA, TRX is not, and it is $40. Very high quality and seems sturdy to me. I already do a lot of strength training and switch it up with using the stability ball and Bosu but decided to try this for more core work. I'm a runner but have sacroiliac joint dysfunction so my pelvis/sacrum go out of alignment frequently. My PT suggested this to help with glute/core strength. I got the ceiling attachment to use in my basement. Report
I have a set from a personal trainer friend that I see on a periodic basis, plus my Y has a set up. I love it. It's a workout that never fails to leave me sore in all the right ways the next day, yet doesn't hurt while I'm *doing* it. Report
I know we have one at the unattended gym at work. Maybe one day, I might try it I have also looked at the Rip 60 and another one, rather tempting as I can attach it to the floor joists in my basement. Report
I bought a cheaper alternative (Woss) that I could use on the road. It is definitely challenging! I'm being very careful as I ease into it, but I definitely see how you could injure yourself. I'm loving it so far!! Report
My DD and DSIL just gave me one, and helped me find a doorway that I can use in our house. I do yoga and walk/hike regularly, but need to work on strength. I'll be checking out TRXTV for some beginning moves. We live about a half hour outside of town, so this is much more convenient than a gym membership. I like the idea of just one piece of equipment. Thanks, Nicole, for demystifying this and offering encouragement to try it. Report
So happy I just read this! I was thinking about starting a TRX class and was thinking "that looks difficult and like something I'm not quite ready for" - after reading this, I believe I'm right! Report
It sounds interesting but I think i will wait until I lose a few more pounds before trying it Report
Your article is very accurate based on my personal experience. I am totally hooked on TRX classes at my gym. Cannot stand the thought of missing a once-weekly session. "Owww!!!" is the feeling while during the many, many reps, which I would never do without someone coaching me to do them. But with proper coaching, I found myself doing moves I never, ever thought I could do. Report
I have tried it. I love it! But I doubt I would ever purchase it for home use. (I live in a small condo and do not think I could find a space, by a door, to properly perform the exercises). I work at a Y, and I take classes there. But they also have posters with various exercises to execute near the TRX straps, so I can do things on my own. I think it does take time to feel comfortable trying something new, but with TRX, it's well worth it! Report
My good friend purchased TRX to take her workout to the next level. We've both been working out at the gym for almost 4 years and needed to switch things up. She loves it and has grown with it and let me give it a try. I liked it, but didn't want to spend the $200 so I was able to make one on my own for under $30 using a tie down with quick release I picked up at Harbor Freight Tools. Was thinking of making my own handles but found a kit at Wal-Mart by Gold's Gym that had padded handles, door stop and mesh carry bag for just $10. I'm using the knock off TRX 1-2x a week to mix stuff up and loving it, now that I'm comfortable with using it. Report
I have had surgery on my left should to reattach the capsule. I wonder if this kind of training is recommended for people with conditions that don't allow for complete range of motion in the shoulder. I can use my shoulder in the complete range of motion, but, sometimes I have to slow down to get through some of the movements. Report
I love my TRX. Yes, it is a challenge finding a place to use at home, but it's portable so I take it to the neighborhood park. I have also found TRX-TV to be very useful in showing different exercises and explaining how to do the exercises correctly. Every week they have a training tip, featured movement and a sequence of the week. I love incorporating these into my workouts. Report
They just added this to my gym and I took a 45 demo class. I st 3x a week with free weights but this was a totally different feel. It was challenging and I like to mix my workouts up but I don't think they are going to let individuals use this unless you are in a class. Depending on price, I would consider it. Report
I've seen one at the gym but didn't know what it was since I don't watch TBL. Thanks!

It would be interesting to try, but for some reason, my gym has it bolted to the wall right on the busy basketball court. I could see it being very irritating to try and use it while people are on the court. Report
I will be making my own as soon as I have some cam buckles in hand. I had on hand about 50 feet of 1 inch tubular webbing that was doing nothing in my closet (tried to teach the kids to rock climb a few years ago), I also have something on the order of 25 carribiners and a nice length of 1 inch PVC for a handle. I've talked my DH into putting in a ceiling mount on the floor joists in the spare bedroom of the basement to clip into and I hope to be on my merrily suspended way by next week (getting cam buckles, you know - no local sources). The cam buckles (need 3) I'll be getting are under $2 each, the suspension system for the floor joists should be under $6. A decent and fun work out for under $20 that I can also take outside in good weather ... that's priceless :D

I've read where you can make your own kettle balls too ...

