Born in the Navy SEALs, TRX — which stands for total-body resistance exercise — relies on two hanging straps to test your strength, balance and stability. And thanks to its portability and ease of use, TRX Suspension Training is making its way into more and more fitness facilities, home gyms and group fitness classes — indoor and outdoor — than ever before. TRX training is also scalable from beginner to advanced, putting the user in complete control of the resistance (simply adjust the nylon straps and the positioning of the body). Free weights and weighted vests can intensify a TRX workout, but gravity and bodyweight easily get the job done. Plus, all that instability requires more core engagement to complete the exercises (hello, six pack!).
But no matter your experience with the straps, there are some common TRX mistakes that can get in the way of an effective workout — or worse, increase your risk of injury. We spoke with Garson Grant, master trainer at The Sports Center at Chelsea Piers in NYC, to pinpoint the top six TRX training sins and how to keep them from holding you back.
Mistake #1: Starting incorrectly
Beginning a movement with the body in the wrong position may result in an awkward tango with the suspension trainer. If you start a move too far from where it ends, it’s easy to lose tension in the straps and break a bone rather than a sweat.
The fix: “Begin at the end range of the motion to find out how much tension you need,” Grant says. “That way you have full tension throughout the whole movement.” For a bicep curl, for instance, line the body up at the end of the movement (arms curled with hands at the temples), then bend at the elbows and pull the body toward the anchor (where the TRX is attached).
Mistake #2: Sagging
When we start to feel tired, it’s a heck of a lot harder to stay stiff as a board. Unfortunately, sagging through the midsection — rather than engaging the core — can increase the risk of injury by compromising the stability in the lower back.
The fix: Be mindful of your body’s alignment. In a plank, for instance, staying aligned from the ankle to the knees to the hips all the way to the ears, puts the body in a safer position. Plus, you’ll get more out of the exercise. “By having those kinetic landmarks in line,” Grant says, “your core is engaged and has to work harder.”
Mistake #3: Scraping
There’s nothing worse than walking away from a workout with battle wounds. Scraping most often occurs during chest press when the straps rub against the arms and shoulders. “Your body wants to keep the straps right on the skin because it’s easier, but to have a more effective workout you need to keep those straps away from you,” Grant says.
The fix: This one’s simple — keep the straps from making direct contact with your skin. Easier said than done? Try to focus on using the stabilization muscles in your arms rather than resting the straps on any part of your body. Sometimes a simple adjustment, like moving the hands up a couple inches, can help keep the straps from touching.
Mistake #4: Slacking
So simple, yet so detrimental, slacking renders most TRX moves pretty unproductive. This mistake occurs when the straps aren’t taut through the whole move you’re performing. And if there’s slack in the straps, it’s likely you’re slacking too.
The fix: “If there’s no tension, you’re not really getting an effective workout,” Grant says. Make sure to maintain tension on the straps throughout each movement, from start to finish. When completing rows, for instance, take a small step back to keep the straps from slacking.
Mistake #5: Sawing
Let’s face it, dealing with gravity is not only a benefit of the TRX, but also a tricky obstacle. Sawing (not to be confused with the TRX saw exercise) occurs when unequal pressure in the TRX foot cradles or handles results in the feet or hands swinging up and down (rather then staying in an even plane). Sawing is most common in movements like the supine hamstring curl or mountain climbers.
The fix: Make sure the handles or foot cradles are parallel before starting a movement, for starters. Another way to avoid sawing is to apply equal pressure to each strap. If that doesn’t alleviate the problem, try slowing down the movement and really engaging the core.
Mistake #6: Stopping
When an exercise feels too tough, too fast, or if you’re totally wiped from a long day at work, calling it quits after a few shaky reps may feel like the reasonable choice. But to avoid the wasted time and effort, try modifying the move to get you to the finish.
The fix: “A lot of people stop because the exercise gets too hard,” Grant says. Instead of throwing in the towel, simple modifications — like moving away from the anchor or offsetting the feet by putting one foot in front of the other — can make a huge difference. Try playing around with the angle of the body (the steeper the angle, the harder) to find can-do variations when the going gets tough.
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