Can TRX Replace Weight Training? The Answer Might Surprise You!

Can TRX Replace Weight Training?

Can TRX replace weight training? If I received a dollar every time someone asked me that question, I would be a millionaire!

The truth is, there is no yes or no to the question. It’s more complicated than that.

In the next couple of minutes, I’ll compare the two, look at their strengths and weaknesses, and hopefully help determine the best alternative for YOU.

What is the TRX System?

If you’re like most people, you probably wonder what the most effective way to train is. With the ever-growing number of options for equipment, it can be confusing.

One relatively new option is TRX, also known as total resistance exercise. This is suspension trainer equipment with a relatively simple purpose:

Use it to take advantage of your body weight in various movements to develop your pushing and pulling muscles. For example, you can use TRX for exercises like inverted rows, push-ups, and bodyweight bicep curls.

With some creativity, you can think of many exercises to target your back, chest, shoulders, arms, and core muscles. 

Popularized by Navy SEALs, the TRX suspension system shows promise, with some research backing it up as beneficial (1, 2, 3).

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TRX vs Weight Training

TRX is useful – there isn’t a debate there. But how does it stack up to weight training? Let’s take a look at a few things:

1. Versatility

Weight training can be incredibly versatile. There are hundreds of exercises to pick from, and you can use all sorts of equipment, including dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, traditional gym machines, cable stations, and more.

In contrast, TRX isn’t as varied. Sure, you have a training kit you can use for many activities, but it doesn’t come close to weight training because you’re somewhat limited on exercise selection. You also have a smaller list of isolation exercises to pick from and are mostly limited to challenging movements like inverted rows and push-ups.

Plus, training your lower body with TRX is difficult, and you might struggle to activate and develop the correct muscles.

2. Potential for Overload

In traditional weight training, the simplest way to cause overload is to lift heavier weights (4). Once a given weight gets to be too light, start lifting a heavier one, and you’re done.

TRX is different. Since you mostly have to rely on your body, causing overload is much more complicated. You might have to resort to weight vests, filling up a backpack with objects, or modifying exercises to make them more challenging.

In essence, both activities have great overloading potential. But weight training offers a more straightforward approach that appeals to most people.

3. Enjoyability

This is more of a subjective measure, but it matters. Fitness should be fun, and you should look forward to each upcoming workout. If you don’t, giving up becomes a matter of time.

In a general sense, TRX and weight training are enjoyable, especially if you love to push yourself hard and see your efforts rewarded. But weight training might be the better option in the long run, precisely thanks to the versatility factor discussed above.

You see, because weight training offers more options, you can vary your training in the long run, keep things fresh, and remain engaged. In contrast, TRX isn’t as good for that because you simply have fewer options to pick from. There are only so many activities you can do before you’ve tried everything.

4. Usefulness for All Types of People

Any healthy person can walk into a traditional gym and start weight training with simple movements like bicep curls, leg extensions, and lateral raises. Advanced folks can do more challenging exercises like deadlifts, barbell squats, and hip thrusts. There are also dozens of activities and training plans for beginners, advanced folks, and everyone in-between.

But TRX? Well, TRX isn’t as good as catering to all sorts of people. For instance, a complete beginner would likely struggle with TRX and find it overwhelming. The movements are complex and challenging, and if beginners don’t have a foundation to build upon, they are likely to give up soon after starting.

Still, TRX is great for intermediate and advanced folks, but beginners would be better off starting with traditional weight training.

Can TRX Replace Weight Training?

The most apparent drawback of the TRX system is the difficulty of training the lower body. Sure, you can do all sorts of movements for your upper body, but there isn’t as much you can do to strengthen your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. For that reason alone, TRX cannot fully replace weight training because movements like the Romanian deadlift, hip thrust, and squat will always be gold standards for lower body development (5, 6, 7).

