For people who sit all day at a desk, this is a great workout.
Both Pilates and TRX suspension training build strength and flexibility, but they have very different origins.
The logistical challenge of keeping fit on board the cramped conditions of a submarine or naval vessel led to the creation of TRX suspension training – a novel approach to fitness by building core strength and flexibility.
Former Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick devised the first TRX system to keep him and his fellow SEALs at peak fitness while on deployment. It could fit into small spaces and was lightweight, simple and portable.
Initially, the system was used for performance training and injury rehabilitation, but over the years, it has evolved into an exercise system that addresses fitness training on several levels, including balance, flexibility, strength and stability.
German physical-culturist Joseph Pilates designed a system of exercises while interned with other German nationals in a detention camp in England during World War I. He rigged springs to hospital beds, enabling bedridden patients to exercise against resistance, an innovation that led to his later equipment designs.
After his release, he returned to Germany where dancers embraced his new method. Those dancers who used the system went on to become instructors in Pilates and its popularity has spread worldwide.
Colleen Brummer, facilities manager and trainer of Energy Studio in Grand Cayman, explains that Pilates is a mind and body exercise.
“With Pilates, there are a lot of core strength exercises. Build the structure inside first and direct that strength outward,” she says.
Pilates gives clients that “long and lean look”, working the muscles while stretching them at the same time.
“Flexible strength – that’s what Pilates is, in a nutshell,” she says.
While some associate Pilates with large pieces of machinery like the Reformer, the exercises can be done simply, on a floor on a mat or with a Bosu ball.
For TRX suspension work, some equipment is needed – a flexible cord that hangs from the ceiling.
Both Pilates and TRX are taught at Energy studio, with TRX being a recent addition.
“We wanted something more athletic and different, but something that did not take us too far away from the core elements of our company. That is what drew me to TRX,” she says.
“You keep moving and challenging your core muscles. You are always using your core. You have to anchor a point that you’re always moving away from. You can do push ups, squats, hamstring curls, hip lifts…,” says Brummer.
The exercises can be made harder or easier with a simple movement of the body – a step back or forward, by lowering the body a little bit, or by working on tiptoe or one foot.
“Everything has to work all the time. It makes the workout more efficient. For 30 minutes or so, you are working every single muscle in that body and sweating buckets,” says Brummer.
Nadine Dumas, who has been teaching TRX classes at King’s Gym in Grand Cayman since last year, says she appreciates the benefits of TRX after working as a desk-bound accountant for many years.
“From long days of sitting at a desk, I knew that functional training is much more beneficial than going to the gym, sitting on a bench and lifting a weight above your head 15 times. With TRX, you use your whole body; when your arms are above your head, you might be squatting at the same time and working your core,” she says.
She recently trained Cayman’s national ball hockey team for 16 weeks before they left for Slovakia.
“I have trained anyone from a marathon runner, to a police officer to a legal secretary–it’s for all walks of life and any athletic ability,” she says.
She recommends doing TRX at least once a week, and up to two or three times a week.
“It’s quick; it hits the areas that are of most people’s concern, such as the abdomen, thighs, glutes, shoulders and back. For people who sit all day at a desk, this is a great workout.
“Most people that sit at a desk tend to slouch and become very tight in the chest, a weak upper back, sore lower back and weak core muscles. The TRX fixes all of that, you learn to keep the tummy tight. We constantly work the upper back to force the chest from tightening and give you a better posture. It is an excellent workout for runners as well, it gives you more tone and helps work the upper body which can be neglected when training for marathons,” she says.
Dumas explains that TRX and Pilates complement one another as both concentrate on core strength, but she says clients get more of an overall full body workout with TRX, which increases balance, speed and coordination.
“For most people, you will soon learn that there are muscles and body parts you never knew existed,” she says.