By: Jennifer Hale
You may be pounding the rock in the weight room, lifting and curling your max but still missing many of the approximately 640 muscles in your body. Most traditional weight lifting exercises using dumbbells or machines – like curls, presses, lifts, squats – work the major muscle groups. However, to target the smaller muscles underneath those large ones, you need to add a weapon into your training arsenal. TRX – or Total Body Resistance Exercise – could be your answer. I love TRX and use it on the road all the time.
Invented by a Navy Seal, TRX uses your own body weight with straps suspended from a ceiling or wall to target all those smaller muscles – the stabilizer muscles. That’s why TRX is so important to incorporate into every fitness regiment, no matter what your goals. Training your stabilizer muscles will help define the look of your body and increase your functionality, especially at your core. In a fit person, increased functionality may mean the ability to workout longer or avoid injury while working out. In an elderly person, increased functionality could equate to the freedom of walking unassisted or better balance to avoid falls.
“I have a 74-year-old client, and I use a lot of TRX with him,” says Jessica Zanca, a trainer at Chronos Fitness who uses TRX in some form for every one of her clients. “He can use the straps to help him balance while he exercises his muscles or works on stepping up and down various elevations. He’s so much more stable now and is no longer afraid of falling while going about his day.”
It’s easy to modify the level of difficulty when using a TRX simply by changing your foot placement. In fact, you can increase the difficulty so quickly and completely that Zanca uses TRX herself as one of her go-to tools when preparing for a bodybuilding or World Beauty Fitness Federation competition.
“You can’t just train one way,” Zanca says. “I like to work my major muscle groups with traditional weights and machines first. Then, I finish my workout with TRX, pushing my muscles to exhaustion and burnout. That’s the proper way to tear down that muscle fiber so it can build back more powerfully. TRX enables me to get the most out of each workout.”
Now that football and basketball seasons are here, I’m using TRX more than ever because it’s easy to pack the straps in my suitcase for a convenient hotel workout. I wanted to freshen up my routine, so Zanca shared a few of her go-to moves with me.
1. Pistol Squats
What it works: Legs and Glutes
How it works: Using the TRX straps for stability, squat up and down on one leg. It’s an intense exercise, but it provides many benefits. You can rest assured that you’re working each leg evenly – one leg isn’t compensating for the other. It’s easy to adjust the depth of your squat to modify this exercise’s degree of difficulty. Beginners should start with shallow squats, and those who are more advanced should push themselves to endure a deeper squat.
What it works: Primarily abs and hip flexors, but also shoulders and quads
How it works: Put your hands on the floor in a push-up position and feet inside the TRX straps. Using your core, pull your body up into a “V” or pike position and hold. This move shreds your abs because it targets every muscle group in the abdomen, instead of just one or two, like many traditional sit-ups. There are four main groups of muscles in the human abdomen. You’ll move better and look more fit if you train all of them.
What it works: Primarily the back, but also rotator cuff, shoulders and core
How it works: Start with your hands in a neutral position in front of you and lift your arms up and out into the “Y” position repeatedly. Shifting the position of your feet will increase the ease or difficulty of this exercise exponentially.