10 Best TRX Leg Exercises You Should be Doing in 2021 If You Have Joint Pain

best TRX leg exercises

The 10 best TRX leg exercises you can do for stronger legs and more confidence in your joints include supported squat variations, lunges, lateral stepping, march forward and back, single leg balance, and jumping. TRX suspension training is an amazing tool for those new to exercise or those dealing with joint pain, especially arthritis. It has been shown in a systematic review that use of TRX suspension straps lead to increased core muscle activation and higher gains in muscular power than compared to traditional resistance exercise.

Does this sound familiar?

Steve* has been dealing with knee pain for up to 5 years now, on and off. All movements began hurting, he was always sore no matter what exercise he tried. Exercise slowly became less and less, until he was doing virtually no physical activity. He developed back pain (spinal stenosis) and further knee pain from inactivity. We began working with the TRX system and the results he experienced were AMAZING. He felt like a whole new person. He went from being fearful of squatting to doing fast squats without even thinking twice about it! Take a look at this transformation.

TRX suspension straps, also called bodyweight suspension straps, were originally created by a NAVY Seal. These straps are now widely used across the country. The great thing about them? They are so incredibly adaptable to any fitness level, whether you are brand new to fitness or if you are a fitness pro. This system is different than regular resistance training (bodyweight exercise or lifting weights) because it adds an extra bit of instability with the two bands, turning each exercise into more of a full body challenge. The more muscles you are working at once, the more calories you will expend!

When compared to traditional strength training exercises, the suspension trainers help control for balance so you are able to try more difficult ranges of motion. They also help promote optimal form, especially during lower body exercises like squats and lunges. Doing these exercises incorrectly can lead to more pain. When compared to weight machines, TRX bands add an extra degree of instability so you have to use your own muscles to control your movement vs a machine controlling the movement for you.

You can easily use these bands at home, or you can find them at most big box gyms or speciality studios. We will focus today on using them at home. In the image below, you can see how easy it is to install. You need a sturdy door in your home with some space cleared out so as the bands extend you have room to move. Strong, exterior doors tend to work the best, but I’ve also successfully used on interior doors as well. It does not damage the door in any way.

best TRX leg exercises-attach TRX

I personally use them with almost all of my clients, especially those that have arthritis. Why? These straps take away the fear of movement and allow us to increase our activity levels without more pain. Commonly we fear certain movements because we expect them to hurt. But a lot of these exercises are extremely beneficial to fighting our arthritis pain! This TRX system takes the fear out of exercise by adding in the right amount of support. Take a look at the 5 best TRX leg exercises you can do to combat arthritis pain and get stronger legs!

10 Best TRX Leg Exercises

The first 5 movements can be found in the video below. The beginning of this video will show you how to properly set up these bands. I highly recommend the TRX band system, these are the highest quality and will be the most durable. Some of the lower ticket brands tend to be out of stock regularly but you can check on one of my other favorites (the one in this video) here. Let’s take a look at the BEST TRX leg exercises that you aren’t going to want to miss.

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Exercise 1: Step back and march

For this exercise you will step back with your right foot to start. You will then take that same leg and march forwards. Exercise 1 begins at 2:02 in the video above. The step back and march challenges single leg balance as well as single leg stability, both of which are extremely beneficial for strong legs. Without the TRX strap, this exercise can be difficult due to the amount of balance you need to stabilize yourself.

I primarily use this exercise for clients that have knee, hip, or low back pain. You should feel this exercise primarily working your hip muscles. This is one of the best TRX leg exercises because it typically does not flare up joint pain and allows you to move through necessary range of motion for stronger hips.

Make sure you try this on both side, completing 10-20 reps or until you start to feel the hip on the leg you are standing on fatigue. Aim for at least 2-3 total sets on each side.

Exercise 2: Lateral stepping

This next exercise starts at 3:30 in the video above. In our daily lives, we don’t find ourselves moving side to side too often unless we are playing sports or doing other higher level activities such as skiing and hiking. The muscles that tend to control those sideways movements are then at a high risk to becoming weak. If we don’t challenge them, the weakness can contribute to joint pain.

This exercise is simple, stepping side to side with support. The further you step out, the harder this exercise will be. You can also increase the difficulty by increasing the speed, or even adding a small hop side to side.

I primarily use this exercise again, with clients who have knee, hip, or low back pain.

Lateral stepping can commonly be done for higher repetitions (20+). You should be working until you begin to feel some degree of fatigue in the muscles on the sides of your hips. This is when we will see the most benefit. Repeat for multiple sets, aiming for at least 3 total sets.

