The TRX is an excellent tool for working the muscles in the back, but coming up with new exercise variations for your own training can be a challenge. It can also be hard if you’re a personal trainer who has the habit of using the same exercises day in day out. That’s why we created this list of 8 TRX back exercises that you can use in your workouts whether at home or in the gym.
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The TRX is such a beneficial tool for beginners because it allows them to build a foundation of strength using a tool that is very simple and non-technical. Kettlebells and dumbbells can add complexity to training that many beginners may not be ready for. Some of the simple exercises in the list, like the TRX row eccentric and the TRX top of row isometric are some of the easiest horizontal pull exercises available in the entirety of our movement library. This simplicity is a huge advantage to those who may be starting from a challenging position, be it that they are overweight, have suffered a serious injury or have had reduced mobility for an extended period of time.
Do not think that because the TRX back exercises are excellent for true beginners that they are not also effective for advanced individuals. There are some extremely challenging exercises in this list that even the most advanced individuals will find challenging. The TRX feet elevated row or the TRX feet elevated top of row isometric will be beneficial to a very advanced individual. Also the use of pauses and tempos to other more intermediate exercises like the TRX archer row will render a wide variety of these exercises effective for advanced individuals.
The TRX allows us to start from a true beginner positon and progress through to far more challenging exercises, essentially it allows us to apply the principle of progressive overload . This is a huge advantage as we can create a road map of how we can progress the back using the TRX no matter the starting point. For example, someone who starts on the TRX Row will be able to progress to the TRX Archer row, once they have mastered this exercise, they can attempt the TRX Feet elevated row. This progression may take 8-12 months, but the TRX allows us to take a beginner and turn them into a more intermediate / advanced individual which is a huge benefit.
Adding these exercises to a full body resistance training programme, like the programme app provides, is a great way to build strength and muscle. Full body resistance training allows you to train 2-3 times a week, working multiple movement patterns and muscle groups each workout to ensure you’re strong and healthy. These full body resistance training sessions usually take between 30-60 minutes and can have a huge impact on your overall health and wellbeing.
Mini-circuits usually last between 10-15 minutes and are a grouping of 2-3 exercises done consecutively. These allow you to build some movement into your day if you are very short on time. The dose of training during each weekly block is very important, if the dose is not high enough no real change will occur, so if you do perform these, perform them regularly around 3-4 times a week.
The TRX Row is an excellent exercises for both beginners and advanced individuals, it is simple and effective for both learning the horizontal pull motion, progressing the strength of this movement pattern and building the muscles of the back. The positioning of the feet can be changed to modulate the difficulty of the exercise, the closer the feet are to the fixed position of the TRX the easier the exercises will be. Adding a tempo or a pause can be a great way to make this exercise more challenging, beginners and intermediate level individuals may not be ready to progress to a more challenging exercise but a tempo and a pause can be a great way to build intensity with the same exercise to really solidify the capabilities with that exercise. This exercise can also be used by more advanced individuals to build muscular endurance capabilities or in mixed model high intensity interval circuits. Making it a very versatile and effective exercise.
The TRX Row Eccentric is an exercise reserved for true beginners, it is for those who have been very sedentary or are overweight and have trouble lifting their own bodyweight. This exercise really is a great introduction for true beginners to learn the horizontal pull movement pattern. The speed of the eccentric movement can be altered to modulate difficulty, the slower the eccentric, the harder the exercise.
The TRX Single Arm Row is a more advanced exercise than the previous two, however an athletic beginner may be able to perform this exercise after just a few months of training. The difference between this exercise being performed with the feet under the fixed point of the TRX and the feet being advanced even slightly further is huge, so make sure you start with the easy version with the feet under the fixed point of the TRX and progress slowly the difficulty. This exercise requires a good ability to resist rotation, when pulling with one hand the body will want to twist, but the core muscles will need to resist this pull and stay aligned.
Beginners should not attempt this exercise without previously being very comfortable with the TRX row, it puts a lot of pressure in the muscles of the shoulders, which may not be developed yet and can risk being injured easily. You will need to become comfortable with the TRX row with tempos and paused then consider attempting this exercise.
The TRX Single Arm Row with Rotation is a more advanced version of the TRX single arm row, it puts more stimulus of the muscles of the shoulder and is a great way to “open up” the thoracic spine. This should be done as a progression from the TRX single arm row. Again the feet positioning with this exercise is very important, start with the feet under the fixed point of the TRX and advance them progressively as you’re able. It is important that as you open your arms, the arm holding the TRX is straight, if it is not straight then the bicep will be taking all the tension, that is not we are looking to achieve with this exercise, we are looking to allow the muscles in the shoulder to take all the weight of the body and then aide in creating the pulling motion. If this exercise is performed correctly it can be an excellent exercise for the health of the shoulder.
The TRX Feet Elevated Row is a very advanced exercise, it is likely you will have been training for a while if you’re able to perform it correctly. Keeping the core tight is one of the most challenging aspects of the exercise, the hips will want to drop and without intentionally tensing the glutes and lifting the hips every rep it is likely that the hips will finish far lower than desired. This exercise should not involve the crashing downward to the start positon after the chest is inline with the hands. If you’re performing this exercise you should be able to perform it while controlling the eccentric phase of the movement. This exercise will be perfect for advanced individuals who are looking to improve both the strength and the musculature of their back.
The TRX Archer Row is a great bridge between the TRX row and the TRX single arm row. It is challenging, but the challenge can be modulated by how much weight is placed into the supporting arm that is not pulling. This exercise needs to be performed with a tight core, precision and control, there should be no “worming” your body upward to the top of the repetition. Personally I love adding a pause to the top of this exercise and creating as much tension in the upper back as possible, once your able to perform that correctly you will be able to progress to the single arm row.
The TRX Feet Elevated Top of Row Isometric is the most challenging exercise in this list and may be one of the most challenging exercises we have in the exercise library. It requires a huge amount of strength in the upper-back but also from the core musculature. Do not perform this exercise if you can’t keep it clean and tight. This exercise should only be used by very advanced individuals who have mastered the TRX feet elevated row.
The TRX Top of Row Isometric is the simplest and easiest exercise in this list and is for people how have a lot of difficulty taking their own bodyweight. It is great for those who have undergone shoulder surgery and are at the correct point in their rehabilitation to start rebuilding strength in the muscles around the shoulder. It is also brilliant for morbidly obese individuals who really struggle to take their own bodyweight. This exercise will not be beneficial to intermediate or advanced individuals and will create no stimulus or adaptation and therefore should be avoided.
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This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.