How To Use The TRX To Build A Bigger Chest

Six Key Exercises That You Should Be Performing To Increase Pec Size

When it comes to home-based training, it can be difficult to know where to start and which equipment to use.

In terms of practicality, usability, and effectiveness, the TRX is one of the best bits of fitness equipment for home workouts and can help you achieve a variety of fitness goals.

Those who aspire to increase muscle size often believe that they need to use barbells and dumbbells, however, this is not the case.

This article will firstly discuss what the TRX actually is and how it can allow you to build significant muscle mass. It will then conclude by detailing six of the best TRX chest-building exercises.

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What is the TRX?

The TRX Suspension System is a piece of fitness equipment that utilizes bodyweight and gravity to work the muscles of the body.

It has a simple design consisting of adjustable straps and handles which allow hundreds of different exercises to be performed.

All you need to use the TRX is a solid anchor point; this can be something like a door, a tree, a hook, or a fixed bar.

The TRX is a highly functional, versatile, portable, and easy to use piece of kit making it the perfect piece of fitness equipment for the home.

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What Causes Muscle Hypertrophy?

Before highlighting the six exercises, let’s consider the requirements for muscle hypertrophy (growth) and how the TRX can help you achieve this.

For muscle hypertrophy to occur, skeletal muscle must be subject to mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage (1).

Mechanical tension is generated when the muscles contract to overcome resistance. The amount of tension placed on the muscle is dependent on the intensity of the exercise.

The TRX leverages gravity and your own bodyweight to provide resistance for your muscles thus creating mechanical tension.

When muscles contract repeatedly, they experience metabolic stress (or fatigue). Regularly increasing metabolic stress has also been associated with increases in muscle size (2).

Often with heavy lifting and low repetitions, metabolic stress does not become a factor. However, a greater amount of metabolic stress can be achieved with moderate resistance and a higher rep range.

This makes the TRX an excellent tool for muscle growth as the intensity and load can be easily adjusted.

By simply increasing or decreasing the lean angle of the body it is possible to appropriately alter the intensity allowing you to perform a high number of reps and build significant fatigue.

The final piece of the puzzle is muscle damage. While this sounds like something detrimental and to be avoided, it is an essential component for causing muscle growth.

When the muscles are exposed to a training stimulus, the individual fibers actually tear at a microscopic level.

The body acts quickly to repair this damage and, providing that recovery from training sessions is optimized, the fibers adapt and increase in size.

Some lifters focus on accentuating the eccentric phase of an exercise as some studies suggest this can increase muscle damage and the consequent adaptation (3).

Therefore, it may be beneficial to slow down the lowering portion of each TRX exercise, on occasion. The rule of thumb is to take three to five seconds to lower.

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The Six Chest Building TRX Exercises

There are a number of upper body TRX exercises that work the pectorals muscles in the chest. However, the following six exercises are undoubtedly the most effective and are highly recommended.

In order to maximize mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage, look to perform 3-4 sets of 15 repetitions for each exercise taking 30 seconds rest between sets.

1) TRX Chest Press

This is the ultimate TRX exercise for chest development. The movement replicates that of a press-up and the bench press – two exercises well renowned for building the pecs.

Ensure that you are using a full range of motion and drop in deeply with each rep to maximize pec activation.

Coaching Points:

  • Adjust the straps to a long length and turn your back towards the anchor point
  • Grab the handles and fully extend the arms out in front of the body and in line with the shoulders
  • Walk the feet back to that you begin to tip forward while maintaining the weight on the balls of your feet
  • Squeeze the core muscles before hinging at the elbows to drop the body down towards the handles
  • Keep the shoulders down and elbows tight to the body as you descend deeply
  • Powerfully press into the handles to propel the body up to the starting position

2) TRX Chest Fly

While the chest press is a multi-joint exercise, the chest fly is a single-joint movement that isolates the pecs.

The chest fly also works the chest from a different angle than the press does. Hitting the muscle from a multitude of angles is best for optimizing hypertrophy progress.

