Based on fluid movements and acrobatic suspension, TRX may look more like a circus stunt than a full-body workout, but this bodyweight training program has a tough as nails pedigree. It was developed almost 20 years ago by Navy Seal Randy Hetrick as a way to stay in shape on the go. The system revolves around straps inspired by those on parachutes. They stretch, but also offer graded resistance, making the workout scalable across fitness levels.
“Functional training” has been one of the hottest fitness catchphrases over the last few years and TRX is one of the forerunners of this trend. Among the practicing instructors is Linda Silich, who owns Silich Core + Strength in East Hampton, an exercise studio specializing in the training. Silich teaches that “TRX is based around movement and stability. The classic catchphrase is ‘use your body as a machine.’” The difference is in the approach. Whereas gym machines limit body movement to only one plane at a time, a set of TRX suspension straps enables individuals to perform resistance exercises in a full range of rotational modalities.
Followers range from novices to experienced athletes seeking to cross-train and improve sport-specific performance. Silich said some of her clients solely do TRX and bodyweight workouts, while others use it as a complement to traditional heavy lifting in the weight room. “Bodyweight training forces you to learn the movement and perfect the form, so you can earn the progression toward pushing your limits,” she explained. In a way, TRX is the opposite. By adjusting the straps and the distance they’ll be stretched, the moves can become more challenging. Since it’s all about form, Silich recommended newbies take an introductory one-on-one personal session before joining group classes based on ability. At her studio, classes include high intensity interval, TRX strength and TRX with yoga, all incorporating the equipment in different structures.
The key to the workouts is the full-body nature of the movements, which means that the core is challenged in a comprehensive way. “You use your full core, all the posterior and anterior muscles. It’s not just your abs,” Silich said. It can also be used as rehab for injuries and has widespread appeal among both men and women. Many hear about it as a good add-on to other fitness activities like yoga, running, triathlon training, team sports and even paddleboarding, but devotees also value the cardiovascular benefits these programs offer. Silich said classes are fast-paced and raise the heart rate enough to count as a cardio workout.
Another reason TRX may be taking off is the very reason it was invented. The straps are highly portable, making them ideal for those who tend to fall off the workout wagon while on vacation. Silich takes her straps when she travels and has even set them up on a palm tree to cram in a workout in paradise.