Almost a year ago, I left home to travel. Completely obsessed with fitness, I came up with a plan that would enable to me continue building muscle and burning fat using bodyweight exercises.
The plan worked extremely well, and after months of using nothing but my bodyweight to train, I was in pretty good shape. I found, however, that to continually challenge myself and progress to harder variations of basic exercises I needed certain pieces of equipment. I was at a stage where I had to go out and find a park to do chin-ups, or balance myself against a pole to practice pistol squats.
It was then that I wished I had taken my TRX Suspension Trainer with me. I could have spent more time exploring temples and trying amazing food, and less time trying to find parks or gyms where I could workout.
Designed and created by a US Navy SEAL commando, the TRX is a completely unique piece of equipment that makes it easy to have continually challenging workouts anywhere. It is a lightweight, yet incredibly strong, set of adjustable straps and handles that can be anchored to almost anything, and uses nothing but your own body weight and gravity as resistance. It packs down into a small mesh bag, which makes it perfect for people who travel.
Best of all, it costs less than a few month’s gym membership. You can pick one up from Amazon for $179, which is cheaper than the official online store.
Build Muscle Just As You Would In The Gym
The best thing about the TRX is that it makes it so easy to apply the all-important principle of progressive overload to bodyweight exercises. Just as you would gradually increase the weight or number of reps you are doing in the gym, you need to gradually increase the difficulty of bodyweight exercises to continue building muscle and burning fat.
Put simply, you will not be able to continually make progress whilst travelling if you do not apply the principle of progressive overload.
With your bodyweight alone it can be difficult to increase the difficulty of certain exercises. A great example of this is the bodyweight squat (or air squat as it sometimes called). It is one of the most effective exercises you can possibly do, but unless you are severely out of shape it quickly becomes easy. Performing countless reps will not build muscle. To build muscle you need to find a way to make the exercise challenging.
Performing a one-legged squat (pistol squat) is the natural progression and makes the exercise twice as difficult. The only problem is that pistol squats are insanely difficult because they require a great deal of balance, and it is the same as doubling the weight in the gym (as opposed to progressing in gradual increments).
The TRX makes it easy to learn how to do a pistol squat. Using the straps as support, you can make it easier to balance and transfer some of the weight from your leg to the anchor point. The video below demonstrates this nicely.
The pistol squat isn’t the only exercise the TRX is good for.
There’s a seemingly never-ending list of exercises, but I think it’s particularly useful for training your back and biceps.
Think about it. The most effective ways of training your back are rows and pull/chin-ups. Those exercises also hit your biceps, as do curls. But you can’t do any of those exercises without equipment. At the very least you need a table to do rows, a bar to do chin/pull-ups, and something substantial to curl (perhaps a suitcase or backpack).
Using the TRX you can do both rows and bicep curls, and make them progressively more difficult by altering the angle at which you stand. To put that into perspective, doing a TRX row with your feet against the wall means that you are rowing the equivalent of your bodyweight. That’s pretty tough.
The TRX is the most effective way of training your entire body whilst travelling. There’s no better alternative.
Burn Fat With Circuit Training
The beauty of the TRX is that it makes it easy to transition fluidly from exercise to exercise and improve strength, endurance, balance, coordination, your core and flexibility using one piece of equipment.
Circuit training involves performing a number of strength exercises one after another, and then repeating the sequence 2-6 times (depending on how fit you are). Each exercise involves a lot of different muscles, which means that as well as burning fat it’s also going to help you build muscle.
Circuit training in a gym is almost impossible. You need to use lots of pieces of equipment at once. It’s almost inevitable that somebody else is going to want a piece of equipment that you’re using and jump in when you’re back is turned.
The TRX solves that problem by enabling you to use one piece of equipment for all of your exercises, and of course you don’t even need to go to the gym to use it. I’ve put together a circuit specifically designed to help you burn fat and build muscle anywhere. It hits all the major muscle groups and will give your core one hell of a workout.
The circuit should be performed 2-4 times. To burn fat it’s important to keep rest periods short and the intensity high. Rest for 2 minutes between circuits and the prescribed amount of time between exercises.
|Single Leg Squat (Assisted)||10 (Each Leg)||20 Seconds|
|Atomic Pushup||10||20 Seconds|
|Low Row||10||20 Seconds|
|Balance Lunge||10 (Each Leg)||20 Seconds|
|Side Plank||30 Seconds (Each Side)||20 Seconds|
Features and Specifications
There are 3 different types of TRX Suspension Trainers available.
A year ago I would have recommended the Force or Pro models. They were the only models that came with everything you need, but today TRX have changed that. All models come with the following:
- A mesh bag. The TRX packs down to about half the size of a football (or soccer ball depending on where you are from) and will easily fit in your luggage.
- A lightweight and durable build. Weighing only 1.4lbs or 0.6kg, it is extremely durable and has a weight limit of up to 1400lbs (600kg). Most airlines allow you to take up to 20kg on the plane, so unless you’ve massively over-packed it shouldn’t be problem.
- A door anchor. Put the anchor over the top of a door and then close it to get a perfect anchor point for your TRX. This means you can train in your house or hotel room.
- A suspension anchor. The suspension anchor enables you to anchor your TRX to pretty much anything. This could be a tree, a fence or monkey bars. The guys in the army use the barrels of their tanks!
- Padded foot cradles and handles. I found that using makeshift pieces of equipment on the road, such as a 5 litre bottle of water to do rows with, could be pretty uncomfortable. The padded handles and foot cradles mean you don’t have to inflict any more discomfort upon yourself than necessary!
