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The Best TRX Exercises

trx-gymnastic-swing
(Image credit: Unknown)

If you’re hitting the gym to work on your core strength and ignoring the TRX trainer, you’re missing a trick. Performing a variation of any exercise on a suspension trainer significantly ramps up the challenge to your core, because you’ll be working harder than normal to maintain good form and keep your body stable during the movement.

“For my money, TRX training gives the best core workout on the planet – unless you’re an elite gymnast,” says TRX Training Club coach Niko Algieri.

“It’s compound, it’s all about control and it’s always dynamic. The difficulty of exercises on a TRX can also be scaled up or down according to ability.”

To help show off the benefits of TRX training we asked Algieri for his favourite core exercises you can do with a suspension trainer, as well as the best upper-body and lower-body moves. If you try any of these upper-body moves you’ll instantly feel how – even though you might be primarily targeting your chest, shoulders or arms – you’re also working your core hard.

While mastering these moves will take some time and we have lots more TRX workouts, we can’t match the number of on-demand guided sessions on the TRX Training Club (opens in new tab) app (App Store (opens in new tab) and Google Play (opens in new tab)) and website. The real difference, however, is that the TRX Training Club runs a schedule of live classes with a two-way Zoom-esque video feed so the trainer can check your form. The trainer may even be Algieri (say hi from us!). There’s currently a 30-day free trial available – it’s £19.99 a month afterwards.

The Best Lower-Body TRX Exercises

Jump squat

Sets 3-4 Reps 10-15

“Using the mid-length straps, stand with your feet just wider than hip-width apart and your elbows level with your rib cage,” says Algieri. “Lower into a squat until your hip crease is just below knee level, then drive upwards jumping off the floor by extending through your ankles, knees and hips simultaneously. Land smoothly, go into the squat position and repeat.”

Single-leg glute bridge

Sets 3 each side Reps 10-15

“Either with the TRX in single-hand mode or using one long strap, lie on the floor with your head under the anchor point,” says Algieri. “Load one heel into the long strap’s foot cradle with your foot flexed. Bend that knee at 90° with your arms by your sides. Lift the free leg and keep it straight and vertical. Drive your heel into the cradle, maintaining the 90° bend in your knee, extending fully at the hips to rise. Lower back to the floor.”

Alternating hamstring curl

Sets 3-4 Reps 20 

“Use the long strap length,” says Algieri. “Lie on the floor facing the anchor point. Load both heels into the cradles. With your arms by your sides, lift your hips off the floor. Draw one knee towards your chest, keeping the other leg fully extended. At a controlled pace, exchange the leg positions, always making sure to flex and extend fully.”

Advanced hamstring curl

Sets 3 Reps 10-15 

“Use the long strap length and lie on the floor facing the anchor point,” says Algieri. “Load both heels into the cradles and lift your hips off the floor. Start the movement by drawing your heels towards your glutes without breaking at your hips. The movement is effectively a moving plank from the knees. Lower without your hips breaking and without touching the floor.”

Suspended lunge

Sets 3 each side Reps 10-15 

“Use the long strap length,” says Algieri. “Face away from your anchor point with your right foot in both foot cradles behind you. Hop your left foot forwards. Lower your rear knee to the floor, bending both knees at 90°and raising both arms to shoulder height. Drive through the left leg to stand up and return to the starting position, lowering both arms to your sides.”

Runner’s lunge

Sets 3 each side Reps 10-15

“Use the long strap length,” says Algieri. “Stand facing away from your anchor point with your right foot in both foot cradles behind you. Hop your left foot forwards. Bring your right knee up as well as your left arm to mimic a running position. Lower your right knee to the floor behind you, bending both knees at 90° while raising your right arm and lowering your left. Drive through your left foot to stand up and return to the starting position.”

