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a woman performs the TRX pullup

The pull-up is one of the most effective upper-body pulling exercises, but the conventional bar method is inaccessible for many people. TRX pull-ups are a great alternative.

Suspension trainers are not designed to support a full pull-up, but there are several ways they can be used to diversify a training routine and break through plateaus.

What makes the TRX pull-up so special? For one, TRX handles are not fixed in place like a pull-up bar, so they allow your shoulders to move more comfortably through their full range of motion. Additionally, the adjustable strap length allows you to use your feet to support your weight as you build strength.

Many people fall prey to the mistake of angling the body back to face the ­anchor, thereby performing a more horizontal pulling motion. With pull-ups of any variation, it’s important to move straight up and down, pulling vertically.

Make sure to position yourself with the TRX directly overhead. Because your feet will be supported by the floor or an elevated surface, adjust the TRX straps so handles are at a height that allows you to sit with your arms fully extended overhead.

Instructions

  1. Anchor the TRX securely overhead, with the straps hanging straight down. Sit on the floor beneath the straps and extend your arms to grasp the handles. Your knees can be bent or extended — the farther your feet are from your hips, the more difficult the move will be.
  2. Engage your scapulas, core, and glutes, then use your lats to pull your elbows down to your sides. Push through your feet as needed.
  3. Pull until your chin clears the height of the handles, then lower yourself with control to return to the starting position. Repeat for three sets of eight to 12 repetitions or the desired number of reps.

Additional Pointers

  • Start the move with your hips positioned directly under your shoulders.
  • Keep your neck neutral and avoid reaching up with your chin.
  • Maintain an upright posture and pull yourself straight up.
  • Avoid pressing your hips forward or leaning back to help with the pull.

Progress the Move

Once you’ve mastered the TRX pull-up with knees bent and feet on the floor, progress the move — and your strength — with these two variations.

L-Sit TRX Pull-Up

  • Anchor the suspension trainer securely overhead, with the straps hanging straight down. Sit on the floor beneath the straps and extend your arms to grasp the handles. Fully extend your legs and flex your feet.
  • Engage your scapulae, core, and glutes, then use your lats to pull your elbows down to your sides. Use your heels for support as needed. Avoid leaning back or pressing your hips up.
  • Once your chin has cleared the height of the handles, lower yourself with control to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for three sets of eight to 12 repetitions or the desired number of reps.

Elevated TRX Pull-Up

  • Anchor the suspension trainer securely overhead, with the straps hanging straight down. Adjust the strap length so the handles would be an arm’s length above if you were sitting on a bench or chair.
  • While grasping the handles, step your heels up onto the elevated surface and lean your weight back to allow your arms to straighten. Your hips will be hanging in the air, above the floor. (If you find yourself seated on the floor, you may need to raise the handles.)
  • Reposition as needed to ensure your torso is perpendicular to the floor and your legs are parallel to the floor. Keep a slight bend in your knee for comfort.
  • Engage your scapulae, core, and glutes, then use your lats to pull your elbows down to your sides.
  • Once your chin has cleared the height of the handles, lower yourself with control to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for three sets of eight to 12 repetitions or the desired number of reps.
Photography by: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand; Model: Christy Rice
Maggie
Maggie Fazeli Fard

Maggie Fazeli Fard, RKC, is an Experience Life senior editor.

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