How You Can Build Muscle with the TRX Suspension Training System

A Marine firefighter trains with the TRX system.
David Pacileo, firefighter with the Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., Security and Emergency Services Fire Department, trains with the TRX system at the Yermo Annex fire station on May 26, 2015. (Carlos Guerra/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

An email from a firefighter instructor looking for advice on creating a fitness maintenance plan and fitness-building program for his major city firefighters prompted an answer that was diverse in its ability, yet cost effective. 

"I think your recent publication of Fire Fighter Workout and Public Safety Diver training cross over very well. The problem on our job is that the level of fitness varies dramatically from 22-year-old probationary firefighters just out of the military to 60-year-old guys that don't exercise and are in terrible condition. Any recommendations?"

Thanks for your feedback on the Fire Fighter and Safety Diver programs. I agree. The workouts are not helpful for a 60-year-old who does not exercise, yet still wears a firefighter uniform. Perhaps the "45 Day Beginner Program" (PDF) could be helpful in that situation for the folks who need to lose weight and get more fit.

The advice listed in this article will apply not only to the firefighter fitness component, but also to everyone looking for the next step in their fitness journey. An option for the Fire Department is the TRX suspension training system. Suspension training may be an answer to your department's budget, but it also may answer the needs of your firefighters with functional strength and maintenance requirements. I have been using the TRX as well as taking the suspension trainer course recently and honestly felt my abs so much the next day, it hurt to laugh.

More TRX suspension trainer articles:

I compared a typical multi-station weight machine that allows for more than 20 different exercises with the TRX, and this is what I found:

Multi-Station Weight Machine

TRX with DVD Fitness Program

Above Average Home GymMilitary/LE Force Training KIT
Chest press (one angle)Chest press (any angle)
Lat pulldownsLat pulldowns
Lat rowsLat rows
Leg pressLunges, squats
Abs crunch stationAbs, core, lower back, obliques
Leg curls/leg extensionLeg curls, plus hips and abs
Pec deck -- flyes stationFlyes/rear deltoids
Cable rows for single arm/leg movementSingle arm, leg, hip movement training
Hips and inner/outer thigh cablesHips, and inner/outer thigh movements
High/low pulley functionFunction adjusts to any height
Chart with 20 exercise optionsTwo charts with more than 100 exercises
No exercise DVD/user videoDVDs for every level of fitness
Weighs 1,600 poundsPortable (weighs 4 pounds)
Cost - $2500 plus assemblyCost - $199.95

The diversity of this training system and programming is unique in its development but simple to perform, though you will be challenged as every movement requires balance and core strength. If you do not have either, the TRX will develop it and take care of all the neglected muscle groups your regular program misses. This can be done as a supplemental plan for athletes, or it can be a stand-alone program for people at every level of fitness.

I have counted over 75 different exercises you can do with the TRX and I am learning new ones daily. You can see many of these in video format on the Fitness Anywhere website.

After researching the TRX when the National Strength and Conditioning Association endorsed the device and its programs, it was clear to see why professional athletes like LaDainian Tomlinson of the Chargers, and Mixed Martial Arts champions like Bas Rutten, military Special Ops teams, military boot camp, SWAT teams and other law enforcement agencies are using the Suspension Training TRX.

Statistics from military test sites on the device show 50% increases in job performance (i.e., ruck marches, PT tests) and more than an 80% decrease in injury prevention, compared to those not using the TRX in training. Swim teams are reporting seconds off their team times in all races. But most importantly, the intensity of the TRX is totally scalable, and by a simple positioning of the feet or hands, it can be an exercise for a pro athlete or an inactive senior citizen.

The TRX was invented by a former Navy SEAL to help his teammates exercise when deployed. His idea has turned into a multimillion-dollar business and created a revolutionary fitness device that is the future of functional training for everyone, including military Special Ops, law enforcement, firefighters and athletic performance training as well. 

Note: Stew Smith,'s tactical fitness expert, does not work for TRX and only endorses products that he personally uses with his students and personal programs. The TRX is sold on his website, but is one of a few products endorsed by Programs.

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

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