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.
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.
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).