Exercise 3: Single leg deadlift

This exercise starts at 4:27 in the video above. This exercise is crucial for improving balance. Optimal balance is KEY to healthy joints and stronger legs but its oftentimes neglected in our training programs. This exercise can be very difficult without support as I find almost 90% of the people I work with cannot do this initially. Mastering this exercise could dramatically reduce your risk for initiation of or further development of joint pain.

I primarily use this exercise with clients that are dealing with osteoarthritis of the leg or degenerative disc disease. Many times, people don’t realize how truly impactful balance can be on our joint pain!

For example, I have a client right now who is over 60 and an avid skier. His knee pain is beginning to slow him down and he is not skiing as much as he would like to. With higher level activities balance is absolutely key. With just a few simple tweaks to his current training and addition of specific balance exercises, he is able to ski more often and for longer duration without being bogged down by his knees.

Complete this exercise for 8-12 reps, 2-3 sets each side. The more fatigued your muscles get, the harder balance is so don’t get discouraged! Training balance under fatigue is one of the best ways to improve it.

Exercise 4: Supported single leg squat

This exercise begins at 5:45 in the video above. We couldn’t write an article about the best TRX leg exercises without including squats! A sit to stand from a chair or a squat are both common exercises used in training because it is a movement we regularly do throughout the day. Many times, especially when dealing with knee arthritis, squats can be painful. This is one way to reduce pain and get the most out of the exercise!

When you start this exercise, make sure you have a chair you are able to stand up from without pushing off. You can add pillows to a chair if needed. Begin sitting in a chair, stagger your feet so one foot is in front of the other. The further out your front foot is, the harder the exercise will be. Try to use the bands only as support as much as you can.

I primarily use this exercise with clients who have pain on one side more than the other or who have muscle imbalances on one side compared to the other. This is much more common than you think. The idea is to make sure both sides are as symmetrical as possible.

Complete 8-12 reps on each side, for about 2-3 sets. You may want to focus a few more repetitions on the side that feels a little weaker.

Exercise 5: Reverse Lunge

The final exercise of this video above starts at 7:12. The lunge is an extremely powerful movement when done correctly. The TRX bands allow for better form and decrease the possibility for error. It is so important to be able to control your body in a single leg stance. This is directly applicable to stair climbing, going up/down inclines, and with higher level activities like running.

Alternate taking a big step back (bigger than you think) and pretending like someone is pushing your head straight down. I have found that this is the most successful way to complete a lunge without flaring up pain. Reverse lunges are much more effective than forward lunges when you are just starting out.

If you experience pain when bending the back leg like some of my clients do initially when dealing with knee pain, try taking a bigger step back. You can also decrease the depth until your body gets used to the movement.

The goal is to continue to decrease the depth of the lunge as you begin to feel more comfortable. Initially, go down just as low as you are comfortable with. In my opinion this is one of the best TRX leg exercises. Complete 10-12 reps toal, alternating legs for 2-3 sets.

Exercise 6: Lateral Lunge

Another lunge variation here. This one is great because it works the muscles that help to move us sideways. These muscles commonly get neglected because we don’t move side to side very often unless we are doing higher level activities such as playing sports.

The idea is to take a large step out, shift your weight to the leg you just stepped out on while keeping the other leg straight. Generate power and push off to bring your leg to meet the other one. Make sure you are sitting your hips back with each weight shift.

I typically use this exercise with patients who are having knee pain, low back pain, or some instances with hip pain. Our hips are the primary drivers of almost all movement so it is very important we are well rounded and all our muscles are working together.

Complete 8-10 reps on each side to start, for 2-3 sets as able. You should start to feel fatigue on the outsides of your hips.

Exercise 7: Rotational Balance

Balance is one of the most neglected aspect in most training programs. It is incredibly valuable though, especially when trying to decrease or prevent joint pain. This exercise is one of my favorites with the TRX bands to challenge your balance.

I have yet to meet one person that is experiencing some form of joint pain that has perfect balance. And, in my opinion, almost everyone has room to improve their balance. I even work on mine at the very least a few times per week because of how important it truly is.

Start with standing one foot in front of the other. When you rotate like in the video above, it causes you to shift your balance, making your ankles work hard to keep you upright. Once you are able to master this, you can try progressing to single leg balance. Make sure you master the basics before progressing. In order to teach your body how to find balance, we have to show it success. If you are constantly losing your balance during this exercise, it may not be effective.

Try to confidently hold the position while moving your arms for at least 30 seconds each side before progressing.

Exercise 8: Supported Chair Squat

This is an incredible beginner exercise. Here are Keep the Adventure Alive we always preach mastering the basics of all movement first before attempting to progress to other more complicated movements. We see this as a major contributor to joint pain. For example, running before we master the basics of single leg balance and single leg squats. Skipping right to running can lead to injuries or further joint pain.

