Recently legendary powerlifting coach and training guru Marty Gallagher joined Pavel Tsatsouline, Dan John and TRX Professor Chris Frankel to instruct elite tactical athletes as a team. The details of this clandestine mission can’t be revealed here. But one outcome from the summit that can be shared is Gallagher’s approach to strength training on the TRX Suspension Trainer.
Gallagher, a three-time World Master Powerlifting Champion with 50 years of experience practicing hardcore strength training, is known for his Purposeful Primitive philosophy for developing monster strength in brief training bouts with a focus on supreme technique. “One of the key strategies is to take away tension, build up an extended range of motion and then increase resistance,” says Gallagher, summarizing some of the core principles behind his science and experience-based approach.
Here’s how he describes this approach as mapped to the bench press, one of the four core lifts he has trainees execute along with deadlifts, squats and overhead presses: “To take the tension away on the bench press, I’ll have a trainee do dumbbell presses and where they’re normally maximally tense and ready to push up at the bottom of the lift, I’ll have them exhale, relax and let the weight stretch them downward. Then from the completely stretched out position, I have them re-engage and push up. That’ll take a guy who’s capable of pressing 100-pound dumbbells for eight reps down to 60 pounds.” A few training sessions or weeks later, depending on the trainee, Gallagher will have the trainee up the poundage and when he does, he’s able to move substantially more weight than before he started the protocol.
Gallagher sees the TRX as an excellent tool for using this technique to de-load movements and increase a trainee’s range of motion. After co-teaching for the special forces athletes with Frankel, Pavel and Dan John, Gallagher went home and brainstormed with his collaborator Dr. Mike Davis, a physical therapist, and came up with innovative techniques to task the TRX for the Gallagher, Purposeful Primitive style of strength training.
After Gallagher puts a trainee through the de-loading and relaxed deep stretching phases of his protocol using TRX movements like the TRX Chest Press, TRX High Row and TRX Hamstring Curl, he then uses two techniques to markedly increase resistance levels: external loading and partner resistance.
External loading consists of having a trainee wear a weight vest or weighted pack for standing movements (such as the TRX High Row and TRX Chest Press) and ground-based core movements (such as the TRX Crunch or TRX Atomic Push-up) or placing a load such as a sandbag on a trainee’s legs during movements where a pack or weight vest won’t add the necessary targeted resistance such as the TRX Hip Press or TRX Hamstring Curl.
“The goal is to knock reps down to where the user is literally struggling to complete five, eight or even three reps. In the more difficult leveraged TRX movements, the vest is sufficient,” says Gallagher.
The second approach Gallagher and Dr. Davis developed for building strength on the TRX relies on partner resistance. The partner resistance approach consists of the trainee performing a movement on the TRX while the trainer or training partner actively presses or pulls the trainee to apply resistance such that the trainee can complete no more than eight reps.
The objective of both approaches is to increase maximal tension while training on the TRX with the aim of increasing strength. If you’re ready, give these approaches a try. For more information on Gallagher’s approach to the de-loading and stretching phases of his protocol, pick up The Purposeful Primitive. Then try the methods described above in your TRX Training.
Share your results and methods you’ve developed for targeting strength training on the TRX in the Forums. And remember, always earn your progression and only add intensity on top of sound, solid movements.