Monday, November 19, 2007

Simple Things - TRX Suspension Training

As a Strength and Conditioning Coach I have access to literally thousands of dollars of state-of-the-art exercise equipment ranging from barbells and dumbbells to high speed treadmills and variable resistance machines. However, even with all the “high tech” training devices I still find myself incorporating the most basic of exercise modalities into my athletes’ fitness routines. The method of training I am referring to is known as bodyweight training. This, simply, is the use of ones own bodyweight as resistance to stimulate the muscles to become stronger. This form of exercise, which requires little or no equipment, is very beneficial to anyone who wants to improve their strength and fitness levels. I am frequently asked by athletes of all sports why are we doing such a “simple” exercise, but only after a few properly executed repetitions they quickly learn the answer - “Because they work!”

From my experience, the versatility and convenience of these exercises in conjunction with their ability to stimulate the muscle structures of the body in a safe and productive manner makes bodyweight training second to none. One of the greatest advantages to bodyweight exercises are their versatility and convenience. These exercises can be done virtually anywhere with little in the way of set up time and equipment and can be used in conjunction with traditional “free weight” and machine based exercises, or as a stand alone activity for muscular strength gain. They can even be used on “off” days to enhance recovery and “get the body moving” to alleviate the next day muscle soreness which often occurs after an intense workout.

A very popular method of training with my athletes is to perform a series of 10-15 exercises for a specific period of time, usually 1 minute, and rotate through with little rest periods for a very effective strength and aerobic workout. Too often this form of exercise is shrugged off as being “too easy” or relegated to warm up activities or as a last resort when no other equipment is available. The beauty of this kind of training is the same exercise(s) can be used for “warming up” before a more intense activity; or performed in an “all out” fashion to challenge the most seasoned of exercisers. Simply adjust the repetitions or sets performed; or incorporate isometric holds at various positions of the exercise; or adjust your hand or foot position to create a whole new exercise experience. Whichever you choose it is no problem making the exercise more or less challenging depending on your fitness goals.

Introducing the TRX Training System

Although it would be tough to argue that a workout consisting of push ups, squats, sit ups, chin ups, dips, and bear crawls would not be effective as a stand alone workout (especially if the participant was able to perform high repetitions) an apparatus is required to perform some exercises which is not always available. In addition, dips and chin ups require a fairly high level of strength just to begin the exercise, which makes them difficult for people just starting out or with poor body leverage. That is why I am happy to support a training system that enhances the bodyweight training experience and allows everyone, regardless of ability level, to reap the benefits of training in this style. What I am referring to the TRX Training System. This is a very simple device that attaches easily to any structure and sturdy enough to support your full bodyweight and adds more productive exercises to your training “tool box”. Exercises such as lay back rows, biceps curls, swimmer pulls, and hip lifts can be used by both beginner and advanced fitness enthusiast to train the muscles through unique ranges of motion leading to more complete muscular development and enjoyment. Using the leverage principle, each exercise can be made more or less demanding by adjusting ones body position. The more you lean away form the devise the more resistance you will be lifting, making the exercise more challenging. This feature allows anyone to perform the exercises, regardless of strength or training experience in a safe and productive manner.

For me, TRX’s greatest advantages is its portability. The entire system folds up into a small 2 pound sack, which makes it a perfect accessory for busy travelers or in my case, to bring along to athletic fields to train athletes. Simply hook it to a goal post, fence post, swing set or other fixed structure and begin your workout. There is even a door mount attachment that enables the device to attach to any standard door.

With hundreds of fitness devices on the market today and all the promises of a better body they promote the great thing about this system is its simplicity. There are no fancy labels or flashy exercises, just simple movements that produce results. My advice is to choose ten exercises, any ten will do, and perform them to the best of you ability, all the while striving for improvement in repetitions performed. Do this 3-5 times each week for 3 months and you start to see what I am talking about. - Doug Scott, Strength and Conditioning Coach