This week I made a post on my Facebook Page calling out the TRX as a Strength training tool. I had some people question my thinking online and some came up to me in person and asked me about it since we use TRX at Evolution Fitness. Now if I could re-phrase my status it would have said “TRX, thousands of exercises for exercisers. Pretty much nothing more than a warm up tool and a piece of assistance equipment for strong people.” Assistance work is great and needed, but it is there to assist in strength gains, not serve as the primary piece of equipment.
I have been using the TRX and suspension trainers for years and it does have some great applications in the strength and conditioning world. There are some great warmup, stretches, and pre-hab drills that the TRX really offers.
Other unique properties of suspension/TRX training is teaching the novice and beginner how to tap into some body awareness. Teaching the Row is probably one of the best uses of the TRX. It has the ability to teach a client how to tap into the posterior chain of the upper back while simultaneously engaging the abdominals and glutes (if taught correctly). The other benefit is the more horizontal a client gets the more difficult it becomes, and the strength gains can be achieved by lowering the body.
Another benefit is teaching a novice how to have a vertical pull which can transfer over to achieving your first pull-up. Using a higher TRX setting and the ability of the client to use the lower body to assist. To make it more difficult the client can advance from 2 legs to one leg assistance. The key is keeping the upper body vertical and not going horizontal.
Now if you buy into TRX/Fitness Anywhere ideology it can do 10 million(exaggerated) exercises!!
The TRX website boasts.. “there are no limits, to what it can do!”..
Well this is where I disagree…….. If you want to get strong the TRX can be your limiting factor.
Here is where I will get every trainer calling me a meat head and telling me that strength has different definitions to many people. Sorry give me a second while I puke in my mouth. Jumping while holding on the the TRX for timed interval is a waste of time. If your definition of strength is doing 20 TRX rows you have your definitions wrong. Sure there are some cool core things you can do to really challenge yourself etc, and the TRX can really help de-conditioned people get stronger. Doing 20 reps of a body weight exercise improves endurance, not necessarily total strength, and yes both are important, but lets not get them confused. I fully understand that most people do not have to have a 3 x bodyweight deadlift and squat hundreds of pounds to be strong, but if the TRX is the only thing you are doing you may need to consider expanding your horizons.
Here is a typical TRX video and it isn’t awful either, just want to point out a few things. This guy is probably a great trainer, I just want to look at a few things.
1st What was the actual purpose of using the TRX in this video. Using a tool to hold on to for squats and lunges is probably great for a novice to learn some body awareness, but in terms of a long term application of the TRX as a strength tool it would actually cause more harm than good. If you look at his squat, his knees are actually behind his heels which is not how we stand up and sit down. The question is, are we really adding benefit to our clients by creating poor patterning. Sure if your only goal is to get tons of reps out of them by holding on to a TRX as a crutch, fine, but realize you are not building STRENGTH or functional movement. Same with the example of lunge. Again a great tool for a novice, but if we are not getting people off the TRX we are doing them a dis-service. The ability to balance in a staggered stance without assistance is the goal. Holding on to a strap every workout to squat and lunge will actually cause you to seek outside stability during the movement rather than learning how to brace and balance your own intrinsic (core muscles) to stabilize you. We live in a world of “functional training” and rarely do I have a strap to hold onto to help me up from a lunge or squat to function in every day life.
Here is another example of people in the functional training world mis using the TRX with the misconception of Strength and conditioning.
Again, if throwing off motor patterning is your goal, do this with the TRX.
I am not saying that the TRX is a bad piece of equipment, I am pointing out that it is usually misused in the fitness world, and that those that promote it’s use for strength are confused between strength and endurance and flexibility training.
Unfortunately many TRX classes end up looking like this:
Half the people doing it wrong and most people with no body awareness misapplying the exercises. Now I know there are some great TRX studios but when I see people doing a TRX pushup and TRX foot plank who can’t even do a floor pushup or a decent floor plank the TRX is probably the worst thing to put them on.
For an advanced athlete there are some great benefits and some great coaches are doing some pretty great things with them.But again these world class athletes are not only using the TRX. It is one of many tools.
I will say the same thing about just about any tool. The kettlebell, barbell, dumbbell etc.. They all can be misused and over used. I could probably write an entire article on the kettlebell in the same manner. At the end of the day, do what you like, and if it is working for you keep at it. I just like to stir the pot some times and get people in the fitness world to think outside their comfort zone. I don’t do everything perfectly nor do I claim to, I am just an opinionated guy with some years of experience who is always open to learn, hopefully you are too.