About the TRX Creator: Randy Hetrick
TRX is a fitness system devised by a former Navy SEAL, Randy Hetrick, which uses a harness of straps hanging from the ceiling in which students put their feet or hands or other parts of the body while exercising. The use of the straps creates instability, much like the use of Bosu balls, which wobble while you stand on them, thus forcing you to use your core muscles to keep from falling over. They enable a student to lean over at an angle while holding the straps, and exert different muscles against gravity to rise up again. Although Hetrick’s San Francisco Company, once named Fitness Anywhere Inc., has expanded across the country since it changed its name, TRX is still a relatively new workout concept in many places. And though the concept is relatively simple – the exercises are mostly bodyweight moves you may already be familiar with, like pushups, crunches or rowing movements – the addition of suspension in the TRX harness makes them tricky, so you should try them out in a certified class before attempting them on their own. The company does sell training DVDs for people who may not have a convenient TRX gym nearby.
How TRX Works
TRX evolved out of the movement toward working out while your body is in an unstable position, what hardcore trainers call “a proprioceptive rich environment.” By that they mean you must constantly be aware of your body wobbling one way or the other and correct it by holding things steady using your core muscles – abdominals, internal and external oblique’s, erector spine and others. This mimics the way we use our muscles in everyday life, and is different from weight room reps, where every part of the body is firmly stabilized while one muscle group works. A TRX workout might include holding a plank position with feet or hands in the harness, thus making it even harder to stay stable. Pushups or rowing type pull-ups (lifting the body weight off the ground while lying on your back holding the straps) also gain an added dimension when done TRX style.
TRX is best for strength – overall body strength plus particular emphasis on the core and whatever joints you focus on – rather than cardio or aerobic fitness. It’s a strength and stability workout, and doing TRX regularly firms up your core, which makes all other exercises easier to do. But it isn’t primarily for weight loss or improving your wind. The system is also good for joint stabilization, which means strengthening the muscles that hold a particular joint steady. This makes it ideal for someone recuperating from an injury or surgery on a particular joint, as the exercises can be tailored and focused to strengthen the most important muscles in that area.
TRX workouts can be tailored to the fitness level of the student, from raw beginner to elite athlete. A brand new TRX student might focus on basic stabilization in a plank type position, thus building up core strength before attempting the more advanced curriculum. A seasoned athlete can focus on more advanced goals and a much harder workout. Beginners should expect some delayed muscle fatigue and soreness all over their body after a TRX workout, since so many muscles are engaged during the exercises, and some of the movements are unique and unusual. Because the TRX harness is simply a series of straps and attachments, it is easy to carry around once you learn how to use it. Pack it in a bag and take it with you on a trip. Such convenience and portability are driving the recent resurgence of simple body weight exercises throughout the fitness world today. If you learn exercises that require little or no equipment, or just something you can roll up and stick in a suitcase, you can work out anyplace and any time.
A typical TRX workout session might start like this:
- A general, total body warm up including exercises like squats and lunges while holding onto the straps to get used to them.
- Stretching moves that also use the straps, such as stepping back into a lunge while twisting the torso sideways and holding the straps in the hands with arms extended to either side. Other stretches could include holding the straps during a squat then rising and opening the arms and legs wide in a kind of star shape, like the open position of a jumping jack. Once the students are warmed up, the class moves on to any of the hundreds of exercises in the TRX curriculum.
- Exercises can be done through a variety of ranges of motion, requiring strength and coordination but with no impact, an important consideration for those who’ve pounded too much pavement or who are recuperating after injury or surgery.
Since it was conceived by a Navy SEAL, it isn’t surprising that the TRX system has found its way into gyms used by all branches of the U.S. military. Preparing for combat requires realistic training, and the ability to exert power while your body is off balance or burdened (by a heavy pack, say) is extremely valuable. TRX is also used by martial arts trainers, who know that being able to punch or kick while off balance is much more valuable than just learning to do it while standing still.
Hetrick isn’t the only Navy SEAL to start an exercise business in the Bay Area, either – you may remember the “Perfect Pushup” device, which was invented by Alden Mills, another former SEAL, who started his company in Marin County after experimenting with rocks as weights once on a vacation where he had no other equipment!
You don’t need to go out and pick up rocks to work out, though! Just learn some good, safe, effective body weight exercises and you’re good for a workout on the road or any time.