Randy Hetrick, a Navy Seal, invented Total Resistance Exercise (TRX) in 1997. His goal was to create an effective exercise for Seal operatives, so they can workout wherever deployed.
In my years spent as an athlete and a coach, I’ve found TRX exercises a great way to build a rock-solid upper back.
Here is my list of the 5 best TRX exercises to build the back you’ve always wanted.
1. TRX Inverted Rows
If you choose to only do one kind of back exercise, go for this one.
This exercise works:
- Latissimus dorsi
- Mid traps
- Erector spinae muscles
TRX inverted rows are an excellent choice for anyone suffering from shoulder, elbow, or wrist issues. Compared to the barbell inverted row, which locks the grip into an over or under position, an inverted row gives you more flexibility.
You can go neutral, over or underhand, and anything in between.
How To Do It
- Grab one handle in each hand
- Hold the arms straight and hands palm down
- Lean back, keep the hips up, abs tight, shoulder blades together
- Take a deep breath and exhale as you pull yourself up
- Go back down and repeat
Pro Tip: To make the exercise more challenging, move the feet forward, or get underneath the anchor point. This’ll add load to the exercise because now you’ll be pulling up at a steeper angle.
Do 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
2. TRX Single Arm Row
This exercise is the perfect choice for correcting strength and muscle size imbalances between sides. Plus, it also has anti-rotation benefits.
This is a great alternative to single-arm dumbbell rows. Just thread one handle through the other to have a secure grip for your hand.
How To Do It
- Grab the TRX suspension trainer handle
- Lean back keeping the abs tight, legs straight
- Pull your body up, keeping the chest up and the strap tight until your torso meets with your hands
- Go down in one controlled movement
- Pause at the bottom to re-engage the core strength and repeat
Pro tip: Don’t pull up by doing a shoulder roll, instead keep the shoulder blades together and straight.
Do 2-4 sets of 8-12 reps.
3. TRX Power Pull
You’re looking for something more intense? Power pull is the answer. It’ll help you improve shoulder flexibility and mobility, as it takes the upper back through a wide range of motion.
“As a swimmer, I have to do a lot of pulling. As a firefighter, I have to do a lot of lifting and that requires a strong back. As a master trainer for TRX I know I’m using the best pulling toll on the market.” - Kari Woodall, TRX Master Trainer
TRX pull will work your:
- Back muscles
Because power pull has a lot of moving parts, I recommend you first master the single-arm row.
How To Do It
- You’ll only use one handle, so tie them together to prevent the handle from sliding
- Hold on to the handle with the elbow locked tight to the side of the body
- Place the feet wide to support you and your body in a straight line
- Start with the arm forwards and then rotate the body outwards
- Extend the arm holding on to the TRX looking behind you, opening the body right way up
- Pull in reaching forwards and repeat
Pro tip: Follow the non-working hand with your eyes, as this will make the rotational part more effective.
Do 3 sets of 10-15 reps for each side.
4. TRX Y
If you struggle with bad posture and need help strengthening the muscles around the shoulder blades, or if you’re an athlete who spends a lot of time doing TRX overhead squat, this is a fantastic exercise for you.
It’s called Y because of the shape the arms make at the midpoint level.
This exercise will work your:
- Erector spinae
- Mid and lower traps
How To Do It
- Grab the TRX straps
- Lean back, keeping the arms tight at your sides, feet hip width apart
- Keep the shoulder blades retracted, don’t round out the upper back
- Keep the head aligned with the body, with the chin slightly tucked in
- Raise your arms up until they are fully extended above your head
- Squeeze the contraction and slowly release back down
- Keep the eyes above the anchor point
Pro Tip: The harder you lean away from the anchor point, the harder the exercise will be. Stand more upright when first starting to gauge the strength of your lower traps.
Do 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
5. TRX Face Pull
You want to build your upper back area? Face pull suspension training could be the answer you’re looking for.
It’s done with an adjustable pulley machine with a rope handle.
This suspension training will work your:
- Rhomboid upper back muscles
- Posterior deltoids
- Straightener the external shoulder rotators
As this exercise works the torso and upper body, it’s good for posture correction.
How To Do It
- Grab the handles with arms straight
- Lean back with the body in a straight line
- Pull up, keeping the elbows at shoulder height
- Aim for your hands to come up by your eyes
- Squeeze the shoulder blades to feel back muscle contraction
- Lower back to the starting position
- Keep the elbows high the whole time
- Only go the body distance, not further back
Pro Tip: You can progress the exercise by changing the positions of your hands. Remove one hand from the TRX and keep it up on the same level as the other hand.
Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps.
Is Trx Training Effective?
Yes, it is. A study conducted on 16 people doing a 60-minute total resistance exercise class found that they:
- Burned 400 calories per session
- Had decreases in waist circumference and body fat percentage
- Improved muscle strength and endurance (1)
Wall slide is effective if you’re doing overhead work. With a wall slide you can alternate by lifting arms to work individual shoulders.
Is Trx Better Than Lifting Weights?
A study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that both suspension and traditional training work equally well (2).
Is Trx a Good Way to Lose Weight?
Yes, it is. It challenges the whole body, which creates a metabolic effect that helps you be in shape and have lean muscles.
Is Trx or Cardio Better for Strength?
If gaining strength is your goal, traditional cardio training is superior to TRX.
However, TRX can also be effective in gaining strength when being creative with the suspension training.
How Much Weight Can a Trx Handle?
A TRX can handle up to 1400 pounds.
Get the Back of Your Dreams With TRX
There's a reason TRX is so popular — it works. All you need is a TRX suspension trainer, and you can workout any muscle in your body, pretty much anywhere.
Use these exercises to build a rock-solid back or target any muscle group you want.
I hope this list of the 5 best TRX back exercises inspired you to try out these exercises for yourself. Let me know which exercise you’ll try, or feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments below.