Ski jump lunge

Sets 3 each side Reps 10-15 

“Use the long strap length,” says Algieri. “Stand facing away from your anchor point with your right foot in both foot cradles behind you. Hop your left foot forwards. Lower your rear knee to the floor, bending both knees at 90° and lifting your hands up towards your head. Drive through your left leg to explode off the floor, driving your arms backwards to mimic a ski jumper. Land and move smoothly into the next lunge.”

Jump lunge

Sets 3 each side Reps 10-15

“Using the long strap length, stand facing away from the anchor with your right foot in both foot cradles behind you,” says Algieri. “Hop your left foot forwards. Bring your right knee up as well as your left arm to mimic a running position. Lower your rear knee to the floor, bending both knees at 90°, raising your right arm and lowering your left. Drive powerfully through your left leg to jump upwards while simultaneously driving your right knee through and upwards to gain more height in the jump. As the right knee drives through, drive your left arm up to gain more power and height. Land softly and smoothly move into the next jump lunge.”

The Best Upper-Body TRX Exercises

The beauty of the TRX is that even when an exercise focuses on your upper body, it still recruits your core, glutes and legs to keep your body stable. Plus, the instability of the straps and handles increases the benefits to the muscles you’re targeting.

“If you’re doing a floor press-up things are fairly stable,” says Algieri. “On a TRX you have to stabilise your shoulder blades, shoulders, arms and wrists to safely lower your pecs in line with your chest. This leads to far more muscle fibre contraction in the chest.”

Algieri recommends using the TRX to supplement the work you do on your upper body, running through the following exercises twice a week.

“Try 12 reps and four sets per exercise with only 45 seconds rest in between,” says Algieri.

Press-up

Sets 4 Reps 12 Rest 45sec

“Facing away from the anchor point, hold the handles with your arms straight,” says Algieri. “Keeping the straps tight and touching your shoulders, move your feet backwards so you are leaning into the handles. Your feet should be hip-width apart. Straighten your wrists like a punch and maintain this throughout. Keep your body straight and engage your core, tuck your tailbone in, and stand on your tiptoes.

“Open your arms to just a little more than shoulder-width apart and bend your elbows to lower yourself slowly until your chest is in line with your fists. Push away from the handles until your arms are straight. Don’t hunch your shoulders.

“At Equilibrium we encourage the straps being in contact with your arms all the way down. It scrapes a little but it’s safe. Moving your feet backwards makes it harder and forwards makes it easier.”

Inverted row

Sets 4 Reps 12 Rest 45sec

“Face the anchor and hold the handles,” says Algieri. “Lean back, keeping your arms straight and your palms facing each other with your feet hip-width apart. Move your feet forwards to make it harder or backwards to make it easier.

“Keeping your body straight, pull your chest through your hands, moving your elbows backwards and squeezing your shoulder blades behind you. Keep your arms and hands close to your ribcage throughout. Then lower yourself slowly back to the start.”

Y-raise

Sets 4 Reps 12 Rest 45sec

“Face the anchor and hold the handles,” says Algieri. “Lean back, keeping your arms straight and your palms facing down with your feet hip-width apart. Moving your feet forwards makes it harder and backwards makes it easier.

“Keeping your body straight and core engaged, lift your arms to the sides to bring your body forwards until your trunk and arms form a Y shape. Keep your elbows and wrists straight throughout or you will lose the resistance on the shoulders. Then slowly lower back to the starting position. Keep your glutes engaged and avoid hunching your shoulders.”

Power pull

Sets 4 Reps 12 Rest 45sec

“Face the anchor and stand with your knees slightly bent and your feet wider than shoulder-width apart to provide a strong base,” says Algieri. “Hold one handle close to your chest with your right hand and rotate your trunk and head to the right. Extend your left arm in front of you so it’s parallel to the strap. You should look like an archer with a bow and arrow.

