When you are trying to build strength, your first impulse may be to head to the bench press or row machine. Big muscles require weightlifting, right?
Yes and no. While weightlifting is an effective form of training, it focuses on isolated muscle groups. For a full-body training experience, you may want to give suspension training a try. This dynamic exercise leverages multiple muscle groups as you work against gravity and use your own body weight to build muscle and strength.
Weight training is a tried-and-true TRX alternative. Countless body builders around the world swear by lifting weights but gym memberships can get expensive and not everyone is comfortable working out in public. Never mind the knowledge that is required to learn how to use some of the machines at the gym.
The TRX suspension training system was designed to be used at home or on the go. It is easy to setup and does not require extra equipment or machines.
So, which is better? It depends on what you want to achieve and where you like to work out. Read on to learn if suspension training meets your strength-building goals!
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How Does Weightlifting Work?
Weight training can be broken down into two types: weightlifting, in which you lift free weights such as dumbbells, and weighted machine training, in which you perform a rhythmic exercise with an apparatus. In either case, you can choose the weight you are comfortable with lifting.
The lifting of weight results in resistance that builds strength as your muscles break down and repair themselves. Every time they do this, the muscle fibers become denser. This allows them to contract with less energy and more power, which makes you stronger.
The problem is that weightlifting is a slow, highly isolated process. Contrary to popular belief, overworking your muscles or lifting more reps at a higher weight will not make you stronger faster. You should gradually work up to lifting heavy weights. However, if you keep the weights too light, you do not gain the benefits of muscle rebuilding.
Weight training is excellent for improving small muscle groups, such as your biceps, triceps, latissimus, and so on. However, you often don’t improve your endurance. And it can be difficult to use free weights to train your core — the center of all strength! Also, if any muscle groups are imbalanced, i.e. you’ve built up your arms but neglected your back, you’re more prone to injury.
How Does TRX Suspension Training Work?
There are several TRX alternatives on the market, but the original TRX suspension trainer is the one we will be comparing. TRX stands for Total Resistance Exercises. As the name suggests, it takes the basic principle that resistance = muscle-building and applies it to the whole body. Because you can’t exactly hold a dumbbell with your belly or legs, TRX relies on suspension training that lifts your body off of the ground towards a vertical or horizontal point. This gives your muscles a chance to push against an opposing force. Instead of working just one muscle, you work several, at the same time.
TRX exercises often resemble pilates or acrobatics; you do planks, pushups, step-outs, and even inversions, but with resistance that makes your muscles work harder. This way, you can actually build strength throughout your entire body. You cannot adjust the resistance as you could with free weights or a machine, but you can work up to more reps, more suspension, and greater stability, which improves your endurance.
Suspension training equipment is the perfect way to perform TRX because your body must work against a fixed force — usually an overhead object that your muscles need to pull against. So, while a typical chest press has your butt securely locked into a seat, a suspension chest press requires you to engage your legs, glutei, and core to perform the exercise.
The result? A full-body resistance workout that gets all your muscle groups working in tandem.
Weight Training vs. TRX
So, which one is better? Is weightlifting a suitable TRX alternative? To figure that out, let’s break down the pros and cons of each:
Weight training includes both free weights (weightlifting, including seated or supine movements such as the chest press or shoulder press) and weighted machines in which you engage your muscles to perform a movement with resistance (e.g. a rowing machine, chest press, leg press, etc.). It works by forcing your muscles to move progressively heavier weights. Each time they break down and re-build, you get stronger.
Pros and Cons of Weight
- If you’re lifting free weights, you’re able to adjust your resistance beyond what regular movement would provide You can also work out with a decent range of motion.
- If you’re using weighted machines, you can maintain good form and isolate muscle groups for greater growth.
- There is a limited variety of free weights: dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells. All require your hands, which means free weights are ideal for upper body exercises or providing a bit of resistance to full-body exercises e.g. squats.
- Weighted machines can overtrain isolated muscle groups, leading to imbalanced strength-building. They also don’t build endurance or help different muscle groups work together.
- Overall, weight training is not great for building cohesive core strength. You must work out each muscle group (abs, back, obliques, etc.) separately.
Do Weight Training if:
You’re looking to isolate and build certain muscle groups.
You are looking for a TRX alternative for different days of your workout.
You want resistance levels beyond what gravity would provide.
You’re unsure of your form and want guidance from a machine.
TRX Suspension Training:
Suspension training combines gravity and your own bodyweight to provide resistance. Because your movements are not isolated to certain muscle groups, you have to provide more stability. This helps you build overall strength. Suspension training requires a fixed point such as a pole or an overhead beam to provide the opposing force.
Pros and Cons of TRX
- TRX gives you a unique opportunity to perform full-body resistance workouts. Rather than isolating a muscle group, you can train multiple groups to work in tandem, building overall strength. This, in turn, improves endurance.
- Suspension training can be done anywhere there is a fixed point. You don’t need dumbbells or machines to get in a good workout. In fact, working out in unusual spaces can help you perform more dynamic workouts that build resilience.
- TRX suspension training is fantastic for core training. By its very nature, you have to maintain a strong core to perform the exercises. You can also invert, plank, lean out, and do other movements that would be challenging with free weights.
- Suspension training does require you to maintain good form, or else you could be injured. If you struggle to position yourself properly or are brand new to exercise, you may want to start with some light free weights or a machine. However, TRX can be adapted to anyone’s fitness level with a bit of guidance.
- TRX has a limited resistance level. You cannot increase the force of gravity! However, you can perform more reps or change your body position to achieve a more intense workout.
Do TRX Suspension Training if:
You’re looking to build overall strength.
You want to improve your stability and coordinate your muscle groups.
You’re eager to work out, at home, outside, or wherever you like.
You want to do more dynamic movements as you strength-train.
So, which approach is right for you? The two are not mutually exclusive, although you should be wary of overexerting yourself or overtraining certain muscle groups. However, if you’re interested in taking your workouts outdoors, incorporating more dynamic movements, or training your core, try TRX suspension training. It’s the workout you can do anywhere, using only your own bodyweight and the force of gravity to build strength and resilience.