NEW YORK TRX, hatched when a U. S. Navy Seal improvised a fitness tool from his parachute webbing, has become the workout darling of personal trainers, group fitness instructors and home exercisers alike.
"It's a nylon strap with two handles," said Frank Salzone, a trainer with the Equinox chain of fitness clubs who has been using TRX on himself and with clients for three years.
"You can do over 200 exercises with it," he said. "I think it's one of the best pieces of equipment in the gym."
Part of the beauty of TRX (for Total body Resistance eXercise), according to Salzone, is its adaptability.
"It started with a Seal stationed away from home, so the idea is you can work out anywhere. You can hang it from a door in your hotel room, a tree or a jungle gym," he said. "You're using your own body weight to do the lifting."
Salzone said the full-body workout works across body angles and easily adjusts to different skill levels.
"When your body is lower, there's more weight to pull. When you get tired you can easily step back a little, or stand up to pull less," he said.
Once you master the basics, he said, you can incorporate countless other workouts, such as lunges, or tools such as dumbbells or medicine balls.
"Or you can stand on one leg, one arm. There's always something to make it more difficult."
Salzone loves something called the atomic push-up, which is accomplished with hands flat on the floor and feet suspended in straps six-to-12 inches above the ground.
"As you come up you pull knees into chest, so you're working the whole upper body as well as your abdominals."
There are TRX workouts geared specifically to surfers, golfers, and tennis players. What makes TRX so popular with athletes, according to Salzone, is the unrelenting emphasis on core strength.
"On TRX, no matter what exercise you're doing you're engaging your core," he said. "It's training the other muscles to keep your body balanced and to move in different directions with or against resistance.
Josh Lyon of the 24 Hour Fitness chain of gyms, encourages clients to use a trainer to get started in TRX.
"TRX is an innovative piece of equipment that takes the concept of lifting a weight but focuses you on performing a movement," he said. "But it's not as intuitive as some other workouts. It's really easy to do wrong, but if you do it right it's a great way to challenge your body."
Rather than go through an entire TRX workout, Alice Burron, a Wyoming-based exercise physiologist and spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise, likes to fit some TRX into her clients' routines.
"Instead of a regular push-up I might use TRX," she said. "Clients think it's hilarious because I can pull another hat out of the bag. TRX is fun, interesting, and it incorporates great usage of muscles."
Burron said the TRX package sold online comes with an instructional DVD, and she encourages people to go to YouTube, where even more TRX options abound.
"It's trendy and as in all things trendy it will probably trend out for a while, and then come back," she said. "That's just the nature of this business. I like it. I think it's fun, but it's not the end all. Nothing is."