Calisthenics - A concept that bodybuilders probably shun. I say "probably' because the fitness landscape looks very different now than it did 20 years ago. You can't help but notice the numerous modalities that have come into the picture. I was one of the "meatheads' that stuck to the traditional "bro-split' routines that the usual gym-goer subjects themselves to - chest and triceps; back and biceps; shoulders and legs. Until 2011, when I was first introduced to the TRX at Virgin Active.
When I first gave it a go, I was immediately humbled. My track record of heavy bench presses, squats and deadlifts gave me no advantage to my first try as my arms were shuddering while I tried to do a TRX chest press and my first go at a suspended lunge had me tumbling down to the floor.
Sure, I was an immediate convert. I can go as far as saying that my bro-split routine took a back seat for a little while as I was hungry to get better at TRX. So I did the in-house training program for suspension training and with a lot of practice, started getting quite comfortable at it.
Interestingly, when my bro-splits started coming back into play, I found the frequency of getting injured a lot less (as like every second gym bro, I do try lifting heavier than my body can handle, to my body's disdain). I also felt a greater level of muscle engagement, as my secondary muscles for lifts seem to be aiding a lot less - I could feel the bench press tiring my chest more than my shoulders, my glute activation improved in my squats and deadlifts, etc. I seemed a lot more centred and connected with my body during big lifts and isolated movement.
I peg this down to the amount of three dimensional forces that act on the muscular system and nervous system when doing TRX exercises. Sure, you need strength to get through the movements, but you also need a higher level of proprioception (the sense of self-movement and body position) to complete the movements successfully. Having trained my proprioceptors at a higher level while using the TRX, it almost seemed as though my two dimensional traditional big lifts and isolated movement flowed in a more robust manner. A lot of my muscular imbalances and instability was swiftly addressed by working with the TRX.
To that end, I believe all bros (and sis's) have a lot to gain by introducing the TRX into their programs. They don't have to start doing inverted handstand presses (although I do love them on shoulder days!), the addition of a few TRX exercises in high volume sets towards the end of their workouts should round off their bro-splits really nicely.
Here are a few example programs that anyone could try:
Bench press: 12 x 3 sets
Tricep dumbbell overhead extension: 12 x 3 sets
3x superset of:
Incline dumbbell press: 12 reps
Rope pulley push down: 12 reps
Pec deck: 12 x 3 sets
Tricep dips: 15 x 3 sets
TRX atomic pike: AMRAP - 2 minutes
TRX chest press (low vector): 20 reps x 3 sets
Lat pull down (wide grip): 12 x 3 sets
Dumbbell curl (alternate): 12 x 3 sets
T-bar row (narrow grip): 12 x 3 sets
Dumbbell hammer curl (alternate): 12 x 3 sets
Lat pull down (narrow grip): 12 x 3 sets
Preacher curl (bar): 12 x 3 sets
3x superset of:
TRX inverted row: 20 reps
TRX clutch bicep curl: 20 reps
Bar deadlift: 5 x 5 sets
Bar squat: 8 x 4 sets
Cable pull-through (glutes): 12 x 3 sets
Military press: 12 x 3 sets
Lateral dumbbell raise: 12 x 3 sets
TRX suspended lunge: 20 per leg x 3
TRX hamstring curl: 20 x 3
While of course I have explained this in the context of the traditional gym-goer, at Heartcore we incorporate TRX heavily (pun intended) into the Strength and Conditioning program. We find that the TRX is exceptionally accessible in that one can progress or regress a movement by a simple change in the vector of the movement. In the small group training setup that we have in the studios, this is gold. It allows the teachers to make the movement personal to the client and is quickly able to augment and adapt the movement to suit his/her needs. We compound the TRX movement with burst of three dimensional low impact moves incorporating either Dynamax balls, kettlebells or simply body weight to give a full 360 workout thus getting a strength, endurance and cardiovascular response.
Gok is the Operations Manager at Heartcore Fitness. With over 10 years of experience working in the fitness industry, he tries to filter all the noise in the field to get his clients the results they want in the most effective and efficient way.