TRX Core Progressions
I know I spend a lot of time talking about the TRX, but it’s becoming so popular in a variety of gyms and niche fitness facilities around the world that I’d be remiss not to. Today, we’re going to look at some of the most effective core exercises that utilize the TRX along with their progressions. Add each set of three movements to the end of your workout – any workout that has room for a few extra sets – and work your way from beginner to advanced. Spend two to four weeks at each stage and focus on mastering the technique of each exercise.
Plank, 3xTough: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D-CKLeitwc8
Whether it’s performed on the ground or on the TRX, the plank isn’t an easy movement…but you have to start somewhere. Use the plank to help build a foundation of core strength that will transfer to more difficult and more awesome movements. Set the straps to mid-calf length, lay prone on the floor, and place your feet in the cradles. Pop up into a plank position on your forearms with feet suspended in the cradles, tighten your core, and hold. Make sure you stay in a straight plank position throughout the movement. If you've never done a plank before, you can use intervals to make the learning process easier – 5 seconds up, 10 seconds rest, 5 seconds up, and so on.
Resisted Sit up, 3x12: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UETjQ2UZS0
This is going to feel like a weird movement, but just give it a few minutes of practice. It’s a basic sit up that uses the TRX straps as a form of resistance instead of a dumbbell, kettle bell, or medicine ball. Set the straps to mid-calf length and sit down on the floor facing the anchor point. Grab the handles with both hands, lean back until you’re flat on the floor, and bend your knees. This is the starting point. From here, perform a sit up while pressing down hard on the handles. The last part is the most important – pushing into the handles will help activate your core, similar to the way adding weight does.
Side Plank w/ Hip Drop, 3xTough: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2CftIJ4uRw
This plank variation should be more difficult than the first plank we talked about, but don’t shy away from it. Plus, there’s an added “hip drop” that helps build lateral strength. Set the straps to mid-calf and lay down on the floor, just like you would during a normal plank. Now, roll to your side and place your feet in the cradles. Pop up onto one forearm and hold the other arm at your side. Hold the side plank position for a few seconds, then drop your hips towards the floor – just a few inches is fine. Alternate between hip drops and plank holds throughout the set. Whether you’re holding or dropping, pay attention to your hips – no tilting or rolling, and no sagging during the plank.
Pendulum, 3x20 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV4X60X5LE0
This TRX exercise is all about controlling your momentum to create a fantastic movement for your obliques and core stabilizers. Set the straps to mid-calf length and drop into a plank position. Slowly begin to swing your legs to the side with your hips. As you alternate from side to side, you’re going to build up solid speed. Keep this speed in check by locking out hips into place. Allow them to rotate with each swing, but don’t let them move too far from the initial plank position. Practice a few times before ratcheting your speed up, as it may feel a little awkward at first.
Kneeling Rollout, 3x8: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3Q3n9MbHgs
I’m a big fan of the more well-known variation of this exercise, the barbell rollout. It’s the same movement performed with a barbell instead of the TRX. If you’re all about the TRX though, this is a perfectly acceptable option. Set the straps to mid-calf length, drop down to your knees facing away from the anchor point, and place your hands in the handles. Start by pushing your body forward with your hips, then allow your arms to stretch out in front of you until you’re in a straight line from knees to fingertips. Helpful hint: keep going until you feel above average pressure in your lower back. Tighten your core, push your hands down, and pull your hips back to return to the start.
Oblique Crunch, 3x10/side: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjfIOXUBNtM
Crunches don’t have the best reputation anymore, especially with all of the innovative new exercises that hit the field on a daily basis. But the TRX helps change that with the oblique crunch. Set the straps to mid-calf length and set up in a plank position – the very first exercise we talked about. To get a feel for the motion, pull your knees towards your chest. That’s a crunch. This time, pull your knees towards your chest while twisting to one side. That’s where the word oblique comes in. When you make the twisting motion, try to limit the rotation to below chest-level. For extra difficulty, add a pause at the beginning and end of the movement.
Single Leg Mountain Climber, 3x30 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqHqVXGo6LU
Sure, you can do regular mountain climbers on the floor without a TRX. And admittedly, there are a few more variations. But these are too effective (and fun) to ignore. Once again, set the straps to mid-calf length and drop into a plank position. This time, you only want one foot in the cradle. Hold the other, fully extended, out to the side. Just as you would in a traditional mountain climber, alternate pulling each knee towards each elbow. You’ll quickly notice that your base of stability is limited – keep your core tight and your hips straight to help limit rotation. To help keep this movement fresh, you can also perform it with only the TRX leg moving – keep the other extended for the entire set. As always, maintain a solid plank position, avoiding excessive lower back flexion and extension.
Overhead Back Extension, 3x8: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwPDPUl0pgY
We’re going to use this as a core exercise today, but it’s really a full body movement. It requires strength, coordination, and stability from your hips to your shoulders. Set the straps to mid-length and stand up straight, facing the anchor point. Grab both handles. Now, push your butt back while keeping your arms fully extended. Keep pushing until you’re in a 90-degree position – this is the start. In one powerful movement, drive your heels into the floor, explode forward with your hips, and pull the handles up and back. You’ll finish in a straight standing position. I used the word explode, but don’t treat this like a power exercise. You need to be strong and forceful, but too much power will have you finishing in lumbar hyperextension – we don’t want that.
Kneeling Oblique Rollout, 3x8/side: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waCl8bVz0w0
This movement reminds me of one of my favorite pull up variations that requires you to “slide” across the bar with each pull. The oblique rollout is similar and equally difficult. Set up exactly as you did for the kneeling roll out in the intermediate set. Push your hips forward to initiate the movement, but push your hands and body to your left instead of straight ahead. As you flatten out, “slide” to the right side and return at an angle to the starting position. For an easier variation, eliminate the semi-circular sliding motion and alternate the basic rollout movement to each side. Helpful hint: allow the handles to drop closer to the floor than in the video for the full rollout experience.