I attended the TRX Suspension Training Course this past weekend.
Sometimes after a training course, you leave inspired, but your head is just spinning with such info-overload that you can’t really recall or apply what you know. I wanted to avoid that overwhelmed kind of feeling, so I googled around the night before just to see if I could get a course outline or preview. I just couldn’t find much out there aside from the TRX web site to reassure me about the course.
So this blog post is for you – the exercise enthusiast as well as the newbie to TRX and the seasoned Personal Trainer looking to diversify your modalities and help distinguish/boost your personal brand and anyone else who is considering taking a TRX suspension training course.
Recommendations to help you juice your dollar for the experience
I did a few things which I would recommend other people do before attending, besides getting a good night’s sleep and eating well/packing a decent lunch… I took a few classes in TRX and ordered one for home use and familiarized myself with some of the more popular exercises to do on the TRX. While you don’t have to have ever used a TRX before the workshop, I would recommend at least spending some time playing around with it or going to a class at a local fitness studio or bootcamp, simply to prevent that information overload head-spin experience because it is a lot of info. At the same time, the printed materials are wonderful and complete, so you can always go home and spend a couple hours or more pouring over them afterwards to help you piece it all back together.
What it was like to be there and what’s the content of the course?
Our instructor, Alex McLean, gained my respect immediately – from his warm welcome to his impressive credentials and his physical capabilities, and knowledge about training, group fitness and the TRX. Alex gave a focused, organized presentation and kept us riveted. There was not a moment of wasted time. A fantastic motivator, educator, entertainer and all around ring leader.
There were 20 people who attended. Of these, one was an exercise enthusiast and the rest were personal trainers with the majority possessing under 5 years of experience if I recall correctly.. two were studying for Trainer Certification, but had experience teaching fitness and there were some veteran trainers with 10-20 years experience. One person flew in from Arizona and another from Uruguay. There was an instructor from Orange County and a couple from San Louis Obispo.
Alex presented the material in a way that seemed unique and genuine and he wasn’t afraid to digress from the text to illustrate a form pointer or logical progression or make the information flow better and link concepts logically. While I didn’t manage to snag a course outline, I’m going to mention a few items from memory and the text that we did cover and discuss some things which weren’t covered in the course.
First, we took a few seconds for everyone to say their background and where they’re from, which was great for networking and generally just breaking the ice. Then we got down to anatomy…of the TRX. Using the same terms really helps when you have to explain to a client how to adjust the TRX quickly so you don’t have to demonstrate each exercise and you don’t have to have them stop working out to allow you to make adjustments to the equipment. The terminology lesson kept all of us trainers on the same page when discussing how we would use the TRX to perform exercises for different types of clients.
We also went over some differences between various TRX models. We had an overview of the history of the TRX and suspension training, along with its benefits. We learned some cool ways to get in and out of the foot cradles and when to position the TRX in the fully lengthened, shortened, mid-length and mid-calf position. We learned some of the why behind the training – how using multi-planar exercise is more functional for real world activities than typical machine based exercises, which generally work clients in the sagittal plane, thus continuing to allow muscle imbalances from sitting most of the day (car/desk). We placed the TRX into single handle mode so many times I could probably now do it correctly blindfolded.
We covered 3 principles of progression – making exercises harder by moving closer to the anchor on some exercises, for instance, changing stability (feet together is less stable than feet apart etc), and 6 problematic ways of using the TRX and how to correct those errors. Learning how to progress and regress exercises for the 3 client scenarios: the couch potato with an injury, a regular exerciser and an athlete looking to develop power were all really helpful. In addition, we covered many exercises I had not seen before on the TRX. We paired off and were led through exercises where one partner would correct the other’s form on the TRX and we could see and feel where the issues could be for our clients.
Alex stopped the course at various times to point out a particular issue related to form on the TRX so that all of us could help that individual do the exercise better by decreasing the resistance or increasing it or changing their position or the position of the TRX. That part was fabulous. I actually found myself the subject of one of these exercise correction sessions when I couldn’t perform the TRX incline press – it was a cross between a pushup and a handstand pushup with 1 leg on the floor. I just lacked the upper body strength to handle the load in that position. I think everyone met their match, regardless of ability, at some point – some exercise that just totally whooped their butt big time. The entire group got to brainstorm how to either change my position or change the exercise so that I could perform that movement to exercise those specific muscles required.
Later, we were given an awesome total-body workout for about 20 minutes on the TRX to music which Alex cued and instructed verbally. I was amazed to see how we could follow even without him stopping to demonstrate each exercise. As one of my fellow participants told me – It was the best full body TRX workout she’d ever had. Kicked my booty!
