Navy Seal's 'strap doohicky' packs a workout punch


Here’s what I learned this week — the minute you get cocky about whatever mountain you climbed in strength training, there’s another one waiting for you.

Ann and I met at the Y on Monday and completed 15 minutes of cross fit elliptical like it was a walk in the park. If the park had a couple of overly large speed bumps and maybe some high-jump hurdles. Still, we are way past where we started seven weeks ago, huffing hard and hoping to last five minutes.

Then our trainer Leslie Snyder showed up to take us off to whatever we would be doing, and we followed all confident like … we’re getting sort of used to these rodeos.

But when Leslie led Ann and me into the Y’s activity zone for kids and teens, we stopped short. There was a climbing wall in front of us. Did Leslie think we had the muscles to clamber up that thing?

Nope. But she did think Ann and I were ready to try a little something the Y is going to introduce to its members in January. Thus, hanging in front of us, was the TRX Training System. “We’re going to have some fun today,” Leslie said, with a slightly evil smirk.

I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say the first look was not impressive. Each participant gets a strap that is tethered in the middle in a suspension hold. Which is why we were at the climbing wall with its hooks for safety ropes all over the place.

So there’s a set of three black and yellow straps and there’s Leslie, looking pleased with herself.

And there’s the two test subjects, glancing at each other and back at the trio of straps, our thoughts clearly written on our faces — “A strap doohicky? Like that’s a big deal after what we’ve been doing?”

I’ll tell you now, I nearly had to crawl back to work an hour later. This thing? It’s going to knock you on your sassy behind.

In a good way.

The TRX Training system was developed by a U.S. Navy Seal, who later founded the company based on the concepts he earned while creating a portable workout. Randy Hetrick used a karate belt and parachute webbing to make exercise gear he could use in confined space, such as a submarine, to use his own body weight to work his muscles.

When he retired from the military Randy went to Stanford, getting his masters in business, then launched his company in 2005, according to Dan McDonogh, a senior training and development manager at TRX.

Many are attracted to the concept for exactly the same reason that made me initially skeptical, he said in a phone interview. “People find it unassuming.”

The TRX takes no prior experience and isn’t marketed toward gym rats. However, one session and anyone will see the system is a very effective workout.

Ann and I began with the simplest moves. After Leslie told us how to adjust our straps, we did chest presses and squats and lunges while holding on to the handles of our straps with white-knuckled grips. I hung in quivery tension, fighting to not fall over.

With every move, your entire body must work to maintain balance. Imagine doing a pushup in mid air with a little bit of webbing to hang onto — that’s your muscles on strap.

Basically it’s like accidentally stepping off a curb into traffic, McDonogh said. “You lean back to avoid getting hurt. You’re using your whole core strength to get your body vertical.”

The company’s tag line is “It’s all core, all the time.” They’re not kidding.

The TRX is a simple piece of equipment that can serve all, from the best athletes to his 80-year-old mom, McDonogh said. “It’s not like doing a weight-lifting session, you’re not getting beat up.”

Um. Some of us were.

“You’re working flexibility and mobility as you are working your core and simultaneously on muscle mass,” he added. “And you can do it in 20 to 30 minutes. We all know time is of the essence.”

Within half an hour, I echoed my teens on cleaning day. “Are we done yet,” I whined, laying flat on my back and moaning softly.

“You’re going to feel it tomorrow,” Leslie warned us. “You’re going to hate me.”

Too late, I was actively hating her that very second. She just laughed when I told her so.

Plus, Leslie was wrong. The next day I felt amazing, like I could probably hoist a Mini Cooper. My knees, which I expected to be screaming, happily carried me everywhere. My arms seemed to hum with excess energy.

Best of all, my shoulders looked like they belonged on a swimmer. A much-younger swimmer. I basically asked their mirrored reflections out on a date.

This gig is nearly over. One more workout day and then it’s time for (cue to foreboding music) body assessments again. I haven’t lost weight, pretty sure, but things have definitely changed. We’ll soon see what.


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