I can usually tell if a certain exercise is challenging and effective by the grunts and groans I hear coming from my athletes. Movements with the TRX Suspension Trainer (TRX) never fail to provide a chorus of these beautiful sounds. That means TRX exercises for MMA athletes are a staple of my programs.
History of the TRX
TRX was created by Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick, who, while living inside submarines and safe houses, had no fitness equipment and limited space available for exercise. He used part of a parachute and a karate belt to made a prototype of what would become the TRX Trainer we see today.
What is Suspension Training?
I define it as an exercise methodology that uses one's own bodyweight as resistance. Suspension training comprises unique exercises, which generally support an athlete's hands or feet at a single anchor point while his opposite end is in contact with the ground. This provides instability and allows the athlete to train for strength, power, endurance, joint integrity, injury prevention, flexibility and balance—all of which are vital in MMA.
Since MMA is a sport with weight classes, relative body strength and endurance are paramount. Obviously, technique is an important piece; however, if you have superior strength and power endurance, you will have a competitive edge. Based on my definition of suspension training, the TRX is a perfect tool to help you become more efficient and effective with your own bodyweight, which will transfer to the ring or octagon.
Why use the TRX with combat athletes?
1. All levels can use it. TRX is one of the most versatile fitness tools in the market today. Whether you are new to exercise or an experienced fighter, the TRX Trainer will challenge your athletic limits. Basic variations include altering your foot positioning (vector principle), adjusting your body position with respect to the anchor point (pendulum principle) and changing your base of support (stability principle). This versatility makes TRX ideal for one-on-one training, small group training and even large class settings.
2. It can be used anywhere. I hear many clients and athletes say they have no space for new equipment. But the TRX can be used just about anywhere, including your home or hotel room. I train professional fighters at Alliance Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., and we have a number of TRX units hanging on the same apparatus as our various punching bags and heavy bags. When my clients travel for business or pleasure, I make sure they pack their TRX Trainers and use them in their hotel rooms—or even off a palm tree if they are vacationing in Hawaii.
3. It is all core, all the time. Personally, I love working the abdominal and core muscles with exercises other than Crunches. This is easily accomplished with the TRX. Its instability forces you to activate, engage and really brace your entire body throughout the movements, leading to an overall stronger, more injury-proof body.
4. TRX is functional to the sport of MMA. The exercises performed with the TRX carry over nicely to the demands of MMA. It does not isolate muscles, but rather trains movements. The TRX also has a cardio component, which is vital to an MMA athlete. Nothing defeats your will like fatigue. Gas out and you are done. Because TRX exercises are full-body movements, they impose a metabolic demand that translates to increased cardiovascular output.
Needless to say, the TRX is one of my favorite exercise tools. I incorporate TRX movements with other great tools such as kettlebells, dumbbells, sandbags, heavy ropes and tires.
Incorporate the TRX into your strength and conditioning program today. Below are five TRX exercises that will develop core strength, endurance and explosive power.
1. Suspended Burpees With Knee Drive — This takes the traditional Burpee to another level. It challenges balance, coordination and striking ability, and it will also push your heart rate. This exercise is best done with a partner so you can work on your clinch technique and drive your knee strike into a target. Shoot for eight to 10 reps on each leg for multiple sets.
2. Hip Press — If the fight goes to the ground, your hips become even more important. The TRX Hip Press is a great movement for developing the glutes and hamstring muscles, which are used to help get your opponent off balance so you can work for better ground position. Aim for three sets of 20 reps.
3. Pendulum Swing With Knee Tuck — This movement activates the obliques and other torso muscles that are used in punching and kicking. It's also great for developing the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder joint, which is beneficial for injury prevention. I like to get two to three sets of 20 reps (10 tucks on each side).
4. TRX Hip Circles — This is similar to the popular Abdominal Knee Tuck that we do with the TRX. The primary difference is the abduction component of the hips. This is great for opening up the groins, and it's an important movement for combat athletes who want to improve flexibility for their ground game. Like the Pendulum Swing, shoot for multiple sets of 20 reps.
5. TRX Rows — Your pulling muscles (the posterior chain) are crucial. Whether you are pulling someone into your guard or just trying to control your opponent to prevent an onslaught of strikes, you need a great amount of grip and posterior chain strength and endurance. For the traditional TRX Row, I like to keep the reps high, 15 to 20, to really work on muscular endurance.
You want more? For an advanced option, try elevating your feet onto a bench or dummy, or wrap them around a dummy or partner (like this example).
View the video below for more details on how to perform the above TRX exercises.
Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is a personal trainer and strength coach in San Diego, Calif. He works with the Alliance MMA fight team, where he trains UFC champion Dominick Cruz, Phil Davis, Brandon Vera, Travis Browne, Alexander Gustafsson and others. Visit DBstrength.com for more information.
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