The TRX is one of the best tools available for at home upper body development, with multiple horizontal pulling variations. That being said, when designing your own training programme, creating a diverse and fun routine can be difficult as most of these variations will not come to mind. That’s why we created this list of the 8 most effective TRX pull exercises for all abilities, we also added in a sample circuit you can give a try.
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TRX pull exercises are a great way for a beginner to start building muscle in the upper back. It offers very manageable exercises where the intensity can be modulated for even the most extreme beginners. The TRX can be a very non-intimidating piece of equipment, compared to introducing weights like kettlebells and dumbbells which some people may not like. Not only are the exercises the correct level of physical difficulty, but they are often very simple in terms of technique, meaning the beginner can bypass the skill acquisition phase of learning technical movements.
Whilst pulling exercises with the TRX are great for beginners, they are also very good for advanced individuals. This is not the case with all the movement categories in strength training, the TRX offers little help when it comes to squatting and hinging, which are two of the fundamental building blocks of resistance training. But for horizontal pulling, advanced individuals have some excellent exercises in their tool box. Notably the variations where the feet are elevated, these will even allow for upper back strength development.
The major benefit of the TRX is that it offers a great deal of horizontal pull variations to your at home workouts. Bodyweight training is great, and can get you a long way. However with just bodyweight it is extremely hard to train the horizontal pull movement category, therefore adding a TRX into your training set up can give you access to one of the essential movement patterns in strength and conditioning, making it well worth the purchase in my opinion.
As the TRX provides so many different variations for the horizontal pulling movement category it’s easy to envisage how someone might move from the most basic exercise variation to the most complex over the course of a few years. This means that complexity and difficulty can be slowly added overtime allowing us to create progressive overload .
Adding horizontal pull movements to full body resistance training can be a great way to ensure that you’re staying strong throughout your entire body. When planning your week of training, in order to make progress in the horizontal pull try using between 6-10 working sets per week to ensure that you’re getting enough work in to have an impact and create adaptation. This number is very specific to the individual, so it will change based on your training age and experience but its a good starting point that you can experiment with.
The TRX Archer Row is an excellent exercise to work on unilateral pulling strength for intermediate and advanced athletes. It requires good upper back and core strength to perform with proficiency so do not attempt this exercise if you are a beginner. When performing this exercise, ensure that you control every portion of the movement, it can be tempting to crash back to the starting position, but this is one of the most important elements of the movement that needs to be controlled. Adding a pause at the top of the repetition when the chest is next to the TRX handle is a great way to feel out the movement and put emphasis on working the muscles of the upper back.
The TRX Feet Elevated Row is a very advanced exercise for individuals looking to build strength and muscle in the upper back. It also requires a great deal more core strength than a standard TRX row and you will need to have this in mind when you are performing it as dropping the hips will happen without thinking about it. A great way to get around this is squeezing the glutes at the beginning of every repetition.
The TRX Row is the perfect pulling exercise for beginners. It is not only extremely simple to perform but the intensity can also be modulated to such an extent that it can be performed by nearly all beginners. The feet positioning is key for this intensity modulation, the further the feet are away from the fixed point of the TRX the easier the exercise is, so always start with an easy position and make it progressively harder. Beginners may find it difficult to maintain a tight core throughout this exercise, meaning they will let the hips drop, this needs to be avoided as it can result in a sort of worming through the pull.
The TRX Row Eccentric is only for the most extreme beginners who have either limited mobility due to injury or very sedentary life style. For some creating the action potential to perform the TRX row can be too difficult, so just performing the eccentric phase of the movement is a brilliant way to scale down that exercise and make it even more accessible.
The TRX Single Arm Row is an exercise which can be used for beginners to advanced individuals, especially as the foot positioning can change the difficulty of the exercise to such an extent that it no longer feel like that same exercise. It requires a great deal of control of the muscles in the scapular as well as the upper back. This exercise can also be performed with a pause at the bottom and the top of each repetition to illustrate control and put emphasis on using the muscles in the upper back. As with all the TRX pulling exercises, maintaining a tight core throughout will be an important part of performing the exercise correctly.
The TRX Single Arm Row with Rotation offers similar benefits to the traditional TRX single arm row but opens up the rotation movement pattern, which can be great for people who work at desks all day and need to open up their upper backs. This exercise is also great for learning to control the muscles in the scapular, when you fully open the chest and both arms are straight, to pull the body back up requires a great deal of strength and control in the upper back. This exercise should be avoided by beginners, even with easy foot placement as their scapulas are likely not able to deal with this level of difficulty.
The TRX Top of Row Isometric is another exercise aimed at the very beginners who have been sedentary for a long period of time or are recovering from an injury. This exercise is perfect for elderly populations who have reduced muscle mass in the upper back and are a long way off from performing a row. If the feet are placed underneath the anchor point of the TRX this exercise can be used by intermediate to advanced individuals as an isometric hold to work the upper back, and not an easy one at that.
Complete 3 rounds
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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.