We had a break for lunch, did more exercises and learned some alignment cues for each. One of my favorite parts was taking one exercise like a chest press typically done on a weight bench, performing it on the TRX and making about 8 progressions/regressions of it…It helped me remember and link the various exercises I learned to ones I already knew – the chest press and see how there are various ways to make that exercise more or less challenging by changing foot or hand positions, length of straps, and stability…and what I like about doing this exercise in the TRX as opposed to a bench is that it requires much more core stability in any of the positions and that’s functional training, because real life generally doesn’t isolate muscles.
It became apparent even after covering most of the book that we were just brushing the surface of the amount of exercises that could be performed with this tool and that it was up to us as trainers to create appropriate programs for our clients using the knowledge we already have as trainers. In other words, now that we are more familiar with the TRX, and we have our training background, we need to apply that knowledge to program design. It was super fun to have a break-out session and as a group, design a program for a client scenario—ours was Homer Simpson – a non-regular exerciser with a prior back injury…and then in teams of two, present one of those exercises to the group.
I did expect some sort of sales pitch going into the workshop because it was a workshop on one piece of equipment. That pitch was about the CORE and how to market yourself using the CORE. One of the trainers in our group mentioned how he had purchased a TRX t-shirt and was stopped 3 times by people wanting to know more. That was cool. Yep, I bought a shirt. Nobody has asked me about the TRX while I was wearing it yet though.
I loved how we weren’t totally on our own after the workshop! Alex emailed the exercise list we had created for our imaginary client scenarios and the exercises in our group workout that he made for our workshop. I also got an email from someone at TRX offering support. That’s awesome. I also made some FB connections among other participants – great for networking.
I was concerned after the workshop if I sent my clients, they might feel overwhelmed by technical jargon or being surrounded by trainers so I emailed Judi – the 60-something fitness enthusiast to ask her how she felt about the experience. She absolutely loved it and felt inspired to learn more. She felt warmly accepted by the trainers and was grateful. Alex didn’t make her give an exercise presentation to the group or anything like that. She enjoyed learning about how most of our exercises work in the sagittal plane and how we can work in all planes of motion on the TRX. She was particularly impressed that Alex uses it with an 80-something year old wheelchair bound client who wants to maintain mobility – hello couch potatoes…now what’s your excuse?
So it sure seems like everything including the kitchen sink was in there! There were some things noticeably not covered though.
The burning question- Did we learn how to use it as a sexual aid? No. Though I am still convinced if used regularly it should make you better in bed – every exercise is a moving plank right! Just checking if you are still reading. But I digress…
We were not given a list of specific contra-indicated exercises. We learned that for an exercise to qualify as suspension training, one limb was supported by the TRX and the other was on the floor, and each exercise was to be a moving plank..For those Personal Trainers and Group X instructors like me whose education included warnings from your certification agency that “you can get your assets sued if you do certain danger-prone exercises like squats below 90 degrees or dead lifts etc.” kind of caution…or “make sure your heels hit the floor during the jumping jack or you will fail” … just know there was nothing of the sort at the TRX training.
I found that some of these training rules apply to suspension training, some don’t. For instance, you aren’t perpendicular to the floor in a TRX squat, so you probably could go deeper safely… You will have to find that Goldilocks “just right” spot for your client by relying on your expertise and knowledge of your client and the movement pattern you want them to accomplish and the muscles you want them to engage when determining what’s right for them.
Speaking of that “just right” level of intensity, I knew I would likely be sore the next day because I would be doing movements in a new way that’s not typical in my regular routine. I didn’t expect to find myself not strong enough to do certain movements in certain positions.
I felt a grinding sensation in one hip flexor during my atomic sit-up and decided to back it off a bit on the intensity and change my position. The TRX, like any exercise modality, does have the potential to be something you could become injured on and it does use muscles in conjunction in a way you do not use them on other pieces of equipment. Going through the movement myself and feeling the changes with another set of trained eyes pointing out the issues was very valuable. Many of us have developed muscle imbalances and areas of weakness in our body mechanics that need to be addressed and the TRX could help us find those areas and eliminate them. Having a qualified trainer to guide you in a new TRX exercise so you don’t go too far too fast, and insure your alignment is correct, really can prevent a possible injury.
If you want to try out a few moves on the TRX, please contact me via my Facebook page.
If you would like to purchase your own TRX, go to the TRX Training Site.