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Total-Body TRX Workout

Can You Handle the Suspense?

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You may have seen those yellow and black straps hanging from the ceiling or walls of your gym and wondered what the heck you do with them. The TRX Suspension Trainer, developed by Navy SEALS, takes advantage of gravity and your bodyweight to challenge every muscle, especially your core. And since you can even attach them to a door or tree, they’re great for exercising at home or when traveling.

This workout, designed by Jenn Seracuse, director of Pilates at Pilates ProWorks New York City studio, develops strength, endurance, balance, and core stability. Read: It's efficient and highly effective. “The instability makes it essential to engage the core throughout, working the transverse abdominis and other stabilizing muscles during every exercise,” she says. If any move is too easy or hard, a simple change in body position alters the intensity, guaranteeing you get what you want out of every session.

Workout details: Perform the exercises in order with minimal rest between them to keep your heart rate up. Complete a total of three circuits, resting 30 seconds to 1 minute between circuits. For more intensity, work up to the advanced versions of the exercises by the third circuit.

You’ll need: A TRX Suspension Trainer ($200; trxtraining.com)

Photos: Jay Sullivan

Sprinter Start

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Set the TRX at mid-length. Stand facing away from the anchor point with the handles under armpits next to ribs and elbows bent back outside of the straps. Step right leg back into a lunge, keeping the straps tight. Maintaining the tension on the straps, lift right leg and bring knee to chest, moving body forward, and lift left heel to balance, keeping hips and shoulders square. Return right leg back to lunge and repeat for 1 minute, then switch legs.

Advanced: Add a hop forward and back with the standing leg before returning to the lunge.

Beginner: Bring right toe to floor next to left instead of lifting knee and keep left heel down.

Biceps Curl

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Set the TRX at mid-length. Stand facing the anchor point with hands in handles and elbows bent so handles are next to ears and palms face behind you. Lean body back, lengthening elbows and maintaining tension in the straps. Keeping abdominals engaged so that hips stay in line with ribs and shoulders and there is hyperextension in the back, bend elbows back to start for a biceps curl. Repeat for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Advanced: Step forward so that body is more horizontal.

Beginner: Step back so the body is more vertical. Use a wide or offset stance (with one foot behind the other).

Tabletop Row

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Set the TRX at mid-length. Lay under the TRX with knees bent and feet flat on the floor and arms extended straight above shoulders, palms facing in. Exhale and engage abdominals and glutes as you bend elbows towards ribs, squeezing the shoulder blades together and using back muscles and arms to bring body off the floor in a straight line from shoulder to knee, parallel to the floor. Lower back to start and repeat for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Advanced: Lift one leg off the floor, performing the exercise on a single leg.

Beginner: Perform the exercise standing with the body more vertical.

Suspended Lunge

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Set the TRX at mid-calf in single-handle mode. Stand under and slightly forward of the anchor point with one foot in the foot cradle, knee bent, and hands on hips. Bend standing leg, keeping weight in the heel and knee over ankle as you extend the back leg behind for a lunge. Make sure hips and shoulders stay square to the front. Maintaining the bend in front leg, bend back knee under hip and back out, and then stand up tall. Repeat for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then switch legs.

Advanced: Turn it into a TRX burpie by placing hands on the floor while you are in the lunge, then lifting front leg off the floor and bringing it back next to the back leg for a plank. Do a push-up, then return standing leg back between hands and stand all the way up.

Beginnner: Use a chair or the wall for balance.

Kneeling Rollout with Triceps

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Set the TRX at mid-calf. Kneel facing away from the anchor point with hands in handles and arms extended, palms facing down. Keeping abdominals engaged to support the spine, reach arms further forward, hinging at the shoulder joint, bringing the spine forward into a diagonal line from the shoulder to knee. Without changing the shape of the spine, and keeping the handles where they are, bend elbows, lowering body closer to the floor. Pause, then straighten arms. Repeat 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Advanced: Perform the move standing.

Beginner: Move forward and ground tops of feet and shins into floor for support.

Pendulum

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Set the TRX at mid-calf. Get into a plank position with hands on the floor, toes in the foot cradles, and inner thighs squeezing together. Keeping shoulders square to the floor, rotate hips to face left and swing straight legs around to left side and then back to center. Repeat on right side. Continue for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Advanced: Move from side to side without stopping in the center.

Beginner: Bend knees as you bring legs to the side. Perform on forearms instead of hands.

Bridge

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Set the TRX at mid-calf. Lie faceup with heels in the foot cradles and knees bent over hips. Tilt pelvis and engage gluteus and lower abdominals, then articulate through the spine to lift hips off the floor until you are in one long line from shoulder to knee. Keep abdominals engaged so lower back doesn't hyperextend. Make sure to rest on the shoulders and not the neck. Hold for 10 counts, then slowly articulate down without moving the feet away. Repeat for 1 minute.

Advanced: Perform on one leg with other leg outside the TRX, hugging inner thighs together. Work each leg for 30 seconds.

Beginner: Simply lift hips without up to the bridge.

Teaser

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Set the TRX at long length. Lie faceup with hands in the foot cradles and legs in tabletop position (knees over hips and feet parallel to the floor). Inhale to lengthen back of the neck and exhale use abdominals to roll spine up, balancing just behind sitz bones with a slight curve in the lumbar spine. Extend legs long. Keep pressing down on the straps to activate lats. Slowly roll down one bone at a time, keeping the press in the straps, and bend knees back to tabletop. Repeat 6 to 8 times.

Advanced: Start lying all the way flat with legs extended on the floor, and lift legs straight up as you lift torso.

Beginner: Keep both feet flat on the floor and knees bent, or keep just one foot down and one leg extended.