CF Reviews

Excruciatingly Honest Opinions About Health and Fitness Products.

Friday, August 7, 2009

TRX Review

I'm always happy to disclose when I get a product sent to me for free to review, because I'm hoping it makes me look cool and popular because telling readers I've received goods in exchange for providing a review is the honest and ethical thing to do! So, um, yeah, I didn't pay for this fancy-pants TRX Home Training bundle. The package comes with the "TRX Suspension Trainer Professional," plus a dvd, door anchor, tote bag, and some instructional information.

And what the heck is a TRX Suspension Trainer? Well, it's basically a couple of adjustable straps that you anchor to something solid like a beam or a tree, or (if you get the doorway anchor accessory) to the top of a door in your house.

Like so:

You can tell this is not me because of:
(a) the rugrat and (b) all the

You use this pair of straps to position yourself in a bunch of different ways, so that gravity and your body weight work together to provide resistance when you exercise. By changing the angle you're at, you can make it easy, hard, or totally freakin' impossible.

And it's not just for sissies like Crabby either. Apparently, even tough-ass military types use the TRX.

The TRX folks have figured out exercises designed to target your whole body. They've got presses and squats and dips and crunches and all kinds of stuff. The website has video demonstrations, and they've got lots of suggestions for creative ways to use the contraption to work your upper body, lower body, and your core. Or, if you're so inclined, to make porn videos.

This woman is probably very nice and we swear she is
not even THINKING of making a porn movie.

So I tried it, and what did I think about it? Well, in short, I mostly liked it!

What's Awesome About the TRX:

1. It's really well made. The materials are tough and heavy duty; there's nothing flimsy about it. Yet it's designed to be easily adjustable. It really is no hassle to lengthen or shorten the straps.

2. It's light-weight and portable. If you have a small apartment or do much traveling, the fact that you can get most of the functions of a home gym in a tiny little tote bag is pretty darn appealing.

3. You can do a LOT of different exercises with it. I just tried the first 12 they suggested, but it looked like online there were a lot more.

4. It's adjustable so you can make things harder or easier. And changing the angle you use is much easier than moving a bunch of weight plates around.

5. It recruits many muscles at the same time so you get more "functional" fitness. Because you are using your body weight to supply resistance, often the exercises involve you supporting that body weight with both your core and the specific muscles being targeted. Your core and all kinds of obscure supporting muscles get a workout, not just one isolated set of muscles.

What's Less Awesome About the TRX:

1. A lot of these exercises you could do without the fancy strap. Some of these are familiar floor exercises that have been modified by adding suspension. For many of these moves, you could probably achieve the same thing with a doorframe to hang onto or a stability ball to lean against or whatever.

2. It's an Expensive Fancy Strap. The bundle that includes the door anchor is $169; the basic model in $149. I know "Expensive" depends on your income and frame of reference, so perhaps this doesn't seem expensive to you. If you're financially comfortable and are comparing the TRX system to other home gym alternatives, the price tag is not gonna seem too bad. However, if you're a cheapskate like me or a handy Do It Yourself sort of person, it's going to seem bizarre to pay so much money for a pair of adjustable straps with handles. But then a lot of people will pay more than this for a trendy blouse or a purse, neither of which can give you a full body workout unless your fashion choices are mighty eccentric.

3. Gravity isn't always going in the right direction. On some of the exercises, like the abductors, it seemed like the resistance was not coming from quite the right direction to work the muscles it was supposed to. But what do I know? I'm not an exercise physiologist.

4. The TRX uses functional whole body movements at the expense of isolating individual muscles. While most people think of this as a great thing, I found that I couldn't seem to muster up nearly the same feeling of resistance in the muscles I was targeting when I used the TRX as when I use free weights or a universal-type weight machine. I felt like core muscles and other supporting muscles were the ones getting fatigued and supplying that feeling of "let's stop now, shall we?" But I wonder if once I got used to the movements, my core might strengthen and allow me to work the individual muscles more aggressively? Anyway, if you're used to using machines or free weights that isolate individual muscles, the TRX type resistance might not feel as "satisfying," if that makes any sense.

5. And (surprise!) some of the exercises aren't nearly as easy as they look in the demonstrations. Also, some aren't as challenging as you'd think either. But this may be a "newby" issue; it may just be a function of selecting the right level of difficulty and mastering the form.

Overall: The small size and convenience of this system makes it a great choice for home exercisers, especially for those who don't have a gym membership or a lot of space or money for a full-on home gym. It's great for functional fitness types, because you get a lot of core work, and you can pick up the speed and do the strengthening exercises for cardio too. And it's a particularly handy choice for folks who travel because of how portable it is.

However, if your have access to a real gym, and particularly if you like traditional strength training routines with heavy weights, you might find this more useful as an "on the road" alternative rather than a main source of exercise.

