In The News

Pulling Your Weight, Denver Post

January 10,2009

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Aubrey Schwenk, left, and Kim Bauman, right, use the TRX Suspension Trainer under the supervision of fitness instructor Anne Parker, background, at Healthstyles.


The military has long been resourceful in figuring out how to keep soldiers in shape when they’re far from the convenience and comfort of a gym. With such structured activities as boot camps and drills, service members are able to get fit and stay in top physical condition.

Often those techniques and workouts make the jump to civilian fitness routines. The latest military routine to catch on with the public is suspension training, in which only a couple of strong nylon straps and a person’s body weight are used to perform dozens of exercises. Retired Navy SEAL Lt. Cmdr. Randy Hetrick worked to keep his team in condition when deployed on missions using body-weight exercises such as push-ups and chin-ups. But those moves mainly worked the front of the body, leaving the power muscles of the back and gluteus largely untouched.

So Hetrick invented the TRX (his acronym for Total Resistance Xercise) Suspension Trainer. The first version, created in 1996, consisted of surplus parachute harnesses he stitched into something that he could loop over a tree or a door. He used it to pull or push himself up. Soon, other squad members wanted one, so more were made, and the straps soon became popular conditioning tools in submarines, warehouses, safehouses and anywhere else their missions took them.

“Rather than performing strength exercises from a seated or lying position, we work out standing upright — or in a position where you are at an oblique angle to the ground,” Hetrick says. “Therefore, all the stabilization muscles of the shoulders, back, core, hips and knees are holistically exercised.”

After leaving the SEALs in 2001 to attend business school at Stanford University, Hetrick took his straps to the gym and began doing suspended push- ups, pull-ups, one-legged squats, and various twisting maneuvers for core and shoulders. “When I began doing the suspended exercises, some of the strength coaches and physical therapists in the training room at Stanford took notice,” he said. “They started talking to me about the physiology of stability exercises and core work. I knew then that I had something special, practical, and effective to try to take to the market.”

Fitness Anywhere Inc. began sales operations four years ago. The TRX Suspension Trainer, about $150 for the equipment, training manual and DVD, is being used by athletes (including professionals in the NBA, NHL, and NFL), trainers, coaches, the military, and in fitness clubs across the country.

While the company initially marketed to athletes, it quickly realized its potential with seniors and those in rehabilitation. Because the difficulty level of any exercise can be adjusted simply by changing the position of your feet, seniors are able to improve functional strength for the whole body by quickly adjusting how much of their weight is used by the legs for a squat, for example, and how much is handled by the upper torso. Those in rehabilitation can progress at incremental degrees in a similar fashion to accommodate the healing process.

By pulling, pushing, and rotating your own body weight, from straps anchored 6 feet above, your body is forced to stabilize the joints and the spine as you move through each exercise. The core muscles of the back, gluteus and abdominal become stronger and, over time, your balance, posture and overall strength improves.

Women, who often eschew the weight room, enjoy the benefits without the bother of machines and weights when doing TRX. Men are drawn to the TRX because of its focus on strength. As a consequence, men and women, all with different objectives, can enjoy classes together. “Our class leaders are coaches, not choreographers,” Hetrick jokes.

TRX Uses Body Weight for Total Body Workout, Denver Post 

January 12, 2009

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Denver instructor Anne Parker demonstrates a TRX chest press. TRX Suspension Training provides a portable total-body workout.


Q: I’ve noticed a few gyms around town use the TRX system. Can you tell me more about it and how it works? — Malcolm Gallegos, Denver

A: The TRX was the subject of a Jan. 12, 2009, Fitness section story, and many gyms are now offering TRX classes or have the system available for members to use.

TRX stands for Total Resistance eXercise. It offers a total-body workout, including the core, from a couple of nylon straps that fit into a small mesh bag. It is perfect for travel if you purchase the optional door anchor. Its inventor is former Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick.

“In 1996, I stitched some surplus parachute harnesses into something I could loop over a tree or a door and began pulling and pushing myself up,” Hetrick said. “Pretty soon other squad members wanted one, too, so we had a guy out in the para-loft making them in exchange for cases of beer.” Soon his straps became popular conditioning tools in submarines, warehouses, safehouses and anywhere else their missions took them.

In 2005, after attending Stanford University business school, he started Fitness Anywhere to manufacture and promote his concept. The TRX Suspension Trainer is being used by athletes (including professionals in the NBA, NHL and NFL), trainers, coaches, the military and in fitness clubs across the country. At a list price of about $189.95 ($199.95 with door anchor) for equipment, training manual and DVD, the equipment is affordable for most institutions and individuals.

The concept of the TRX is to train with your own body weight either standing or at assorted angles to the ground. This also forces the exerciser to utilize core muscles for every exercise. “I realized personally that by using Suspension Training, I no longer had the assorted orthopedic maladies that plagued me for years as a SEAL,” Hetrick said. “Rather than performing strength exercises from a seated or lying position, we work out standing upright — or in a position where you are at an oblique angle to the ground. Therefore, all the stabilization muscles of the shoulders, back, core, hips and knees are holistically exercised.”

Women, who often eschew the weight room — statistically preferring body-weight exercise like yoga and Pilates in far greater numbers than men — enjoy the benefits without the bother of machines and weights. Men, who shun group exercise in equal percentages, are drawn to the TRX because if its focus on strength. As a consequence, men and women, all with different objectives, can enjoy classes together. “Our class leaders are coaches, not choreographers,” Hetrick jokes.

“Functional training” is now a common fitness buzz- phrase, but what is it? In a nutshell, this means exercising in a way that prepares the body for the kinds of moves we do in everyday life, such as twisting, reaching, pushing, pulling and squatting. Every day, we move in multiple planes — sideways, backward, forward and diagonally — so it makes sense to exercise in all those directions, as well.

By pulling, pushing and rotating your body weight, from straps anchored 6 feet above, your body is forced to stabilize the joints and the spine as you move through each exercise. The core muscles of the back, gluteus and abdomen become stronger, and over time, your balance, posture and overall strength improve.


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