Sometimes, looks can be deceiving. At first glance, the TRX Suspension Trainer Professional appears to consist of about $20 of webbing and buckles, which is indeed the case. But this package is actually a comprehensive portable gym with a kick-butt workout program that can challenge the most advanced and be adaptable to beginners.
Originally designed by a U.S. Navy SEAL, Randy Hetrick, this system of straps allowed soldiers to maintain fitness while deployed far from a conventional gym. After leaving the military, he founded Fitness Anywhere (an aptly named company) to refine and market the suspension trainer.
The TRX system comes in a mesh stuff sack the size of a cantaloupe and weighs about 2.5 pounds. All that is needed is a solid attachment point (tree limb, pull-up bar, eyebolt in a stud, playground equipment, jungle gym, etc.) roughly 6 to 8 feet off the ground that is capable of holding a user’s body weight. For those on the road, the TRX Door Anchor even lets you workout in a hotel room and will not damage wood or paint.
As the name implies, suspension training uses bodyweight for resistance. The beauty of the TRX system is the well-designed, full-body program that comes on a DVD with a folding exercise guide. Compared to other fitness DVDs we’ve viewed, this one has excellent production and packaging. Scoff all you want, even the conditioned athlete will find this 30-minute program a serious workout. Fortunately, it can be scaled down to any level of fitness (all exercises can be modified as needed) so even couch potatoes need not fear the exercises.
Those in the fitness world will appreciate that the TRX workouts are both closed-chain (a person uses his or her own bodyweight and resistance against the ground) and highly functional, meaning they use multiple muscles and joints at once so the routine and results transfer well to real-world demands. The web site also offers free mini-videos with additional exercises to incorporate into your program.
Fitness Anywhere also offers other DVD packages. We tried the Core Strength, Volume 1 DVD and found that the two workouts are brutal enough to satisfy the Pilates mat workout crowd. The Military Fitness package is designed for the CrossFit cult as a high-intensity 12-week program. The company plans to release 10 more DVD programs in 2008, including more core training and sport-specific workouts.
We also tried the Talon Trainer accessory, which is meant to increase hand and finger strength. For folks interested in general hand and finger strength, the accessory provides decent training, but anyone who is serious about pursuits such as climbing should use a hangboard instead.
After training with the TRX Suspension Trainer, we are convinced that it's a superb system that truly can be used almost anywhere. However, it's hard for us to get past the product's steep price. Granted, the TRX has been designed well, the construction is sold and it's made with quality materials. But if it were sold below the magic $100 price point, the TRX would attract a much larger audience, and it would entice buyers to eventually purchase the add-ons.
SNEWS® Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $150 (DVDs, $35; door anchor, $20; Talon Trainer, $20)
For more information: www.fitnessanywhere.com