- Workout plans. All models come with some sort of workout plan and exercise guide. You can put together your own workouts based on your goals, but if you’re not sure what you’re doing I’ll be posting TRX workout plans in the near future. Sign up for the newsletter at the bottom of this post and I’ll let you know when they’re ready.
I recommend you buy the Home model. It is the cheapest of the three, and comes with everything you need. If you feel like your TRX is going to get a lot of heavy use (more than once a day) then you should consider the Pro or Force models as they are built for more wear and tear.
I Think The TRX Is Awesome, But Don’t Just Take My Word For It…
The TRX is used by the military, pro-athletes and top trainers everywhere. Here’s what they have to say about it:
“On the road, I use the TRX Suspension Trainer. You can use it anywhere, strap it to a pole or behind the door. It works every part of your body and helps you improve balance, speed, agility, core strength, shoulder and leg strength and power. I train with it every day.” – Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints
“I fell in love with the TRX the first time I tried it. Its given me so many different options to strengthen and stabilize my core. I prefer working with body weight during the season so the TRX is perfect for travel and home.” – Heather Mitts, three-time Olympic gold medalist
“In-home clients think it’s the greatest because it is so easy to store and offers a lot of challenge, intensity and variety. I travel with it and use it with the door attachment in my hotel room for my on the road personal workouts.” – Irene McCormick, MS/CSCS
The fittest people on the planet love it, but most importantly so do regular people who have jobs, families to raise and are short on time. On Amazon all models of the TRX are rated at an average of 4.5 stars and above.
Safety & Precautions
The only real drawback of the TRX is that you need to have a decent anchor point, and enough of space to perform your workout.
Of course it can be anchored to any tree, fence, doorway or anything else you can find, but the point needs to be sturdy. The TRX will be holding most of your weight so you need to find an anchor point that’s strong enough to do that too. The last thing I want is for you to rush out and anchor it to a flimsy branch!
If you’re going to use the TRX in a doorway it’s important that, firstly, you pick a strong door and, secondly, you position the door anchor correctly. In a lot of hostels the doors are made from old, cheap wood or even plastic. These doors will not support your weight, and you’ll probably end up damaging the door. Nobody wants that.
Once you’ve found a sturdy door, your anchor needs to be placed over the top of the door, as close to the hinge side as possible. This will ensure the TRX is anchored to the strongest point possible. And of course you need to make sure it isn’t a door that somebody’s going to walk through whilst you’re doing your workout!
With enough space and a decent anchor point you will be able to do an amazing workout anywhere. I’ve wasted a lot of money on one off gym fees, and that could easily have been avoided if I had taken my TRX travelling with me.
The Bottom Line
You might be able to tell from my review of the TRX Suspension Trainer that I’m a huge fan.
I created Travel Strong to help people get in shape whilst they travel, and through experience I have found that the TRX is hands down the best way to do that. I wouldn’t be recommending it if I didn’t absolutely believe in it.
Bodyweight Training alone is highly effective, but using a TRX makes it that much easier and enables you to train parts of your body that would otherwise be difficult to hit. But the TRX doesn’t do the work for you. Burning fat and building muscle takes a lot of hard work, and you need the motivation see it through. Put in the work, however, and the TRX will dramatically increase the quality of your workouts and help you reach your goals quicker than bodyweight training alone.
I can only wish that I had taken my TRX with me when I left home to travel, but you don’t have to make that same mistake. Get your TRX here and reach your goals as soon as possible.
Hmmm… Not sure on this one – yet. I’ll have to give it a try before I commit to pack-and-carry with me. Tnx for the post, tho….funny as I just saw this featured in a mag that I happened to pick up at the car dealer while I was waiting during my car servicing.
Hey Matthew. What are you unsure about? Perhaps I can clear something up in the post for you.
@Will – unsure in the sense is this a new fad or something serious. The first time I saw it – this weekend – I thought, “Oh, no…yet another new way to exercise”. OK….I will have to give it a try out.
I must admit I thought the same when I first saw it! But they’ve actually been around for a number of years now. Nothing will ever beat barbells and good nutrition, but it’s the best solution available to us travellers!
I love my TRX’s workouts. No heavy weights but I have never been so toned. Love that most exercises strengthen my core and I can work all major muscle groups.
I loved TRX when I took some classes at my rec center, but when they stopped doing them I was super bummed. As a college kid I couldn’t really afford $200 exercise equipment…but then I found Woss. They’re not quite as fancy, but for $40 I’ve had no complaints at all. Might be good to check out for a little more affordable option for some people! Definitely a great way to change up my at home.
Thanks for the tip Allison! 🙂
Enjoyed reading this article. Been doing some suspension trying for 3 weeks. My gyms not got any suspension trainers so I’ve been using a cable machine. Limited the exercises I could do but did the job. I’m way from the gym for a week and want a better workout in the gym so decided to buy a suspension system. Thought TRX was too expensive so after reading reviews plumed for the WOSS trainer like Allison. It arrived yesterday and I must say I’m impressed. It seems well made and tough. Looking forward to my first workout.
I love my TRX and I bring it everywhere I go! I’m using this piece of Freedom since 2008 and I’m also using the RIP TRAINER which is really exciting to work out with. Excellent post, stay Fit & Strong! 🙂
How can I use trx while I’m truck driving? I m not really sure what I can connect it to on my truck…