God Bless,
mik Report
I have had a TRX for about 6 months now, and absolutely love it! I would consider myself a bit of a beginner, and though some of the exercises are a bit more challenging, it is certainly do-able.
I think if you go in with the expectation that it is going to take you a few times trying it for you to get the hang of it (as with any new exercise or equipment), you will really see benefits.
As to members who have concerns about back problems, etc, the company that sells the TRX have a number of DVD workouts that address this and other issues specifically, and I have seen mention on other forums that using the TRX is often easier to use, as it can be used to provide support for movements that would otherwise be almost impossible. eg. squats, lunges Report
I absolutely love the TRX classes at my gym- it's a great way to strength train all the major muscle groups of your body! I agree with some of the earlier comments that it is pretty difficult though- I wouldn't try it unless you already have been strength training regularly for some time. Report
My local health club offers TRX classes and I love it. It is difficult at first, but as long as you compare your ability to yourself only, you notice that you get stronger and better over time, like with any workout. It is amazing strength training and definately improves lean muscle mass. If you can give it a try with a personal trainer or in a group fitness class, that way you can get the help you need to do each muscle workout correcty.If you are really dedicated to TRX after that, then I suggest buying your own. Report
I googled and found this thread. I've owned one for a year or so, and used it exclusively after my local gym ripped me off by not honoring some extra time in my contract.

I've been very pleased. I use it in my foyer, and although the door is in the wrong direction, it's a sturdy door and I'm able to put it pretty close to the hinges.

You *can* make your own, and there are some less expensive knockoff versions (lifeline junglegym), but the TRX is the most solidly made version.

On a minute-for-minute basis, a trx workout is much more tiring than a gym workout b/c you are using lots of core muscles, you are not lying down on a bench.

Someone said that it's not a great leg workout. I tend to do some single leg lunges (lately I vary it a bit by leaning down to the left if my right leg is in strap, and vice versa), some bridges, hamstring bicycle things, and sometimes some 'sprinter starts' with trailing leg staying behind (NOT kicking it forward like Drew Brees does). A mixture of these will give major leg fatigue. Initially, my balance was terrible and I struggled to do 3 or 4 of these per leg, I've gotten much better, although the balance still falters when fatigue sets in.

I also got the black extension strap, which has helped on a couple of trips, where I was able to fasten it around some light posts.

I've seen trx systems on ebay, with bidding in the low to mid 100s, and I think that you could re-sell a used unit for $100+, thus I think it's a good investment. If you get tired of it, you could re-coup quite a bit of your money. But if you're truly motivated to get/stay in shape, you'll use it. Report
my boyfriend uses it to supplement his other weight-training workouts Report
I lost 15 lbs last month, WOW! Report
Something to think about, thanks for all the info. Report
I love my TRX. I travel a lot for work and originally purchased it to use only while I'm on the road. Once I tried it, found it so effective that I prefer it over my hand weights at home. I like that you work your core with all the exercises. With TRX you can't compensate for your weaker areas like you can with traditional weights which gives a higher quality workout. I also like that it gives me more confidence to do deeper squats and lunges.
I don't have the strength/balance "chops" for this yet, but looks like something interesting to work towards. Report
They do a class using the climbing wall at our YMCA. I really like the idea and sort of have a secret desire to try it but I know my strength isn't ready for my body weight yet. Once I get down a bit more then I would really like to try it. Report
Never heard of it, but it looks interesting. Report
Was intrigued but I think I will stick to our bowflex. Report
Was intrigued but I think I will stick to our bowflex. Report
I tried a TRX class and loved it but I wasn't ready. I needed to build my strength more, particularly in my upper body. I re-injured my pectoralis minor and am now working to rehab it. I will definitely take TRX again in the future, though! Report
Had never heard of TRX. Thanks for the info. Report
It would be good to take with you when you stay at a motel, and use the bathroom door, but some romance may be lost..............but the price is typical. One could also wait for it to hit the yardsales at some point. Report
Yes, my gym just bought 4! They are a lot of fun to work out with. Very challenging. I like them. Report
Yes, I would try it--especially after reading this blog! Report
I've used TRX at the gym -- a couple times w/ my trainer, and then I took a series of classes. Can be a killer workout for those who really want to challenge themselves. Could be really helpful for those who travel a lot and need flexibility in training on the road. What I didn't like in the class format is that instructor was doing with us and couldn't monitor our positioning. I never felt quite sure I was positioned right to get maximum benefits w/out injury. The class was 45 minutes, with each exercise being done for 1 minute. With changing positions and explanation of next movement, we probably did 15-20 different exercises in that 45 min. I can't imagine beginners w/ TRX - unless they are 1:1 with a trainer. In the end, I decided to continue with free weights and stability ball for my strength. Report
I have not had the chance to try the TRX YET, but once I get moved to Alaska at the end of summer, I plan to buy one. Since in the winter, most of my exercise will be at home, it will be a good investment for me. I have seen it used with the Air Force, and on their exercise sites, and it makes good sense for trainig on the move which it was designed for.

I am building my retirement home in AK and will have an exerecise room and also an unfinished basement for the first couple of years. I can use this equipment in either place.

Since I am retiring, I wont be on the go as much, but it ould have been a great piece of equipment to have while traveling by car. When I fly, I take my bands and tubing with me as you never quite know about the space or equipment in hotels. When I drive I take a couple sets of dumb bells in addition to my tubing and bands. I want to make sure I can get a decent workout wherever I go. Report
Well it sounded interesting at first then I got to the part about the cost and it completly turned me off. I will just stick to all the other forms of exerercise. This machine is not worth the cost to me. Report
I am not interested in the TRX. The cost is to high and I would worry about the balance of my door. (Pulling on it in such a fashion, even against the door frame, can't be good for the hardware.) I have experienced some of the exercises that one can do with this type of equipment using a nylon rope. If someone else purchased it and if it was professionally secured, I would use it. Report
I'm not really skeptical about the benefits of TRX, I just don't think it's for me. There's nowhere in my small apartment that I could use it and see the TV at the same time and my local YMCA does not offer it. I still consider myself a beginner and have a long way to go as far as working on my strength and flexibility, so maybe sometime in the future it would be something I would consider, but only if offered at my local Y, as it's too expensive for me to buy for home use.