With that said, TRX has value, and you can certainly use it to get stronger and build your upper body. Nothing is to say that you couldn’t even combine TRX with weight training. For example, you can do weight training two or three times per week and do a session or two of TRX.

In any case, both training options offer their unique benefits, and it wouldn’t be a mistake to do TRX, see how you like it, and decide from there.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is TRX as Good as Lifting Weights?

That depends on your exercise goals and, of course – your wallet. If you do not have several thousand dollars to invest in weights, a suspension trainer is an excellent alternative. By just investing a couple of hundred bucks, you will be able to work out all your body from the comfort of your own home.

While a suspension trainer does not offer the same range of exercises for your lower body, they are more than good enough for most people.

Is TRX Effective for Building Muscle?

Used correctly, TRX suspension trainers are excellent at building muscle. But suspension trainers are no different than other kinds of exercise equipment. To gain maximum effect, you will need to train hard – and watch your diet! Building muscle does not come easy; you will have to be dedicated – and work hard to reach your goals. Even the days you do not feel like working out,,,

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Can you get Ripped With TRX?

Getting ripped is not only about what exercise equipment you use – but just as much about the amount of sweat and dedication YOU are willing to offer. Either you are doing weight training, TRX, or calisthenics – it all starts within yourself. All types of exercise can get you ripped; it all comes down to the work YOU put in to reach your goal!

How Many Times a Week Should I do TRX?

Do TRX just as many times a week as you like! But for best results, you should try to fit in at least 3-4 20-minute sessions a week. Suspension trainers are super easy to set up, and you can use them practically everywhere! At work, in the park, at the hotel – no problem!

Tips: Listen to your body. If you feel fatigued or are injured, stop until your body is ready. If you do not feel better after a couple of days, consult your doctor for a medical opinion.

Final Words

TRX, also known as total resistance exercise, has become quite popular in recent years and many people wonder how effective it is.

As you saw, it offers some benefits, and it can work well enough. But, given that it doesn’t provide much for the lower body, weight training will remain your best option at strengthening your leg muscles.

Another alternative, though, might be resistance band training. Find out more about how resistance bands work – and how they might benefit you by visiting my MASSIVE strength-building resource.

See you there!

Other Helpful Resources

References

  1. Fong SS, Tam YT, Macfarlane DJ, et al. Core Muscle Activity during TRX Suspension Exercises with and without Kinesiology Taping in Adults with Chronic Low Back Pain: Implications for Rehabilitation. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:910168. doi:10.1155/2015/910168
  2. Gaedtke A, Morat T. TRX Suspension Training: A New Functional Training Approach for Older Adults – Development, Training Control and Feasibility. Int J Exerc Sci. 2015;8(3):224-233. Published 2015 Jul 1.
  3. Andrejeva J, Kasradze M, Mockiene A, Radziuviene R, Zakharchuk J. IMPACT OF TRX SUSPENSION TRAINING ON PATIENTS’ BALANCE, COORDINATION AND QUALITY OF LIFE AFTER TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY. Georgian Med News. 2020 Jan;(298):119-122. PMID: 32141863.
  4. Hostler D, Crill MT, Hagerman FC, Staron RS. The effectiveness of 0.5-lb increments in progressive resistance exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2001 Feb;15(1):86-91. PMID: 11708713.
  5. McAllister MJ, Hammond KG, Schilling BK, Ferreria LC, Reed JP, Weiss LW. Muscle activation during various hamstring exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jun;28(6):1573-80. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000302. PMID: 24149748.
  6. Neto WK, Vieira TL, Gama EF. Barbell Hip Thrust, Muscular Activation and Performance: A Systematic Review. J Sports Sci Med. 2019 Jun 1;18(2):198-206. PMID: 31191088; PMCID: PMC6544005.
  7. Clark DR, Lambert MI, Hunter AM. Muscle activation in the loaded free barbell squat: a brief review. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Apr;26(4):1169-78. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31822d533d. PMID: 22373894.