TRX home suspension training system - review

What is it?

A portable suspension trainer, loved by US military types and personal trainers, that tightens the core more far effectively than the bog-standard elbow-to-knee crunch. It also improves functional strength, balance and flexibility. Suspension trainers have been knocking around the mainstream for a while in the United States ... and now they're coming to a gym near you (if they haven't already).

How does it work?

The TRX doesn't look like an exercise device par excellence: it's just two bee-coloured adjustable straps, a pulley system and stirrups/handles for the feet or hands. But appearances are deceptive. Wrap it round a sturdy branch, or through the gap of a closed door at home, and - provided you know what you are doing - the TRX will provide a punishing workout with a tweak of the straps and your body position, and letting gravity do the rest.

What's so good about it?

It's portable. It's different. And it works. After a month of regular TRXing, my stomach muscles were harder and my posture was significantly better. And it was fun too. There are multiple variations of basic exercises such as squats and push-ups, as well as ridiculously tough planks and suspension exercises to work through. You can focus on strength or flexibility, or put exercises together in a sequence with short breaks for more of a cardio workout.

"All sports - whether it's running, skiing, golf or lifting weights - require a strong core," UK master trainer Matt Gleed told me. "Whatever sport you do, there are suitable exercises to help you." The existence of golf and tennis-specific TRX DVDs suggests he's right.

How easy is it to use?

Very - once you know what you are doing. The TRX comes with a basic workout DVD, which offers a decent - if slightly corny - run through of over a dozen exercises. But to get the best use of the TRX it's worth booking a lesson or two with a specialist personal trainer, as there are principles - such as squeezing the core, making sure the straps don't slacken and the posture is correct - that are best explained by an expert.

How much does it cost?

TRX Pro Pack Basic starts at £129.50. To use the TRX at home you will need a separate door anchor, which costs £21.78.

Perfect if ...

You want to try something new and you are already at least reasonably fit. Many of those shouting loudest about suspension training are personal trainers themeselves: that's perhaps because they can get the most out of the device.

Best avoided if ...

You are new to fitness. It is a great tool, but you probably need to know the basics of exercise, or have someone to show you, to get the most out of the TRX.

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