Caution: this product may improve your physique to the point where random strangers try to grab your ass.

Oh, and if you'd like to read a really thorough and enthusiastic review of this product, check out the review posts at The Great Fitness Experiment. (And there's another one here too).

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  • No gym membership here, and I could sure use something to mix up what I've been doing at home. Looks like an interesting system.

  • I want this.


    I know.

    Im supposed to pretend to be blase. but...


  • I could totally use this when I'm too lazy to go to the gym, it's pretty neat.

  • Yeah, but you can't hang clothes on it. :-)

  • Cool, I would love to try!

  • I would not use it.

    I could see myself attaching it to a door. I'd get down on the floor much like the porn picture woman, the door would fly off it's hinges, smacking me hard across the face and front of my body and I'd have one more thing to whine about on my blog. So don't you dare give it to me.

    word verification smashedpod

  • I'd be curious to try it. Once.

  • Looks like fun!

  • When you said "suspension" I pictured a trapeze type thing... Ah well, this looks interesting too!

    Love the review!

  • Like MizFit, I really, really, want this. I've used it before and I love it, plus the fact that it's portable makes it perfect, as I've been traveling a lot.

  • Pick me, please! Not because I want it for myself...honestly, it looks too complicated for my feeble brain, but there is a very special blogger who I would love to see get this, and if I win, then we could give it to her!

  • Oops, I'm afraid this isn't a giveaway post, just a review! Sure wish it was, sorry about that! Sometimes the Product Page is for reviews too, though we've been using it so much for giveaways I can totally understand the confusion.

  • I like the fact that I can read about the strap-thingie without having to try to figure out how to set it up. :)

  • No gym going for me either. Damn reccession! This looks kind of cool and moderately kinky. Don't judge me. I would probably use it for core workouts since I have been slacking that department.

  • I would never buy it (too broke for that crap!), but I would try it. Use it all the time? I don't know, but it's worth a shot for free like you had :)

  • Well crumbbumbs! Oh well, it's not like I wanted it for myself, anyway.

  • That thing looks like SO MUCH FUN. TRX people, if you're out there, feel free to send me one of these things and I would be more than happy to review it! :D

  • Well, you know I love the gym BUT I have wanted this since I saw it & actually wrote about it a LONG time ago in my long lost blog where I could not get the posts to transfer over to my newer current site.

    I am so all about changing it up AND I do some workouts at home too. I am so wanting this!!!!! I can't even afford clothes so this system is not in my budget....

    OK, I know it is a random generator but I so want to be random this time!!!!! :-)

    Thx for getting this as a give away!

  • I think I may hurt myself on that looks dangerous for a klutz like! I can just see my husband coming home to find me hanging from the door tangled in a mess. Also, how do you make sure no one opens the door while you are using it? That could be a!

  • This thing is totally cool, but I think that the best setup is actually with a ceiling anchor. I took a couple of TRX classes at a gym I was trying out, and they had a monster rack for punching bags, from which we took down the bags and hung up, our TRXes.

    I don't think that you can get nearly as good a workout without the range of motion that having the thing directly above your head allows. Of course, I say this having done zero research on the website about alternate exercises. Testing that laziness thing, along with Merry.

    The door anchor looks fine for travel, but until I can figure out how to put that X-anchor in my ceiling without my guests wondering what kind of porn I'm making, I can't justify the $ to workout value ratio. Although I guess if I were making porn, I'd have more money to spend on the TRX. Theoretically.

    Anyhoo, I love the thing and one day perhaps I'll get one. The size and weight sure fits my "equipment I'll actually buy" criteria. So far, jump rope and kettlebell are the only things I've actually been willing to shell out for, what with my space constraints. (Paint me green with envy at those of you who have a *whole room* you can devote to exercising. Of course, I have the vast majority of San Francisco pretty much at my frickin' doorstep, so I can't complain too loudly.)

    word verification: zingi
    The sound the TRX makes when the door anchor fails and it flings madly across the room. "Zingi!"

    said essbee on August 8, 2009 at 7:33 PM
  • I'm with POD, I'd probably end up in the hospital. I'm the one who still hasn't figured out that when you bike with clip-in pedals, you have to actually unclip before you stop.

    Nevertheless, I love home stuff. I actually use my weights and big ball-thingy. Head out of the gutter, please.

