The phrase “functional fitness” is showing up more and more these days, which we are thrilled about because we truly believe TRX is a leader in the category. TRX was founded on the concept of functional fitness and developed 7 foundational movements to support that concept. TRX has used those foundational movements over the years to coach hundreds of fitness professionals around the world. We asked Shana Verstegen, a fitness pro and Senior Master Instructor for TRX, to expand on functional fitness and the WHY behind TRX’s 7 foundational movements.
TRX is a movement company. From the Suspension Trainer to the Rip Trainer and all of the fantastic functional training tools, the primary goal of TRX equipment is to help people MOVE BETTER. But why a focus on movement and not weight loss, strength, speed, power, stability, endurance, flexibility etc.? You can bet all of that and more can be improved through training with TRX, but without a foundation of proper functional movement, our ability to live, train, and perform is affected.
A typical gym workout may focus on sets for the quads, biceps, abdominals, shoulders, etc.This isn’t necessarily bad; however, our bodies understand MOVEMENT, not muscle. When your brain is controlling the body through a golf swing, it isn’t thinking about the individual muscles, but the coordination, connection, and overall movement that must occur. Thus, rather than a muscle group focus, TRX breaks down exercises into 7 major movement patterns, all of which directly map to sport and life.
There are endless exercises for each of the 7 foundational movements, but we chose some of our favorites that drive home the concept of functional fitness.
Here's some gear we'll use alongside the exercises:
1. THE PLANK
It is the gold standard strength move for the core, which is the foundation for all of our movement, spinal stability, and athleticism. A strong plank leads to proper posture, better mobility in the hips and shoulders, and more efficient power transfer.
Exercise: Standing Body Saw
Take advantage of the instability of the Suspension Trainer and train your body to maintain a strong and stable core while moving.
- With the straps fully lengthened, begin by standing facing away from the anchor point.
- Place your forearms into the foot cradles, align your elbows directly beneath your shoulders, and select an angle that is safe yet challenging.
- Maintaining stability in the rest of your body, press your forearms forward about 3 to 6 inches and then return to the starting position.
2. THE PULL
TRX was originally designed as a tool for pulling exercises and is, to this day, still considered the “kill of the pull” when it comes to functional fitness. Because of the single anchor point and freedom of movement allowed by the individual handles, the Suspension Trainer integrates the entire posterior chain; connecting the arms, shoulders, back, core, hips, and legs. Any movement from lifting a child up for a hug to climbing Devil’s Tower can benefit from pulling movements on the TRX.
The Exercise: TRX Single Arm Row
This movement captures all of the benefits of pulling with the Suspension Trainer in a unilateral fashion, making it even more functional (think about opening a heavy door with one hand) and engaging more of those valuable core muscles.
- With the straps fully shortened, hold onto only one handle and stand facing the anchor point.
- Begin at the end range of motion with both hands (even the non-working hand) at your rib cage.
- With shoulders down and back and ribs tucked in, slowly lower to a straight-arm position.
- Bending both elbows and maintaining a strong and straight plank, come back to that starting position.
3. THE PUSH
As enjoyable as bench presses and push-ups are, there is an actual value to this foundational movement over the obvious aesthetic benefits obtained. Pushing is essential for getting up off of the floor, placing a suitcase in the overhead compartment and even holding a child.
Exercise: TRX Chest Press
This exercise is a great example of holding a strong plank while demonstrating mobility in the shoulders and elbows. It is also easily modifiable for all levels of fitness.
- With the straps fully lengthened, stand facing away from the anchor point, hands directly beneath the shoulders and straps lifted slightly above your arms.
- While keeping the plank strong and straight, lower your body just above your hands, then return to a nice starting position.
4. THE HINGE
Quite possibly one of the most important foundational movements to master, a proper hinge is essential for bending and lifting, jumping, swinging, and landing. When done properly, a correct hinge can prevent debilitating back injuries and help athletes jump higher and land safer.
The Exercise: TRX Single Leg RDL
By placing a foot in the foot cradle, the straps can aid in stability for this challenging-yet-beneficial hinge movement.
- Set the Suspension Trainer at mid-calf length.
- Place your left foot into the foot cradles and plant your right foot slightly in front of the anchor point.
- Ground the right foot, slightly bend the right knee, and reach your left arm toward the ground, maintaining a neutral spine and open chest.
- Squeeze through your right glutes and return to a stand by unhinging at that hip.
5. THE SQUAT
Squatting is a foundational movement we develop even before walking. Take a moment to watch a toddler play with their toys. Notice the perfect squat? Humans start squatting properly at an early age, yet some lose the proper mechanics over time, thus associating squatting with knee and back pain. When done correctly, the squat is a safe and effective exercise for all populations. A well-done squat is essential for sitting and standing (think getting in and out of a car and yes, even using the restroom), mobility and strength to walk and run, lower body speed and power for athletes, and aesthetically, it is the number one builder of backsides.
The Exercise: TRX Squat
Are there harder ways to squat with the Suspension Trainer? Absolutely. But a fantastic benefit of using the straps for squatting is the ability to unload your joints, thus allowing for a deeper squat with better form. This exercise can be used on its own, or as movement prep before loaded squats in the squat rack.
- With the straps at mid length, stand facing the anchor point, hands slightly in front of your body and a touch of slack on the Suspension Trainer.
- Moving like an elevator (straight down and up) press the hips down and back with a neutral spine.
- Firmly pressing your feet into the floor, return to a stand.
6. THE LUNGE
If you walk, run, kick, jog, jump, sprint, change directions or quite frankly, move at all, lunges should be a staple of your exercise program. This gold-standard lower body movement maps directly to locomotion (walking and running) movement patterns while developing strength and mobility in your quads, hamstrings, glutes, back, core and stabilizer muscles. Lunging also helps develop balance, coordination and unilateral (one side or the other) strength, lending to its title as one of the most functional exercises around.
The Exercise: The TRX Assisted Lunge
Like the TRX Squat, this is not the most challenging way to lunge with the Suspension Trainer, however the straps allow us to master range of motion, alignment, and muscle activation in an unloaded environment before advancing to higher levels of this foundational movement.
- With the straps at mid length, stand facing the anchor point, hands slightly in front of your body and a touch of slack on the suspension trainer.
- Moving like an elevator (straight down and up) lower both knees to 90 degrees.
- Keeping a tall and upright posture, return to a standing position.
Our most frequently used foundational movement, rotation can be seen in all aspects of life. From lifting a child onto your hip to playing tennis, golf or pickleball we are always managing rotational forces. The Suspension Trainer is beneficial in helping develop rotational mechanics and power through improving core strength, balance, coordination, and overall spinal stability.
The Exercise: TRX Power Pull
The Power Pull incorporates the control and coordination necessary to keep the body planked and strong during rotation, and allows for speed and power, thus mimicking many athletic rotational movements such as swinging a tennis racquet or throwing a punch.
- With the straps at mid length, grab onto one handle in your right hand.
- Begin on the balls of your feet with the right hand set at your ribcage and your left arm extended up toward the anchor point.
- While maintaining a strong and straight plank, slowly unwind your left arm toward the floor and rock back to your heels.
- With speed and power return to the starting position.