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Hang tough: Hot suspension workout builds strength and endurance

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TRX training people exercising
TRX Suspension Trainer is a training tool that builds total body stability and strength by leveraging the user’s bodyweight through hundreds of functional exercises. Be3DStrongcom

Every New Year thousands of Houstonians make a resolution to get in shape, but many might give up quickly when faced with the sheer abundance of workout programs, titled with cute names that are far from self-explanatory. So how do you know which fitness routine is right for you? CultureMap takes the mystery out of some of 2014’s hottest workouts. Our first report: TRX.

What is TRX?

TRX is a form of suspension training that allows exercisers to use their own bodyweight as resistance to build strength and endurance. Many of the individual exercises completed — or at least attempted — during a TRX session are rather basic. Exercises that are central to a TRX routine, like squats, lunges and push ups, you probably first learned to do in junior high gym class.

What makes TRX based conditioning different is the suspension. Adjustable straps, anchored into a wall, ceiling, door, or a steel frame, help to suspend different areas of the body so that gravity works against you, but in a good way. 

Hold on to the handles at the end of the straps while doing a squat and suddenly you can go much deeper into the stance or even modify the squat and lean away from the anchor to add an upper body row as you pop up. Place one foot in both handles while doing lunges or both feet while doing a push up or pike and simple exercises become significantly more challenging.

Fitness levels

A TRX program or class can be modified for beginning to advance fitness levels. Most of the the exercises can be intensified or lightened merely by changing the angle of your body.

Motivational origin story to inspire (or guilt) you into moving

While resistance and suspension training are about as old as the push up and rope climb, TRX is packaged for the 21st century with a story that will likely resonate with both the chronic couch potato and devout gym rat. The TRX system was created by a Navy SEAL commander who wished to find a new way to train and stay fit in close quarters with little equipment. He sewed together the very first prototype himself using a jiujitsu belt and parachute webbing.

Where to find it

According to the official website there are no studios in Houston that exclusively focus on TRX, but there are trainers who specialize in the system and gyms that offer classes throughout the city. Many of those classes do require an additional fee on top of membership dues. I took the class at the Tellepsen YMCA downtown.

Hands (and feet)-on experience

What I like the most about the suspension trainer is its versatility and adaptability. Instructors have to attend special seminars to become experts on using the equipment and designing their own classes, but then they are free to use that knowledge to adapt the exercises for the specific needs of students and clients. Creativity does count.

One instructor might design a intense cardio class, another might use the straps to focus on strength training. One of my favorite classes at Tellepsen is a TRX yoga class.

I tried a TRX class for the first time over a year ago, and have easily stuck with a routine because I usually leave a class knowing I’ve gotten a good worked out without it feeling like tedious work. Navy SEAL origins aside, there’s a bit of a playing around on the swing set and monkey bars nostalgia to the exercises that’s simply fun.

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