TRX has become my go-to at-home workout—here's why
It's easier than it looks to get started.
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This may sound like a 2020 cliché, but before lockdowns started in March, I really was hitting my stride. I was eating healthy, getting to sleep earlier, and working out more consistently than I had in years.
Cue COVID-19, when I took a sharp turn into a sedentary lifestyle. No more long walks to the office or hitting the gym in the morning. Instead, I was baking sourdough bread, eating sourdough bread, and commuting all of 20 feet from my bed to my desk.
I knew this wasn’t sustainable. But with a shortage on dumbbells and no room in my apartment for an exercise bike, my options were limited. Tempted by an Instagram ad, I went all in on a TRX suspension training system that turned out to be a great asset to my fitness goals during these shelter-at-home times. Here’s why it’s a great option, even for amateurs like me.
What is TRX?
The TRX system was originally developed by Randy Hetrick, a Navy Seal squadron commander who rigged up a rudimentary system using a belt and parachute webbing while he was deployed. Known by its signature yellow straps, TRX is used by the military, pro athletes, and, well, now at least one journalist looking to counteract the COVID carbo-loading. By using your own body weight as resistance, you’re able to target key muscle groups, especially in the back, and feel a serious burn in as little as 15 minutes.
How do you set up your TRX?
Setting up a TRX system could not be easier. While you can permanently install it in a ceiling, I opted for the over-the-door anchor instead. Just loft the weighted anchor over a door that opens away from you and shut the door tightly. (If you’re able to lock the door, even better, but I’ve never had an issue using my unlocked door.) Give it a few tugs for good measure to make sure everything is secure, then get to your workout.
Pro tip: When you’re done, open the door carefully so as not to bonk yourself on the head with the anchor (I’ve done it, it’s fine, but still). The anchor hasn’t left any dents or marks on my white doors, so it’s something renters can consider using without worrying about their security deposits.
How does TRX work?
TRX is a form of suspension training. It works by having you use your own body weight to work your muscles and get your heart rate up. Adjusting the length of the straps also helps modify difficulty level and sets you up for different positions.
For example, for a bicep workout, you can face your door, lean back with a handle in each hand, and slowly curl your arms to pull yourself upright. For triceps, face away from the door, lean forward with your arms holding the straps overhead and pull yourself up that way.
And it's not just for the upper body: The legs can also get a workout. By holding the straps loosely in your grip for stability, you can lunge and squat more deeply than your own balance and muscle strength may allow otherwise, allowing a fuller range of motion and the activation of more muscles. And if you hook your feet into the straps, you can get a serious ab workout just by holding a plank position.
These are just a few simple examples, but no matter what move you’re doing, you can modify it to suit your ability level just by where you place your feet or the way you angle your body. And then you can work your way up to using more and more of your own body weight to increase difficulty.
What I like about TRX
TRX is simple to set up and use
I expected much more of a learning curve when I first took my TRX out of the box. But within a few minutes, I was set up and sweating away to an online workout. Simple moves like lunges and planks immediately felt more targeted than when I did them without a TRX, so it was easy to get hooked right off the bat.
The TRX is compact and portable
I rent a small apartment, so leaving something permanently installed (let alone hanging from my bathroom door) is a no-go. Luckily, the TRX straps fold up and tuck into the included drawstring mesh bag that's compact enough for me to hold with one hand, and the entire product can fit easily into a drawer when I’m not using it. I’d even consider tossing it in a suitcase for a quick vacation workout once travel is back on the table.
It can also be used outdoors. Swing one end around a tree branch, or attach its hook to a fence or a jungle gym and you can get a workout in while breathing some fresh air. Living in a city while gyms are closed, it hasn’t been uncommon for me to spot fellow TRX users in parks.
Using TRX keeps me active
With a system so easy to use, there really are no excuses to skip a workout. Once you get used to a few core moves, you can develop your own sequence based on the muscle group(s) you want to work. It’s also great for cardio as some workouts incorporate plenty of jumping around.
What I wish could be improved
The app isn't very beginner-friendly
Because I was completely new to this form of exercise, I had expected to rely heavily on the one-year membership of the TRX app that was included with my purchase for guided workouts and tips. Unfortunately, once I received my login credentials, I realized that the app was not best suited for newbies like me. There’s no easy way to search sessions by difficulty level, and most of the recommended classes are labeled “Intermediate” or “Advanced.” (Trust me, they are more intense than a true beginner may want.) I’ve had great success finding free classes on YouTube (my favorite trainer: BodyFit by Amy), but the app feels like a missed opportunity.
Is TRX worth it?
Yes. I never expected to be hanging from ropes off my bathroom door and sweating in my kitchen, but here we are. Gyms are closed, it's cold outside (in Boston, anyway), and we all need a way to stay fit. I’m glad I have TRX as an option.
While I can’t speak for users of other fitness levels, TRX has a 4.8-star rating on Amazon with over 3,400 reviews, so I'm clearly not the only happy customer.
Best of all, it’s a system I can carry with me (literally) long after the pandemic has come to an end.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.