  • This thing is a total piece of junk. I bought it thinking I could tone up, but I barely broke a sweat on the most difficult exercises, and I am not in shape by any means. It took nearly an hour for my heart rate to elevate. Then the cheap thing broke on me, forcing me to fall and I am barely a buck fifty. The only thing worse than the item was the customer service of fitness anywhere who told me they would not replace it. Don't buy it unless you want to break something.

    said Anonymous on February 2, 2010 at 5:08 PM
  • So the gym that my wife and I belong to just started giving classes on this system. We (especially I) work out pretty regularly and I just left a job that required me to lift LARGE people at least 10-12 times a day. So we're not unfit people. That being said:


    I'd recommend this to anyone who wants to do a total body workout that leaves you feeling it in just an hour. We're seriously considering purchasing after having used it at the gym. Of course we had the benefit of an expert trainer guiding us and I think that made a big difference. If you have that chance, TRY IT! You'll either love it, or never think about it ever again.

    said Anonymous on February 22, 2010 at 9:43 PM
  • A guy at my gym showed me this, and gave me one of the best workouts i ever had, but i just want to point out you can make this for under $20 (not including the videos of course) just go to a fabric store and buy nylon webbing (like the material that comes with a napsack handle/arm) then tie that to two handles (like from an old resistance band) or just be creative and find something to substitue for handles.

    said Anonymous on March 2, 2010 at 11:57 AM
  • It's waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too expensive. I'll stick to my gym membership or just dumbelles, and elastic bands for home.

    said Anonymous on March 4, 2010 at 11:57 AM
  • I've been working one-on-one with a TRX personal trainer for the past 6 weeks and am addicted. We work out outside which is great. He usually attaches the straps to a basketball hoop. We combine the TRX with drills such as running stairs, quick foot work and medicine balls (power throws, lifts, etc. these are the best:

    When we started, I could barely do the suspension "pike" (plank position, feet suspended in TRX straps, lifting butt until you're in a triangle). Now I can bang out 10+ with ease.

    So far, I've lost almost 8lbs, probably an impressive amount of body fat (didn't measure in the beginning) and gained all sorts of new muscles.

    I would personally suggest that beginners work with a trainer at least once or twice to ensure you're using proper form — you won't get anything out of it and can risk hurting yourself if you're not at the right angles, etc. If that's not possible, maybe a mirror or just really good body awareness is fine.

    This system is fun and highly effective when used properly!

  • Cool! I didn't realize you were a TRX fan too. I got mine in December, and it's still really hard for me. I can barely lift my face off my forearms when doing the plank!

    said Anonymous on April 19, 2010 at 6:25 PM
  • I would have never considered buying this a month ago. But, I recently started taking TRX Suspension Training classes with a trainer....OMG, it is the BEST thing I have ever done. Amazing workout, better than anything at the gym. I think before you buy this product, you should try a class first, you could hurt yourself (like any exercise) if not done right. Seriously, the best piece of equipment you could ever invest in, so worth it!

    said Anonymous on October 25, 2010 at 7:20 PM
  • Which part is the door anchor? Can you get away with just buying the door anchor? $25... or does it not come with the strappy things?

  • The TRX + Kettlebells are an awesome combo. I've been in some of the best shape of my life, and I haven't been to a gym in over a year.

    said Anonymous on February 18, 2011 at 12:18 PM
  • Looks like an interesting system. I am looking forward to using this system outside in the summer months. I will just hook it to the soccer nets. I'm sure there will be a couple of fat out of shape hecklers. They can watch me meet attractive women in the bars while they sit like losers in the corner.

    said Anonymous on April 27, 2011 at 3:05 PM
  • I just tried a TRX demo at my gym. One word. SOLD. This is an amazing workout that is awesome for ALL levels of fitness. However, I do recommend that if you are a beginner or weekend warrior, you take the time to get properly introduced to the system. As with all exercise, proper position is essential with TRX. I would imagine trying to figure it out on your own would be a little overwhelming. Hook up with a buddy who may have some experience in pilates or yoga. I dare every muscle head out there to give it a go.

    said Anonymous on May 17, 2011 at 9:22 AM
  • this is a absolute waste of time, get a real workout with real free weights, and get a proper workout, this is a monkeys workout, did humans swing around in trees? one thing i can possibly see how this nonsense can increase bone density without providing compressive stresses in larger bones -tibia/ fibia. This is just another gimmick. Save your money and get some dumbells and do a real workout. I'd be surprised if this comment gets posted .

    said Anonymous on July 20, 2011 at 12:22 PM
  • I just made my own for about $30 last night. (You can find how to videos on youtube) I think suspension training is a great addition to an overall training program. The $150 and up price tag was just way too much for me to pay!

    said Anonymous on August 6, 2011 at 6:56 AM
  • I have been using this for about 5 months and it kicks my butt. I dont do repeitions, but sets by time. i started with 35 seconds for each workout and worked up to 55 seconds now. I am a cross country distance runner and it helped me a lot. I mix in classic workouts like plyo boxes, burpees, jump rope, etc and alternate one TRX workout with one of those. 3-4 sets once a week got me really fit.

    said Anonymous on October 24, 2011 at 12:23 PM


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