The Verdict on TRX and Suspension Straps

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TRX suspension straps healthier living

Back in 2011 when this article was written, the TRX was considered another hyped-up piece of equipment which may or may not have deserved such a strong spotlight shone it’s way. I believe they have great value but still consider them a single tool in the strength training toolbox and by no means comprehensive.

Some of the great advantages of TRX and other suspension straps are the following

  • great full body workout
  • demands the use of stabiliser muscles and core muscles
  • workouts can be quick
  • versatile
  • portable
  • fits in a bag

 

However, I have also found the following to limit the TRX user and have subsequently not embraced the straps whole-heartedly.

Suspension training utilises the exerciser’s weight plus the force of gravity. A certain level of strength and joint stability is required to keep the body moving with perfect technical form and perfect form in general is a rarity.

If a person is really heavy and not necessarily very strong, they will need to position their body at an angle closer to vertical which completely changes the amount of muscle fibres recruited and direction of loading for the muscles. For example, if you cannot do a bodyweight inverted row with your torso at almost horizontal (quite advanced), you will need to position your torso at an angle closer to 45 degrees to ensure you are not jerking yourself aggressively to the top of the pull with each rep. This is ok, but it completely changes the level and type of muscle recruitment. If you begin the inverted bodyweight pull with your torso at 45 degrees, the direction of the pull ends up with the torso very close to vertical which then deloads the pulling muscles almost 100%. So instead of getting a horizontal pull from start to finish, engaging the pulling muscles throughout the movement, you get a sub-contraction of the pulling muscles at the start, and then an almost deload at the end. My awesome illustrations (perfectly proportioned, especially his arms!) below demonstrate an advanced exerciser performing the pull/inverted row exercise, followed by a beginner, a heavier or a less strong exerciser, or a person less able to stabilise their joints and keep good form whilst performing the movement.




 

TRX suspension straps healthierliving

In the above picture, the body stays horizontal and pulling muscles are worked throughout the movement.

 

TRX beginner healthierliving

In this second picture, limitations such as a heavy bodyweight, inadequate strength for bodyweight, biomechanical issues (eg, shoulder, neck, back problems) or stability problems will limit the ability to keep the torso horizontal.

 

This same principle applies for other exercises such as the bodyweight suspended push-up, jack-knife, pike, hamstring curl, bicep curl, single leg squat, tricep press, flyes and other movements that may be creatively added to the workout.

I do think the TRX can be an amazing tool to add to your gym, and convenient for outdoor training for sure. I don’t think that it is the be-all and end-all in terms of an overall body conditioning tool and believe it has some strong limitations. I have seen some pretty shonky exercise forms on the TRX and find that it is not for everyone. I would certainly involve suspension training as part of an overall training program, if it fits the client or athlete, yet would now throw away the traditional lifts, the barbells, the dumbbells and many other training methods as each exercise has it’s pro’s and con’s and can be selected appropriately for superior conditioning.