Top 10 Suspension Training Exercises Everyone Should Know

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TRX rows
Stew Smith, Military.com's tactical fitness expert, demonstrates TRX rows. (Stew Smith)

Over the past decade, I have learned hundreds of suspension training exercises using the TRX.

This is a list and descriptions of my personal favorites that I find easy to do, but it is challenging and a perfect complement to calisthenics and weight-training programs completed throughout the year. If you are not familiar with suspension training, check out Randy Hetrick -- the inventor and founder of TRX. He and his team are responsible for creating a new fitness genre -- suspension training -- that has been revolutionary, especially for people in the tactical professions when facilities and time are limited on deployments and tough work cycles.

The TRX is one of the best core training devices I have used. Search YouTube.com for TRX exercises, and you will find an army of people posting fun and challenging exercises. You will see that you work your core with all of my favorite exercises below. You will have a mix of upper-body/core, lower-body/core and challenging core exercises to mix into your programs. Here are my favorite exercises either to supplement a traditional calisthenics/weights program or replace it:

Upper-Body/Core Exercises

TRX rows: Lean back with arms extended and bring your chest to your hands by "rowing" or pulling yourself to a bent arm position. It is easy to mix in squats between each pull during the extended arm part of the exercise for a quick full-body movement.

TRX rows

TRX reverse flies (aka wide rows): Keep your arms straight and pull yourself forward. Keep your hands about shoulder height by flexing your upper back.

TRX reverse flies

TRX high rows: Keep your arms straight and pull yourself forward but with your hands over your head by flexing your upper back/rear deltoids.

TRX high rows

TRX atomic push-ups: Upper body with a transition into core section. Place feet into foot straps and get into the push-up position. Bring your knees up toward your stomach, straighten your legs and do a push-up. Repeat knee-up/push-up cycle for multiple reps.

TRX atomic pushups

TRX knees to alternate elbows (between push-ups)You can mix in a push-up between these twisting exercises or just bring your knees to your left elbow for a rep and to the right elbow for a rep. Do at least 10 each side.

TRX knees to elbows

Any TRX exercise forces the user to engage the core. No matter what exercise you are doing, the core will be involved. The next three exercises are even more core focused.

Challenging Core Exercises

Suspended TRX plank (left, right, regular): Get into the push-up position, with your feet in TRX straps. Twist to one side and drop to an elbow. Bring the top arm under your torso 10-15 times and then switch sides. Or just hold the side plank for one minute each side without moving.

TRX crunches: This crunch only works if you push down on the straps as you perform a standard crunch. It intensifies the crunch significantly.

TRX crunches

TRX rollout: This is similar to a plank pose with some movement added in. Hold yourself in the plank pose for 30-60 seconds like this for a challenge. Place your forearms into the foot straps of the TRX just below your elbows. Lean forward in a plank pose so your TRX is vertical with the ground. Then pull back with your abs/hips to a standing position. I like to place the straps about knee high off the ground. The lower you go, the harder this exercise is.

TRX rollouts

Lower Body/Core Exercises

TRX squats: These are actually a bit easier than a regular squat since you have the TRX pulling some of your body weight off your knees. I like to mix in a squat before every rep of the row series and biceps curls pictured above for a great full-body workout/warmup. If you want to make it a little harder, try the TRX one-legged squats. Now these are tough but easier than the pistol squat without the TRX. Lean back and keep one leg off the floor so you drop and rise with one leg doing all the work.

TRX squats step 1
TRX squats step 2

TRX suspended lunge: This is a dynamic leg exercise combining balance with lunges and proper hand movement of running.

TRX suspended lunge

TRX leg curls: Place heels in the TRX as shown. Lift your hips off the ground and curl your legs toward your hips. Go lightly as this really flexes your hamstrings.

TRX leg curls step 1
TRX leg curls step 2

With the above list of exercises, the user engages the upper-body push muscles of the chest, shoulders and triceps. The upper-body pull muscles (back and biceps) also are engaged. The entire core is engaged throughout, meaning, hips, abs, obliques, lower back, upper back and shoulder girdle. And the lower body (hips, thighs, hamstrings, calves), as well as balance, is incorporated into this series of 10 exercises.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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