Leave it to a Navy SEAL to make some extra parachute webbing into something totally badass. Randy Hetrick, the TRX company founder, and his SEAL teammates tried their darndest to stay in great shape at all times during deployment. Eventually, these fellows decided the best way was to create a piece of workout equipment that allowed their own bodyweight to be the key to increasing resistance and intensity. TRX has found its way into gyms across the country and now it’s on tour, with trainers like Neil and Zak traveling nationally (and soon to be internationally) to bring it into our homes, backyards, and even hotel rooms.
After a trying day of emissions testing and DMV-ing and banking (yes, I’m still working on getting a Colorado registration) I met up with Trista, General Manager at Forza Denver, and Zak, one of the traveling TRX trainers. We made our way upstairs, past ellipticals and treadmills and weight machines where lads and lasses were sweatin’ away, and past the basketball court. In front of the rock wall was a metal, monkey bar-like contraption where about a dozen black and yellow handles with long straps were hanging from it. I was introduced to Neil, another trainer who would be leading the demo, and to Lindsey and Luke, trainers at Forza who would be participating in the demo with me.
We started with a row exercise. To do rows on a machine at the gym, I would sit on a bench and adjust the weights attached to the handle, then brace my feet and pull the handle towards my body. To increase intensity, I would add more weight. Well, the only weight our friend Randy Hetrick had access to was his own bodyweight. In TRX, instead of pulling a weighted handle to my chest, I pulled my chest to an anchored handle. We stepped a few feet away from our anchor (the spot where the straps were secured to the monkey bar thing) and then leaned back until our arms were straight and there was a straight line from our heels to the tops of our heads. We pulled our chests to the handles and then in a controlled move, released the row until our arms were straight again. To increase the intensity, we walked our feet closer to the anchor, decreasing the angle to the floor. Eventually, we were parallel to the floor so the handles were directly under the anchor. I think by that point I was able to do one rep, if that.
Neil showed us all kinds of exercises for an hour and I was shocked by how versatile these bad boys are: over 300 exercises can be done with a piece of equipment that weighs less than two pounds, and all you need to anchor it is a tree branch or a pull-up bar or a door anchor available through TRX. Unreal. Sometimes all we needed to do to work a different part of a major muscle group was turn so we were facing away from the anchor. The most difficult thing to get used to, I found, was to constantly be changing your center of balance. You almost have to go against your instincts. I kept thinking the straps were there for assistance, or that I could lean back on them, but they are designed to make the exercise more difficult. Some of the exercises require a forward motion immediately followed by a backwards motion, but if you put all your weight on the handles at the wrong time, you’ll fall flat on your back. And there’s no way to look cool doing that.