Craig Easton is a professional footballer, fitness freak and friend of Black Line London. His playing palmares reads: Scotland U-21’s, Dundee United. Livingston, Leyton Orient, Swindon Town, Southend United, Dunfermline and Torquay United. And in case you weren’t paying attention, HE PLAYED FOR DUNDEE UNITED which makes him a proper legend. In this guest blog, Craig talks about his experience with the TRX training system and suggests some TRX exercises for triathletes.
Six years ago I was hanging off my ex Leyton Orient teammate Adam Tann’s creaking living room door trying to execute a low row on the end of a piece of equipment that was a cross between a mountaineering harness and something that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Soho basement. That was my introduction to TRX Suspension Training and I’ve never looked back. However, I must admit that before I actually tried it, I thought it was just another gimmick. You know, the ones in the same bracket as those contraptions you see advertised on a loop on channel 4000 in America where someone like Chuck Norris is getting ripped up in their living room and trying to convince you that for a one-off payment of $199.99 you too could have the same sculpted physique as Walker, Texas Ranger.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Norris’ work, especially in the Delta Force movies, but the fact that the TRX was created by Randy Hetrick, a real-life ex-special forces Navy SEAL, to help keep him and his colleagues combat ready in between missions, did make me curious. That short introduction in Adam’s front room, where the exercises I tried were so much harder to perform than they looked, was what really made me get involved. Seven years later and with a massive, dedicated following which includes pro athletes from multiple sports and also a comprehensive in-depth training and education programme, the TRX is certainly here to stay.
I was hooked on it’s simplicity and the fact that you can enjoy a challenging workout anywhere as long as there’s somewhere to hang it, be it a tree in your garden or a hotel door (as long as your wife doesn’t open it in the middle of a chest press or you’ll be eating carpet!). Over the years, many of my teammates at the various clubs I’ve played for have been curious and after getting them involved in a session, many have ended up buying one for themselves.
To say football has changed since I was a fresh-faced 16 year old at Dundee United is a bit of an understatement. The game is faster, players are more mobile and athletic and at a lot of clubs (especially in this country) there is more emphasis placed on the physical side of the game. Strength and Conditioning in football is no longer just about lifting weights. With a more scientific approach to modern conditioning methods comes a more functional training perspective and the TRX is certainly all about functionality, making it a perfect tool for footballers. It’s an important part of my own strength and conditioning regime. In a typical week with a game on a Saturday, I’ll usually do two to three sessions on the TRX along with one or two traditional weights workouts, depending on how heavy the football sessions have been.
Every TRX exercise you perform requires core recruitment. The muscles located around the abdominal region, back, pelvic floor and hips including glutes, are essential for functional movement and injury prevention. During the summer of 2006, when I was playing for Leyton Orient, I had a hernia operation after struggling with groin and abdominal pain for a few months towards the end of that season. About twelve games into the next campaign, I broke down and the pain was even worse. I was diagnosed with Osteitis Pubis (inflammation of the pubic symphysis) and ended up being out of action for 8 weeks.
I was lucky enough that our physio, Lewis Manning, was really forward thinking and he got me in to see a guy called Ian Carroll who was doing a lot of work with Spurs and West Ham players at the time. Basically, Ian opened my eyes to what core stability really was. It was a light-bulb moment! Before, I only thought about my main abdominal muscles as being my core and was actually overusing these along with my lower back muscles and in turn, putting strain on other parts of my body including groins and hamstrings. My core strength was pretty weak. Basic pelvic floor exercises, low level pilates and swiss ball exercises initially helped me to develop these deep lying core muscles and the TRX has taken this sort of training to another level.
Having a strong core is essential for a footballer; it enables us to balance, twist and turn, hold opponents off, generate power, and stay injury free. Living next to the sea, I’ve started to swim regularly and with one eye on triathlon when my football career comes to an end, I asked my friend and TRX Master Trainer, Matt Gleed, to help explain the benefits of TRX for a triathlete. “You get a combination of core stability and core strength allowing you to be more stable when rotating and reaching for a stroke when swimming”, says Matt, “and a stronger core will allow you to hold your aero position on the bike for longer and have a more stable and economical action. When running, good core stability helps every time you land on a single leg and your core strength allows you to maintain a better posture.”
Using the TRX involves shifting your own bodyweight in a number of different functional ways and according to Matt, this is perfect training for both footballers and triathletes. “A key factor of using bodyweight is that you can work with a full range of movement that your body gets used to, thus allowing you to move more athletically and efficiently.” He continues, “You will get stronger, but it’s all relevant to your bodyweight, so when we’re talking about TRX strength, we’re talking about the weight to power ratio and using that power to complete movements relevant to the sport you’re training for. With TRX, you’re working against gravity, the pendulum principle, and the range of movement. Different forms of resistance, not just weighted resistance.”
With the TRX there’s no messing about in between exercises, which means no stalling, having a chat and squeezing out that little bit of extra rest time while walking to the next piece of equipment, and according to Matt this is a bonus especially when training for endurance sports. It’s not so nice when you’re chalk white and trying to keep your last meal down during one of Matt’s monster sessions.
Because of the minimal change-around time between exercises on the TRX, your body is under tension for the majority of the time plus you’re also getting a good CV workout as well. Matt explains, “With TRX you can do a jump squat, turn around quickly, put one foot in and do a single leg burpee then lie on the floor and turn over, put your heels in and go straight into a hamstring curl. The exercises flow into one another more quickly so you build up more repetitions and more time under tension than you would do with traditional strength exercises.”
Many TRX exercises mirror movements that are performed for real in almost every sport. Some will obviously be more relevant than others, but with a little bit of imagination, you can tweak some of the more basic movements to be even more sports specific. The almost limitless adaptability of the equipment is what makes it an excellent tool for any athlete regardless of their sport.
Here are Matt’s top three triathlon specific exercises….