Deanne Panday gives you a 101 on TRX
Suspension training without the drama of heavy machines or even a gym
We live in a post Fifty Shades world, so if you’ve walked past a gym and felt stirred by those black and yellow straps hanging from the wall, we feel you. What you’re really looking at, though, are TRX suspension ropes, for a form of exercise developed in the US by ex-Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick in the ’80s. The workout has, as these things do, gradually made its way from the barracks into celebrity regimens, onto novelty gym menus and is now mainstream (the cool kind) — not surprising, considering the quick, no fuss routines and the even faster (only if you’re regular — at least three times a week) results. We asked TRX expert Deanne Panday for advice on how to get started.
“TRX is a strap system with grips that weigh only two pounds, so you can hang them from a bar, a door, or the branch of a tree, if you like,” says Panday. “Your hands or feet are suspended from the TRX handles and the opposite end of your body is typically in contact with the ground.” The workout involves using the ropes to leverage both gravity and your body weight to perform a series of exercises which are a constant test of balance and flexibility.
The great thing about working with your own body weight? You’re not bound by traditional machines, which means you can perform a far greater range of exercises. Plus, ripped abs, owing to the absence of a stable surface. “A strong centre is the main result you can expect because with every move, you can’t help but engage your core to steady yourself,” explains Panday.
It also offers plenty in the way of challenges for the easily bored. “Sometimes just a quick stance adjustment, like stepping forward or away from your base point, will alter the difficulty of the exercise,” says Panday. “Bored of your chest press? Take a step back, and it instantly becomes more interesting.”
Right, so you’re thrilled about trying something new, looking forward to a toned physique, and you’ve signed up with a gym that has TRX (or bought yourself a set of ropes and hopefully, signed on a personal trainer). What next? Before you begin, Panday recommends a warm-up that lasts at least five minutes. “It’ll help lubricate your joints and increase circulation to your muscles, which is especially important when starting a resistance program.” Try walking, biking or jogging before you get on the ropes. Once you climb down, end with some gentle, dynamic stretching.
The most obvious risk with any sport is injury. Since parts of your body are suspended in TRX, muscle wounds are a very real possibility. Panday warns clients that the instability of suspension straps means that they’re more likely to get hurt, especially if they have a history of joint or back injuries, or inadequate core strength. Most TRX exercises require a flat back, and when this position isn’t maintained, “excess strain may be placed on other joints, like the shoulders”. To keep from putting your back or shoulder out, she recommends starting with a trainer, and working your way up to the more challenging positions. “An educated fitness instructor can teach you the proper exercise progressions, watch and correct your form, and help you determine when you’re ready to progress to the next level.” Stubborn DIY-ers, she reckons, should work out next to a mirror when you’re starting out so you can check your alignment constantly. Panday also suggests that people who have never exercised before should start with strength training before gradually easing your way into TRX.
How to choose a gym
Picking a gym isn’t difficult — all you have to do is walk in and ask. Just make sure the trainers are certified TRX instructors. Most gyms have bars to attach a TRX system to, and we’re not just talking fitness spaces — bars can be seen coming up at parks too, but Panday advises attempting those when you’re more advanced.
So there you have it: for a workout that gives you abs you could break bricks on, stays interesting with virtually no effort, is easy to travel with and proven to be effective (those Navy SEALS don’t kid around), there’s little that beats TRX. If your gym card looks as new as when you got it on January 1st, this might be the perfect time to give the routine a go.
Photograph Manasi Sawant; Styling Alisha Netalkar