trx strength training

TRX Strength Training Workout for Endurance Athletes

By Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach of CTS

I am 58 years old and I travel a lot and prefer to train at home when I’m in Colorado Springs, CO. Even though I’ve been an endurance athlete all my life, my age means I am prioritizing strength training more than I used to. The frequent challenge: staying consistent with strength training no matter where I am.

The benefits of strength training for older athletes are well established. It helps you maintain muscle mass and bone density, improves coordination and balance, and reduces the chances you’ll knock yourself out of sport-specific training because you injured yourself in activities of daily living (moving furniture, hiking, yard work, etc.).

What many older athletes don’t realize, however, is how important it is to be consistent in your strength training (and endurance training). You are fighting a bit of an uphill battle to make improvements in strength or endurance fitness, and consistency is absolutely key to winning that battle.

The Equipment

The TRX suspension training system is one of the best solutions I have found, both in terms of portability and versatility (Disclosure: neither I nor CTS has a relationship with the company.) As a result, it makes it easy to be consistent with strength exercises, as I’m not dependent on a hotel gym or local gym being open, and then wasting time figuring out what they have, where they put everything, and what machines actually work.

One of the best things about the system is that you can do effective upper body pulling exercises, which I think are beneficial for maintaining a good cycling posture on the bike. In addition, when I’m traveling they fold up into my suitcase, anchor to the hotel room door, and can be used for upper body, lower body, and core exercises.

The Workout

Here are some of the upper body exercises I recommend:

Chest Fly

This is a great addition to the pushups you’re probably doing on the floor. Face out from the anchor, grab the handles, extend your arms straight in front of you at shoulder height with your hands together. Lean forward so your body is at a diagonal to the floor. From this starting position, spread your arms out to a T position, but keep a bend in your elbows. Lower your chest until it’s even with your hands, then use your chest to arc your hands back together in front of you.

Tricep press

I like this version of a triceps exercise a lot more than a chair or bench dip because bench dip puts a lot of strain on the front of your shoulders. This version is similar to the “skull crusher” exercise with a barbell, where you lowered a barbell toward the bridge of your nose and pressed it up with your triceps – only without the skull crush risk. Start in a chest press position with your palms facing down and the straps along the tops of your arms. Keep your upper arm straight out as you bend your elbows to lower your body toward your hands. It is important to press your shoulder blades to your back as you do this exercise to keep your shoulders in a straight line. You don’t want your chest to fall forward of your shoulders. Use your triceps to return to the starting position.

Low Row

This is an exercise that is difficult to do outside of a gym without something like a suspension system. With the TRX anchored at the top of a door or an overhead beam/bar, face the anchor and walk your feet in toward the door so your body is in a straight line and leaned back. Your arms should be straight in front of you, but it’s important to keep your shoulder blades pressed to the back of your ribs to keep your shoulders square, rather than rounded forward. Using your arms and upper back, pull your chest to your hands, keeping your elbows by your sides. Lower back to the starting position and repeat.

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Single Arm Power Pull

These are kind of fun, like you’re in an action movie reaching down to rescue someone while yelling, “Reach for my hand!” With your feet about shoulder width apart, grab the handles in your left hand, keep your left elbow by your side, and lean back to a diagonal. Reach your right hand up along the strap to get into the starting position. Now, reach your right hand back and down by extending your left arm and rotating your torso to the right. To get back to the starting position, pull your elbow back to your side and rotate your torso and shoulders to the left as you reach your right hand back up high on the strap. Switch arms and keep rescuing people.

Plank to Pike

The plank to pike is a great abdominal exercise you can also do by sliding your socked feet on a hardwood floor. With the suspension system, get into a plank or pushup position with your feet in the cradles and a few inches off the floor. From this starting position, keep your legs straight and drive your hips upward to bring your feet toward your hands. Slowly bring your hips back down until your body is straight from shoulders to heels. If you come down too quickly, you may not be able to stop at this straight position and instead end up hyperextending your back. To make this exercise harder, add a pushup between each pike.

TRX Fallout

The fallout exercise is a suspended version of an abdominal rollout, an exercise I always used to struggle with because it was hard to adjust the difficulty level. With the suspended fallout you’re standing up and the difficulty is adjusted by how far back your feet are toward the anchor.

With the anchor up high, face away from it with your hands forward like you’re starting a chest press. Make sure the straps are along the tops of your arms. Keeping your body in a straight line and your arms straight, raise your hands in front of you until they are overhead. Aim for a straight line from your fingers to your heels. When you return to the starting position, focus on using your core and your lats. A mistake people make is to disengage the core on the way back by bending forward at the waist and leading with their hips.

Y Fly

This is another great exercise for the upper back and shoulders. Start in a leaned back position facing a high-mounted anchor. Your arms should be straight out in front of you, but keep your shoulder square instead of letting them round forward. From this position, raise your hands up and out until your hands are overhead and your arms and body form a Y shape. This is different than a reverse fly exercise where you bring your arms straight out to the sides to end up in a T position.

Three sets of 10 of each of the exercises above leave your upper body and core worked, and remember, to make a suspension system exercise more difficult all you need to do is start in a more horizontal position so you’re lifting a higher percentage of your total bodyweight.

