Shape Up: Stay on top with portable gym
Published 28/02/2011 | 05:00
The road to fitness is littered with obstacles. For example, mothers face the challenge of staying in shape when the school mid-term restricts their ability to get to the gym, while business executives do their best to stay in shape when on the road.
Limited equipment at home and in hotels pose additional problems when you are trying to maximise your time available.
As I travel a lot myself, I can empathise with clients in this regard. Staying on top of my game while away on courses is a challenge so I was forced to find ways around this problem.
The US Army and Navy Seals were faced with the same problem when training off base. Randy Hetrick, a former seal, wanted a piece of equipment to help his troops stay in shape while deployed in the field.
This led him to invent the surreptitious TRX suspension system, as to use treadmills or rowing machines behind enemy lines would around suspicion.
Weighing less than 2lb and easily packed into a small bag, the TRX is certainly portable. It can be hooked to any overhead structure that can safely support your weight, such as a squat rack, a sturdy branch of a tree, or a closed door using a separate attachment that comes at an additional cost.
The TRX and many of the imitation models that have since hit the market are normally accompanied with a DVD for sample workouts. Using the TRX, you can perform exercises for the major muscle groups of the back, chest, arms, hamstrings and the core.
This kind of 'suspension training' works by using the body's own weight to create resistance. The difficulty of exercises can be manipulated by leveraging your body weight -- the heavier you are, the more difficult the exercise can be, but by altering the angle of you are at and by manipulating the length of the straps you can make them easier.
The straps mean that the exercise is performed in an unstable environment so the TRX will increase activation of a large number of muscles besides the ones you are targeting.
'Functional training' proponents will rave about this point but when you are using lots of muscles you are going to struggle to overload one specific muscle group.
An overload of one specific muscle encourages the body to make a change that will build muscle and increase metabolism, so the TRX is more beneficial for improving strength endurance.
In spite of this, I find that it's a versatile piece of equipment that accompanies me on my travels.
The inverted chin-up on the TRX may not be as effective in strength training as a chin-up but by altering the angle of your feet and the length of the straps you can train different fitness qualities by increasing the number of repetitions and by shortening the rest times.
This will improve your muscular endurance and it is good to add variety to your workout.
By manipulating the exercises and combining them with traditional weight training exercises you can maintain your fitness regardless of the challenges life throws at you or where you are located.
Fat cells don't take holidays and it is your commitment to yourself and the consistency of doing your workouts wherever you are that will dictate your training success.
The TRX is a valuable addition to your arsenal of training equipment but it will not win the war by itself.
It is a foot soldier, not a colonel, in the war on obesity. In America it has proved a sensation in the functional fitness movement, and it is also used by the SAS and Royal Marines.
It has some drawbacks however. The basic TRX suspension trainer costs around €170, which seems a lot to pay for a collection of buckles and straps even if they do have to be made from the same high-quality materials as the best climbing equipment.
There are cheaper alternatives, but your health should always be viewed as an investment, not a cost.
Health & Living