CLASS PROFILE: TRX

If you don’t know anything about TRX Training, those black and yellow straps now seen near the weight area on the fitness floor and in the group fitness room might seem a little intimidating. Fear not, Carrie Levesque says.

The straps, buckles and pulley-type things are all tools to help you leverage your body weight, using angles and gravity to improve strength, flexibility, balance, and the all-important “core”, Carrie says. The system lets just about anyone participate at whatever intensity level is appropriate for them. 

Right now, TRX Training is being offered in small group paid sessions called TRX Essentials I and TRX Essentials II.  Personal training is another option that allows for an individual approach to TRX training, as well as accommodating your personal schedule.  Before members can use the TRX equipment on their own, they have to have enrolled in one of the classes or had a personal trainer sign-off on their participation. Most members have a goal of using the TRX independently.  A staff member will look at a member’s mastery of core stabilization, body awareness, and the proper technique of each exercise before allowing a member to work alone.

Carrie is teaching the Essentials I class on Tuesday evenings, while Lynn Heckathorn is in charge of the Tuesday morning Essentials I class, and Thursday morning Essentials II class.  Anne is teaching Essentials I on Monday afternoons.

Carrie explains that participants in the Essentials 1 class learn the basics: how to adjust the TRX suspension straps, how to hold the straps for proper exercise technique, as well as the essential body positions for each exercise.  Most importantly for any TRX exercise is how to stabilize the core (abdominals and back muscles) and shoulder girdle while performing the exercises – all important muscles not only for getting a good workout, but for overall physical safety.  With those basics, the students work for six weeks learning a repertoire of warm-up, strength and cool-down exercises.

Sample strength exercises:

  • Upright row (back and biceps)
  • Chest press (chest and triceps)
  • Side lunge (quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, hip adductors)
  • Plank – floor (core)
  • Hamstring curl – floor (core and hamstrings)

The great thing about TRX is its versatility and the ease of adjusting intensity while in the middle of a set.  You don’t have to adjust a stack of weights, you just move your body towards or away from the TRX suspension trainer anchor point and you have added or reduced your intensity. The straps are anchored about 6 feet above your head, and because the TRX is anchored at a single point, it creates an instability that needs to be controlled during the exercise by engaging your core.  “You learn that you can’t do the moves correctly, efficiently, and/ or sometimes safely without core engagement,” Carrie said.

She likens the principles behind adjusting TRX intensity to that of doing wall push-ups, which most people have tried at some point. “When you’re standing vertical, straight up, parallel with the wall, the move is easy, but if you move your feet away from the wall (adjusting your body angle), it gets tougher, right?”

The instructor is always focusing on participant form and safety — making sure participants understand the exercise technique, and are using the TRX suspension trainer properly. After six weeks of class, students will understand how to adjust their own intensity levels, that core and shoulder girdle engagement is essential to performing each exercise, and most likely will have an increased sense of body awareness, Carrie says.  “They’ll leave class with at least six strength exercises they can work on, as well as the TRX warm-up and cool-down exercises.”

They’ll also have completely absorbed the “Six TRX Sins,” as “Fitness Anywhere, the parent company of TRX suspension training calls them:

1) No sagging. If your core is not engaged, you will sag like a hammock.

2) No sawing. You are constantly applying tension on the straps. You should never work one side of your body more than the other, which will result in the straps sawing side to side.

3) Know your start position. Starting correctly avoids injury and allows for the proper range of motion.

4) No scraping. The straps should never touch your body.

5) No stopping. If you can’t finish the number of repetitions assigned, you can adjust your intensity downward – always try this before deciding to stop.

6) No slacking. Keep constant tension on the straps.

Carrie said the TRX system can appeal to competitive athletes, but can also benefit those who may face the challenges of arthritis or osteoporosis, for example. With osteoporosis, most individuals benefit from weight bearing exercises, as well as strength training, which can help to build bone density. Inherently there is an element of balance training with TRX suspension training. An individual using TRX will probably improve balance skills, which in turn can reduce the risk of falling and potentially sustaining a life-altering hip fracture. Some individuals with arthritis have noticed that it allows them to work their joints in greater ranges by using the straps more as an assisting device.  For instance, one member hadn’t performed a full squat in three or more years without pain, and was thrilled to find that a full squat on the TRX was not painful, and hoped that it would build up much needed leg strength.

So far participants in these new fitness classes have spanned the ages and included males and females.  “They are all abilities, all sizes, and all ages,” Carrie said.  “Some are very athletic and others are just doing it for your everyday health benefits. We’re finding it’s intriguing to people because you’re working your core all the time, and core strength is so important.”

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