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Comments 19

  1. Hello Chris,
    Thanks for posting your TRX workouts. I recently installed a TRX system at home and my original plan, after travels to Ireland and Solvang earlier this month (actually done) then a Rhine cruise in May (not happening) was to use it along with the 10 week CTS Gravel Training Plan to get ready for SBT Gravel in August (may/may not happen). Any additional TRX workouts you recommend will be greatly welcomed, especially those focused on core and legs. Tom Wiggington’s recommendations also look to be valuable and it would be great to bundle them with your workout into a comprehensive workout program with recommendations for number of reps and cycles.

  2. Hi Chris,
    I’m always pleased when I see off-the-bike strength work incorporated into CTS’ training recommendations. I started using TRX in 2010 and it has contributed to significant performance gains in my clients’ cycling performance (and other athletic pursuits). What you say about the effectiveness and the portability are 100% true.

    The exercises you chose for this article are excellent.

    Two movement patterns that are begging for inclusion in a comprehensive program are hip dominant and knee dominant exercises. Because biomechanically, in real life and on the bike, nothing works in isolation. It’s important to pay some attention to the lower half.

    Suspended glute bridges (with or without including a hamstring curl) strengthen the entire hip region while enhancing the working relationship with your entire core.

    Lunge patterns, preferably suspended, will improve the quads working relationship with the gluteals by recruiting the muscles that keep the knee in optimal alignment when it bends.

    When you’re training on the bike, of course you’re getting an abundance of work on the quads and gluteals – because of the time spent and the 100s of thousands of repetitions while riding. However, when you combine the limited range of motion in the knee and hip throughout a pedal stroke with the volume of the specificity of training, the movement is incomplete.

    By incorporating total range of motion with movements that recruit and coordinate efforts with the core, the cyclist’s endurance, power, and on-the-bike comfort increase accordingly.

    Thank you for sharing so much of your expertise on your blog.

    Tom Wigginton
    founder Vitruvian Fitness in Denver, CO

    p.s. For your readers asking which TRX is best, I agree the Home 2 model is perfect. The main difference between the models is the durability needed for commercial applications vs home use by a single athlete a couple times per week. (Disclosure – I am not affiliated with TRX either).

      1. Hi John,

        That’s a fair question. You should match Chris’ recommended rep scheme for the other exercises. Good luck!

  3. My favorite suspension trainer is the Monkey Bar Jungle Gym XT. It’s worth a look if you’re on the market for one of these.

    Those of you who travel with your suspension trainer – is TSA ok with you carrying this on, or do you need to check it? I’ve carried mine in a checked bag but I usually go carry-on only, and I haven’t tried bringing my Jungle Gym with me yet.

  4. Hey Chris-
    Many thanks for the TRX shoutout to your folks. I’ve been a fan of your work for more than a decade and wanted you to know how much I appreciate having a great coach like you expose my gear to your athletes. And with some great guidance no less! You’re right, we have no official relationship—but we ought to! 😉 We both serve an awful lot of world class cyclists and your support is much appreciated. All my best, Randy Hetrick (TRX, Founder & CEO)

  5. Paul,
    I’m 71 and crashed bike on Feb10th, right hip replaced on the 11th and back on trainer 31 days later, light load and just spinning…Looking to ride outside in a couple weeks…old masters racer…it’s going to take a few months before, I can start training with my CTS coach Renee Eastman.

  6. Chris, I have been using it for many months and it is amazing. I am incorporating TRX 1-2 times with my cycling training per week and is helping me to improve my performance. I really recommend it.

  7. Thanks
    From your old coach in 1978
    I will use these tips to get ready for my 75th birthday ride in Ireland this August. John Howard will be with me.

  8. would love some feedback from cyclists out there who have made a comeback from hip replacement as far as timing, length to get back in the saddle etc. I started out a year ago with a multi level low back fusion surgery, THEN the hips started to go. Been a tough road. Left one first, hope to avoid the other for a awhile. I am 63 years old, been active and very fit my entire life. Everyone loves a comeback! Any words of wisdom out there. THANK YOU

    1. Paul,

      I had my right hip replaced following retirement in 2013. I was 64 1/2 at the time. My determination/motivation was strong so I made the commitment to follow my physical therapist’s instructions including home exercises! He knew I was a cyclist so he tailored my regimen to cycling. He had me on a stationary bike within 2 months, albeit easy at first.

      I was back on the road in 4 months & I’ve never looked back!!

      Best of luck!!!

  9. At 75 I do yoga and body weight exercises. I have a suspension system but never used it much as it was difficult to find a support beam for it, at least inside the house. Light dumb bells also can be used. I use to do heavier weights but found that I might end up with an injury that set me back. I do exercises while watching TV and moving around the house over the period of a day about three times a week and occasionally set aside 15-20 minutes in the winter months for more concentrated stuff. Just my 2 cents, not saying it is the best way to do exercises for all. Been riding on the road for 35 years.

  10. I’m having such a difficult time with strength training. I work in an industry where repetitive motion and lifting heavy parts takes a toll on my body. I’ve noticed when strength training or performing any type of body exercises, my body hurts due to my work conditions on my body!
    I’m a road cyclist, runner, cross country skier and I’m constantly trying to find exercises that will place less impact on my shoulders and especially wrists.
    I’m 53 years old and notice that my body is changing and not for the better. That is why I perform the above sports; in order to stay in shape and keep up with Father Time.

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