“Move your feet forwards to create resistance, then lower under control by slowly extending the right arm. As you do this, rotate your body to the left, finishing with your trunk and head facing left, and bend your left arm, keeping it close to the body. Then extend it at the end of the move so it reaches towards the floor and forms a straight line with your right arm. Reverse the move by pulling with your right arm, bending your left arm as it comes past the body. Do all the reps on one arm, then switch sides.”

Biceps curl

Sets 4 Reps 12 Rest 45sec

“Face the anchor and hold the handles,” says Algieri. “Lean back, keeping your arms straight with your palms facing up and your feet hip-width apart. Moving your feet forwards makes it harder and backwards makes it easier.

“Maintaining a straight body and with your core engaged, pull your hands to your temples to create the curl motion. Your elbows should never lower or lift, but stay in line with your shoulders. Extend your arms to lower back to the start position.”

Triceps extension

Sets 4 Reps 12 Rest 45sec

“Facing away from the anchor, hold the handles with straight arms and your palms facing down and stand on your tiptoes,” says Algieri. “Your feet should be hip-width apart and your hands should be level with your forehead. Don’t move where your hands are during the entire movement. Moving your feet backwards makes the exercise harder and forwards makes it easier.

“Keeping your body straight, bend your elbows until your fists are next to your temples. Then push away from the handles, using your triceps to extend your arm. Keep your glutes engaged throughout and don’t hunch your shoulders.”

The Best TRX Exercises For Your Core

“You can do either elbow or straight-arm versions of the exercises – the former will provide a little respite for the wrists if you feel pain there,” says Algieri. “Funnily enough, with some of the movements, the elbow version is actually more difficult because it reduces the shoulders’ range.”

Plank

Sets 3 Time 60sec Rest 45sec

“Basic and hugely underrated,” says Algieri. “Learning a correct elbow or straight-arm plank will transfer good form to all your movements.”

“At Equilibrium we don’t hold the neutral Pilates-style plank. We tuck our tailbones, push the floor away and spread the shoulder blades, giving an almost rounded back look. Make sure your hands or elbows are shoulder-width apart.”

Pike

Sets 3 Time 60sec Rest 45sec

“Starting from the plank position on either your elbows or hands, simultaneously move your shoulders, hips and legs to lift your bum over the top of your head, and then lower back to a neutral position,” says Algieri. “Breathe out as you lift and breathe in as you lower.”

Knee tuck

Sets 3-4 Reps 15 Rest 45sec

“Generally, most people get on a TRX and perform what looks like a shit squat thrust when they try this,” says Algieri. “It becomes less of a core movement and more of hip flexor contraction. We want more muscle engagement throughout the exercise.

“Mimic the pike movement and as your hips are lifting bend your knees in. Focus on not losing your back position. Only bring the knees in level with your hips – that’s enough for a strong core contraction while maintaining a dynamic plank.”

Side plank

Sets 3 Time 30sec each side Rest 0sec

“Balancing on your elbow makes this easier because it provides more of a stable base,” says Algieri. “The classic mistake here is not stacking the shoulders. If you look at our beautiful model, his shoulders are line.

“The control of the movement should be in the shoulders and core, with the focus on the obliques. Try to swap sides without dropping – point your toes to spin in the TRX straps.”

Press-up to pike or knee tuck

Sets 3-4 Reps 15 Rest 45sec

“This is the daddy of compound core movements,” says Algieri. “It works the entire body.

“Move your hands into a press-up position and engage a plank. Then lower into a chest-to-floor press-up without losing your core position. Then push back up and as you reach plank height go straight into a pike or knee tuck.”

Gymnastic swing

Sets 4 Reps 20-30 Rest 60sec

“These are fun and challenging as hell,” says Algieri. “It torches the abdominal wall with an Anchorman-esque deep burn.

“What’s key here is not breaking the hips and swinging your legs around like a fish flapping. The whole swing movement is controlled through your hands and shoulders. Once you’ve got this cracked you can then start turning your hips to the corresponding side and knee tucking. Watch the video for variations on the move.”

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.