TRX vs. traditional bodyweight exercises

TRX vs. Traditional Bodyweight Exercises

Here’s a question that has piqued the interest of weightlifting and fitness geeks (there is such a thing): Which is better: TRX vs. traditional bodyweight exercises?

In a study presented last month at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting, the answer appears to be TRX.

TRX is a brand of suspension training. The straps dangle from a hook overhead. The users put their feet or hands in loops at the bottom, then raise and lower themselves in various positions.

Advantages of TRX vs. Traditional Bodyweight Exercises

Advocates have argued that TRX and other types of suspension training have an advantage over traditional weightlifting. In traditional weightlifting, you keep most of your body stable while using a few muscles in a precise motion. That’s especially true if you use weight machines instead of free weights.

Also read: TRX vs. Weightlifting

Exercising only a few carefully chosen muscles is helpful if you are a body builder and you want to make particular muscles pop out.

It’s also helpful if you want to strengthen one body part without straining another part that has been injured.

But the human body has 640 muscles (or more depending on how you define a muscle). To improve your performance in sports or in daily life, and to avoid injury, you should strengthen as many as possible. Also you want to exercise your nerves, blood vessels, tendons, etc.

That’s why bodyweight exercises have become more popular in recent years. When you do a pushup, for example, you use muscles in your shoulders, back and abdomen, as well as your chest.

Traditional Pushup by Scott Malin

Suspension training offers an additional advantage because the straps tend to move around. You have to exert more strength, and use even more body parts, to stabilize yourself while doing the TRX version of a pushup.

TRX Pushup by Wattage

“In TRX you have to control for all the vectors in all the different planes,” says Sean Harris, a physical therapist at Texas Woman’s University. (Yes, they allow men at TWU.)

The TRX Research

In a study I covered at last year’s ACSM meeting, researchers assigned some people to life weights and some to do TRX for seven weeks. Then they measured how much more weight each group could lift. The changes were similar. TRX came out ahead on some, weightlifting on others.

In the new study, Harris and his colleagues compared TRX vs. traditional bodyweight exercises. Instead of measuring strength, they used surface electrodes to measure the electrical activity that shows muscles are working. They placed these electrodes in eight places on the torsos of 25 healthy adults.

They measured more muscle activity when these subjects did the TRX versions than the traditional bodyweight versions of traditional bodyweight exercises done on the floor.

In this chart, the smaller the P value, the more significant the difference in favor of TRX vs. traditional bodyweight exercises.

Exercise Muscles
Plank Obliques: .021
Pushup Pectoralis: .002, Rectus abdominus: .0001, Obliques: .019, Rhomboids: .0001 Erector Spinae .006
Row Deltoid: .016, Rectus Abdominus: .059, Obliques: .027
Bridge Rectus Abdominus .013, Erector Spinae .0001

Not only the stabilizer muscles, but the primary ones fired more when doing TRX vs. traditional bodyweight exercises, Harris said.

Featured photo: “TRX/Tricep Pushup” by Positively Fit

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