Coaching Points:

  • Adjust the straps to a long length and turn your back towards the anchor point
  • Grab the handles and fully extend the arms out in front of the body and in line with the shoulders
  • Walk the feet back to that you begin to tip forward while maintaining the weight on the balls of your feet
  • Engage the core muscle and keep the arms straight
  • From this position, bring your arms out to the side of the body so that you create a “T” shape
  • Ensure that the elbows stay down from the line of the shoulders as you descend
  • Contract the pecs powerfully to drive the arms back together

3) TRX Clock Press

As well as highly activating the pecs, the clock press places a great demand on the smaller stabilizing muscles in the upper body and the core.

The exercise is an amalgamation of the press and the fly as you will perform both movements simultaneously.

Coaching Points:

  • Adjust the straps to a mid-length and turn your back towards the anchor point
  • Grab the handles and fully extend the arms out in front of the body and in line with the shoulders
  • Walk the feet back to that you begin to tip forward while maintaining the weight on the balls of your feet
  • Engage the core before hinging the left elbow and simultaneously performing a fly with the right arm
  • Descend deeply before pressing into the handles to return to the starting position
  • Alternate sides and repeat

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4) TRX Atomic Press-Up

As mentioned briefly, the press-up is a highly effective chest developer. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that it makes the cut.

However, this isn’t your standard press-up. Instead of placing the feet on the floor, the feet should be placed in the TRX loops and suspended. This places a great demand on the core as well as the pecs.

Coaching Points:

  • Adjust the TRX straps to mid-calf height
  • Begin by kneeling on the floor and place the tops of the feet in the loops
  • Place the hands directly under the shoulders and then lift the knees from the floor
  • Keeping the legs straight and core engaged, perform a press-up ensuring that the elbows stay tight to the body
  • While in the bottom position of the push-up, pull the knees in towards the hips to perform a crunch
  • Extend the arms and legs to return to the starting position

5) TRX Spiderman Press-Up

This exercise is a progression on the atomic press-up and, therefore, it shares a number of similarities. This time, however, only one foot is to go into the loops, rather than two.

This immediately decreases the stability of the exercises thus placing a larger demand on the chest, shoulder, and core muscles.

Coaching Points:

  • Adjust the TRX straps to mid-calf height and pass one loop through the other
  • Begin by kneeling on the floor and place the left foot only in the loop
  • Place the hands directly under the shoulders and then lift the knees from the floor
  • Keeping the legs straight and core engaged, perform a press-up ensuring that the elbows stay tight to the body
  • Hold this bottom position and then, using the free leg, bring the knee up towards the elbow
  • Extend the arms and leg and return to the starting position
  • Having completed the prescribed reps, swap legs, and repeat

6) TRX Tricep Extensions

As the name suggests, this exercise primarily works the triceps which are the muscles at the back of the arms.

However, because the triceps assist in many chest exercises and generate pushing power, it is crucial that we also build strength and size in the arms.

Coaching Points:

  • Adjust the straps to a mid-length and turn your back towards the anchor point
  • Hold the handles and extend the arms directly out in front of the shoulders
  • Walk the feet back to that you begin to tip forward while maintaining the weight on the balls of your feet
  • Engage the core muscle before hinging the elbow joint to drop the head between the hands
  • From this position, focus on extending the elbow joint only to drive the body back up to the starting position

Final Word

There are three essential mechanisms behind building muscle – mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage.

All of these can be attained through the use of the superb TRX. For those who wish to develop their chest at home, look to regularly perform the six TRX exercises outlined in this article.

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*Images courtesy of Envato

References:

1 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20847704/ Schoenfeld, Brad J. (2010-10). “The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training”. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24 (10): 2857–2872. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e840f3. ISSN 1533-4287. PMID 20847704.

2 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5489423/ de Freitas, Marcelo Conrado; Gerosa-Neto, Jose; Zanchi, Nelo Eidy; Lira, Fabio Santos; Rossi, Fabrício Eduardo (2017-06-26). “Role of metabolic stress for enhancing muscle adaptations: Practical applications”. World Journal of Methodology. 7 (2): 46–54. doi:10.5662/wjm.v7.i2.46. ISSN 2222-0682. PMC 5489423. PMID 28706859.

3 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18981046/ Roig, M.; O’Brien, K.; Kirk, G.; Murray, R.; McKinnon, P.; Shadgan, B.; Reid, W. D. (2009-08). “The effects of eccentric versus concentric resistance training on muscle strength and mass in healthy adults: a systematic review with meta-analysis”. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 43 (8): 556–568. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2008.051417. ISSN 1473-0480. PMID 18981046.