This exercise is a basic movement that we should absolutely master, especially if you are experiencing low back, hip, knee, or ankle pain. The TRX bands provide just enough support for you to be able to teach your body how to do a squat correctly. In my personal opinion, I think this is hands down one of the best TRX leg exercises.

The goal is to complete about 8-10 reps of these squats to start. Repeat for 2-3 sets as able. Make this harder by decreasing the height of the surface you are sitting on. You can also use pillows to increase the seat height to make it easier.

Exercise 9: High Knees

This is a cardio based movement and has its place on the list of the 10 best TRX leg exercises because of its ability to improve coordination and endurance. Simply alternating marching with the right amount of support can increase your heart rate. I love to add this exercise in after another leg exercise from this list as it challenges your legs under fatigue.

You can switch up the amount of support during this exercise quite easily. The goal is to complete 30+ reps, trying to march your knee up as high as you can. You can also see how many reps you can complete in 30 or 60 seconds. Once you feel comfortable, increase the speed as you are able. Repeat for up to 3-4 more sets.

Exercise 10: Supported Jump

Jumping is beneficial for leg power (which is strength + speed) and for stronger bones. Many times we avoid jumping, especially when dealing with joint pain because it can be scary! This exercise made the cut of the best TRX leg exercises because it offers a safer way to start jumping.

Before you add this exercise, make sure to master the supported chair squat and the supported chair single leg squat without increasing pain to make sure you are ready. If you have knee, hip, or low back pain this exercise could help give you the confidence you need to get back to skiing, hiking, playing tennis, etc.

The higher you jump, the harder your muscles have to work, thus making the exercise more difficult. The goal here is to find a height that you feel confident at then complete 8-20 reps, depending on how you feel. Complete 2-3 more sets.

Conclusion

Now you know the best TRX leg exercises. TRX bands are an incredible way to get back to exercise if you are dealing with joint pain. Suspension training is proven to be just as effective as resistance training at building muscle strength and power! In my opinion, if you have osteoarthritis, TRX training may be one of the BEST ways to train. Let’s review the benefits of the TRX system:

  • easily modifiable exercise at any skill level
  • travels well
  • doesn’t take up much room in your home
  • inexpensive for the versatility of it
  • one of the most successful ways people with osteoarthritis can find pain relief

If you are interested, learn more about the different systems and packages they offer HERE. I highly recommend the TRX HOME2 System. I promise you, you will not regret adding one of these to your routine. I have seen such powerful results for my clients and you can too. It’s time to regain your confidence and keep your adventure alive.

View our other TRX exercise videos and subscribe to our channel for more to come! :

Full body TRX exercises for beginners

Upper body TRX exercises for beginners

How to get started on your fitness journey

Getting started can be hard, especially if you are dealing with aches and pains. These TRX exercises are a phenomenal way to get started. If you have just ordered your set and need something to do while you are waiting, we have a FREE 5 Day Arthritis Adventure Challenge that would be PERFECT.

We have had people join us who needed confidence that they could actually move and exercise again. They were searching for a way to create motivation so they can lose unweighted weight and finally feel more energized.

Here are just a few examples of how people have used this challenge to kickstart their fitness journey, no matter the age or fitness level.

Do you want in on this 5 Day Arthritis Adventure Challenge?! Click the button below to learn more!

Your adventure is waiting! We hope to see you there.

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Dr. Alyssa Kuhn is a physical therapist and arthritis specialist with Keep the Adventure Alive in Sandy, UT. An adventure is anything that makes you happy on the inside and her main mission is to help you keep yours alive! She has helped arthritis sufferers all over the country finally break free from their pain without surgery or more pills. She wrote a book titled Move Well Age Well: How to Rock the Later Years with Fitness and Mindset in order to continue to promote optimism around aging. She has found lots of adventures of her own including hiking, road biking, and skiing while in Utah which has inspired her to create this journey.

She wants to show the world that arthritis pain doesn’t have to take our adventures away. Learn more tips and tricks on how to adventure with osteoarthritis.

References:

Aguilera-Castells, J., and Buscà, B. (2018). Muscle activation in suspension training: a systematic review. Sports Biomech. 19, 55–75. doi: 10.1080/14763141.2018.1472293

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This post is for general informational purposes only. It should not be used to self-diagnose and it is not a substitute for a medical exam, cure, treatment, diagnosis, and prescription or recommendation. It does not create a doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Kuhn and you. You should not make any change in your health regimen or diet before first consulting a physician and obtaining a medical exam, diagnosis, and recommendation. Move Well Age Well, LLC and Dr. Alyssa Kuhn, PT, DPT are not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any conclusions drawn, services or product you obtain through this video or site.