A lot of research gets done on human performance. It's fair to say that if you want an answer on how the human body moves and and deals with movement there is a ton of research out there to support someone's theory. A lot of that research has been done using traditional lifts and resistance training, therefore most of the solid answers we have revolve around that style of training. This can be a little frustrating for those of us who love a more progressive, non-traditional style of training.
But finally.... a few people are starting to do research with alternative pieces of equipment to see if the claims they make are correct. Enter TRX and research that specifically uses the TRX Suspension Trainer. A research paper titled "Examining muscle activation for Hang Clean and three different TRX Power Exercises" (I know, catchy title, right?), performed by Andres Carbonnier and Ninni Martinson at the Biomedicine Athletic Training department of Halmstad University, was published on May 12th 2012. It discusses how using the TRX Suspension Trainer can be used to gain a similar (and sometimes larger) amount of muscle activation as a traditional 'Power' lift, the Hang Clean.
The three TRX exercises that were tested were:
- the TRX Squat Jump
- the TRX Front Squat
- the TRX Power Pull
Similar muscle activation was found between the TRX Squat Jump and Front Squat to the Hang Clean. The Power Pull "showed the highest activation of for the Erector Spinae and Gluteus Maximus but the lowest when comparing total muscle activation for all measured muscles".
The conclusion stated "the TRX Suspension Trainer can be used as a compliment, for experienced athletes, or a substitution, for novice athletes, to traditional traditional strength training."
The thing that stands out to me is this: we can have similar muscle activation (and depending on what you want to 'fire', maybe more) to heavy lifting, with out placing a heavy external load on the body. I would think that might just be a good option in relation to injury prevention and for more inexperienced athletes, wouldn't you?
This link is a great summation of another research article that looks at (again) muscle activation when using the TRX Suspension Trainer. This time Push-ups, Shoulder Protraction and Bench Press vs TRX Push-up, TRX Chest Press and a TRX Scapular push up. The results confirm it: this tool is very powerful, depending on what your goal is. TRX gave better core muscle activation. But for sheer Pec activation, the Bench Press outdid everything. So if you want massive Pecs.... Guess what you need to do? But if you want your Pecs to work with the rest of your body....