Thanks for the review, I always enjoy reading about new fitness equipment and ideas to keep workouts fresh! Report
I use this constantly - one of my very best fitness purchases ever, in terms of value for dollars. For an intermediate/advanced exerciser, this is a marvelous way to do strength training on travel. I'm on the road often two-three weeks out of the month, and you can't count on having a decent set of weights in hotel gyms. I strongly prefer the TRX to bands (which I also bring along). It's lightweight but not fragile, lets you vary your resistance easily, and is usable in essentially all hotel rooms I've tried (with variations, because the width of the hallway near the door will limit range of motion). Normally I go with the mp3 downloads instead of the dvds. If you think of the dvds as instructional (watch, then try), or as a good way to keep the count on an exercise, they are fine. The upper body and core strength, flexibility and back, are the best options. I don't find that my lower body is challenged nearly as much (though more than with bands). I also don't use it much at home. The newer workouts with Drew, the back biomechanics, Strength, and flexibility are my favorites, with Coach Durkin's workouts close behind. Note, the dvds are on the expensive side and there are fewer of these than for more traditional equipment like step. However, I've found I can do many of my favorite Cathe routines on the TRX with little variation, so once you've learned how to use the TRX you don't need to buy the dvds unless you want them. People put clips of specialty moves online, so that's an option too. Report
Crunches are the worst for the spine, whether done on the stability ball or on the floor. It's like take a coathanger and bending it back & forth until it finally weakens and breaks or can cause the L4 to over ride the L5 creating spondylolisthesis.

And as for the TRX suspension training program I am purchasing one for use in my unfinished basement with the "x" cross mount to hang from the floor joists so that I can strengthen my whole body.

It was recommended to me by my chiropractor for use in treating spondylolisthesis; and doing kettlebell as well to help with strengthening the body as well as to lose weight.

I highly recommend the TRX suspension and kettlebell.

However, if you do decide to do kettlebell, get trainer from someone who is CERTIFIED in Russian kettlebell to teach you. Otherwise you could do more damage than good because form is vitally important.

With kettlebell you can lose weight, get in great shape, and build muscle at the same time and it is an aerobic workout so you will be burning calories more than you will in running and do it in less time as well. I truly hope this helps someone.

But by all means, avoid doing crunches. There are other ways to strengthen the core without doing the damage to the spine which is exactly what crunches do.

NO ONE, says the chiropractor should do them. I believe him.

My sister just had back surgery for spondylolistheis at Johns Hopkins last December. And she was in pain for 10 years with it unbeknownst to me & my other 2 sisters. It wasn't until 2 months our father passed away last year that we were informed of her back issue. How her spondylolisthesis came about we are not sure. But she has a "x" box in her back with cadaver graft and a fusion of her L4 & L5. Once there is a fusion anywhere in the spine, the bone above and the bone below the fusion are now also compromised and if care is not taken to follow the doctors' order to a "T", that person could end up with one or two more surgeries, (for either bone below or above the original fusion).

So take care my friends with your backs and your health.

Sister said she heard of a man whose back bothered him greatly but put off taking care of it, and when he finally went to Johns Hopkins for surgery, they told him that it was too far gone & that there was nothing they could do for him, and he evetually passed away. So don't put off taking care of your back or yourselves.

Like Indygirl wrote on her blog, keep looking until you find the right medical personel to help you with issues that you are facing healthwise. Report
A friend told me about TRX ( they use them at the boot camp she attends), and they sound intriguing. Thanks for the review -- tt sounds like something I'd enjoy more in a class setting than at home, based on the cons above. Report
I teach fitness classes at my local YMCA and one of the classes I teach is TRX. I have been getting a lot of newbies in class and the way to make the moves a little easier is your foot position. Placing them in a staggared position helps during the upper body exercises. Report
My trainer has utilized the TRX into my workout. I love it!!! Would love to get one but the cost (and the issue of the door) keep me from buying one now. I will mention to my trainer about the classes...maybe she will want to begin one??? Report
Looks interesting, but it is a little on the high side for my budget right now. Report
I liked the the blog,but more because I get all excited about things that really aren't
always practical for me. 1. Nowhere to put it easily. 2. Way too expensive for me. Report
I tried the TRX with my personal trainer. I liked it because it gave me that "good soreness" feeling after the workout. Report
My trainer trotted out the TRX on me a week or so ago. We just did a couple of things, but I can see that it could provide a good workout. It was a little scary to me, having nothing but my own strength to keep me from falling (I'm really scared of falling), but I think I could get used to it if I used it more often. Report
I'm still a little skeptic. I'd try it but I think I'd still just use my resistant bands since they're so much cheaper. Report
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