The problem with most home exercise machines is that they usually end up as dusty laundry holders in the corner of the bedroom. Typically, they are boring, one-dimensional training devices that make it difficult to sustain a comprehensive workout program over the long haul. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone invented something inexpensive that builds strength, power, flexibility and endurance that you could store in a drawer?
Navy Seal Randy Hetrick did just that. During his 13 years as a Seal squadron commander, he developed a simple device that he later called the TRX Suspension Trainer. It allowed his teams to maintain peak fitness even while aboard ship or in hostile environments around the world. The TRX started as two parachute suspension lines looped over a tree limb or beam that were used to do standard exercises such as push-ups, curls and rows. Gradually, Hetrick and his fellow Seals developed scores of imaginative exercises that develop whole-body functional fitness.
After receiving his MBA degree at Stanford University, Hetrick refined the device so that it was more aesthetically appealing to the average person. The TRX Suspension Training System consists of two adjustable nylon strips with a handle and foot stirrup at each end. You attach the TRX to an overhanging bar, tree limb or pipe by another sturdy section of nylon cord and a carabiner. The unit also comes with an optional doorjamb anchor.
The TRX Suspension Training System is taking America by storm. People are impressed by its simplicity, quality and value. It is stored in a mesh bag about the size of a cantaloupe. It uses bodyweight as a resistance rather than relying on weights, hydraulics, elastic bands,or pulleys. All you have to do to increase or decrease the exercise intensity is to change body position or adjust the length of the straps. The TRX is so versatile that only imagination limits the exercises you can do.
The TRX Suspension Trainer is the King of the Core Builders
TRX exercises are closed-kinetic chain, which means that the lower or upper body stays in contact with the ground during the movement. These exercises are only possible through coordinated muscle action, working across many joints. Muscles supporting the spine (i.e., “the core”) act as stabilizers that allow powerful motions in the upper or lower body and transfer force between the legs and arms. Athletes, coaches and fitness enthusiasts recognize the importance of core fitness for performance, health and building an attractive-looking body.
Core training is a major shift from training methods developed since 1950— at least in America. At the heart of this training philosophy is that you train movements rather than muscles. Strong and fit core muscles allow the transfer of force from the lower to upper body. Peripheral joints and muscles receive increased stress in the face of core muscle instability. Poor core strength increases the risk of injuries to the knee ligaments and shoulder rotator cuff and results in poor, weak performance. The TRX Suspension Trainer works the body through many natural movement patterns that require and built strong and stable core muscles.
Bodybuilding has had a strong influence on strength training in the United States during the last 100 years. Strength training pioneers, such as Eugene Sandow and Charles Atlas, made fortunes selling books and bodybuilding courses to people trying to improve their appearance and health. In the 1960s, equipment manufacturers built component weight-training machines that developed specific muscles such as the biceps, shoulders and quadriceps. The widespread use of these machines led to training programs that emphasized muscle isolation. While muscle isolation exercises are great for building and improving appearance of specific muscles, they do not build fitness that athletes or average people can use. Isolation training programs served as a justification for using commercial weight machines, but they did little to improve functional fitness.
The body doesn’t use muscles the way we develop them on weight machines. Instead of isolated muscle contractions, common movements use many muscle groups activated in precise sequences. Simple actions such as walking, playing tennis or golf, or hanging a picture on the wall, require coordinated actions of scores of muscles. Strong, fit core muscles stabilize the midsection when you sit, stand, reach, walk, jump, twist, squat, throw or bend. The muscles on the front, back and sides of the trunk support the spine when you sit in a chair and fix your midsection as you use your legs to stand up. Isolated muscle development leads to muscle imbalances and does not prepare the body for “real-life” movements.
During normal movements, some muscles shorten actively while others stabilize joints or assist the movement. Other times, muscles contract as they lengthen (contract eccentrically) to provide control. Or, they contract isometrically (contract, but don’t move) to stabilize the skeleton so that other muscles can contract forcefully. The brain controls muscles so that they provide movement, stabilization or control at the right joint, at the right time and at the right plane of movement. The core muscles produce force, reduce force and stabilize the spine for complex movements. The TRX Suspension Trainer builds functional fitness through exercises that require powerful, coordinated contractions of major muscle groups and stabilization by the muscles of the core. The TRX builds muscles in the way we move.