What's the most underrated piece of gym equipment? Bench press? Smith machine? Lat pulldown?

How about the ceiling?

The hottest trend in getting fit takes advantage of the roof over your head, and it doesn't even require that.

A former Navy SEAL came up with the idea of using suspension cables to combine body weight with the force of gravity to create a workout that might make a Cirque du Soleil understudy sweat bullets.

The result is the TRX training system, which actually consists of nylon straps. It's designed to provide a thorough, challenging workout in tight quarters -- something necessary in the military and quite helpful for the rest of us civilians.

Yes, bands and pulleys have been around for a while, but they don't support your body weight. TRX does. And if you think it sounds too intimidating, just do a search for 'TRX' on YouTube and find dozens of videos done by everyone from surfers to MMA wannabes.

Here's how it works: hang the straps from the ceiling (or a swingset or a tree branch), grab the handles, and do everything from tricep dips to yoga. Moves can be as easy as curls or as complex as plank-twist-push-ups-into-a-pike. You can even combine it with other workouts. For example: attach the straps to your feet, grab a pole, and do mid-air sideways crunches. (Good luck!)

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Athletes have plenty of uses, whether their sport is tennis or motocross. Even Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a believer (and paid endorser), using it to strengthen his throwing shoulder and train for his five-step drop.



There's just one catch: TRX's $189 price tag will make you want to hang yourself. And if you want to join a TRX class, which are popping up everywhere, you'll probably have to spring for the system.

But it's hard to beat the convenience. Got a meeting in an hour? Attach the straps to your hotel door. Need a quick post-hoops stretch? Hang the cables from a basketball stanchion. You can even get a treadmill workout without a treadmill by running against the stretch of the straps.

The whole system weighs two pounds, and that sure beats lugging around dumbbells. Sure, if you're trying to get huge, you'll need something more than this. But most of us just want to fit into our pants.

And hey, in the worst-case scenario, your kids will love their new jump rope.

Eric Adelson can be reached at adelson@yahoo-inc.com.

Tags:
Fitness, TRX