Features, Wellness

TRX Suspension Training provides challenging, portable resistance workout

You may have passed them by the Lyon Street stairs or at Baker Beach. People strapped into some kind of a harness that’s hitched to a pole, pulling with all their might. Crazy, you might think. But not if you want a workout that uses gravity and your own body weight to develop strength, balance, flexibility, and joint and core stability all at once. That’s TRX Suspension Training, used by 73 percent of personal trainers in 2011, along with coaches, professional athletes, physical therapists, celebrities, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

U.S. Navy SEAL squadron commander Randy Helnick developed the TRX Suspension Trainer when looking for a way to stay in peak condition while away on missions. The original TRX was a simple training harness made from parachute webbing stitched together with boat repair tools. The equipment evolved into what the TRX Suspension Trainer is today: a portable, lightweight harness with handles that weighs less than two pounds and can be attached to any secure anchor point, indoors or out. Many people take it with them when traveling. TRX Rip Training complements Suspension Training by adding a lever bar and resistance cord that provides a complete body workout.

Basic resistance exercises done with the TRX suspension system include chest presses, lunges, squats, planks, twists, and crunches. What makes the exercises different is that either your hands or your feet are holding onto or are secured by the handles. So performing basic chest presses or lunges means you pull against your own body weight with the harness. TRX workouts focus on functional fitness, meaning the exercises are developed to work the muscles (especially the core muscles) you use in everyday life, whether it’s bending down to pick up a bag of groceries or playing pick-up basketball with your kids. By strengthening your muscles, you’ll not only be less prone to injury, but you’ll burn calories and help fight bone loss.

While TRX small-group training classes are offered at many gyms, including the Presidio YMCA and the San Francisco Jewish Community Center, the newly renovated TRX Training Center is based on Russian Hill. There you can choose from TRX body blast, circuit training, endurance training, power stretch, and the TRX boot camp, which is taught both indoors and outdoors. All the classes use the TRX Training System with long straps suspended from the ceiling and easy-to-reach handles.

Lest you think this is too hard a workout, TRX exercises can be tailored to meet individual needs whether you’re a fitness buff or new to exercising. I tried a body blast class and found that while the exercises were familiar, having my feet suspended in the air while doing, for instance, a plank, was quite challenging. And most sets of moves are repeated four-to-five times meaning you’ll do a lot of them in a 55-minute class. Despite the tough workout and the cheerfully pushy instructor, the upbeat music and the groans and laughter of those in the class (men and women of different ages and abilities) made the experience lots of fun. Not so much fun was the soreness the next day, but I’m still going back for more.

First-time clients can purchase three classes for $45, which expires 30 days from the first class; 30 days of unlimited classes for $100; and one week of unlimited classes for $60. The drop-in fee is $20, and there are other class packages available. For more information visit

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