In the US military, there are special forces, and then there are SEALs, the elite Navy squad trained for operations by sea, air, or land. TRX Founder and CEO Randy Hetrick, a former SEAL team leader, says SEALs train like all-purpose professional athletes in order to stay mission-ready. But, due to the mobile nature of special ops work, civilians can do many of the same Navy SEAL workouts at home: all you need is a TRX Suspension Trainer.
SEALs have world-class fitness facilities when they’re home, but deployed teams have to bring their workouts back to the basics like push-ups, sit-ups, and bodyweight exercises. Or, as Hetrick describes it, “traditional stuff that’s been done since the Romans.”
“If you go on an operation for a couple weeks, no one’s bringing treadmills,” Hetrick explains. “You would end up down there doing bear crawls, crab walks, plyometric star jumps, and probably more push-ups that you can shake a stick at. If you’re really lucky, you find some place you can hang off and do pull-ups.” The benefit of these types of exercises is that anyone can do them anywhere. The drawback is that SEALs need more intense challenges to train for their grueling missions.
“Special ops have to be able to carry a lot of weight around and gear. There are a few guys doing a lot of different jobs, so they have to carry around heavy rucks, a lot of weaponry, and body armor.” Hetrick says. :They have to be comfortable with short bursts of high output with a hundred pounds of gear on their body. And they have to do it over and over, day after day, night after night.”
Hetrick began tinkering with the idea of the TRX Suspension Trainer while deployed with his SEAL team, and realized he had created a game-changer. With the Suspension Trainer, he could do hundreds of exercises and modify the level of difficulty with only his body weight and a set of straps.
For Hetrick and his team, training in functional modalities was critical. “You’re trying to protect your body as you build it, so you work on shoulder strength and lower body strength all the way down to the ground,” he says. A Navy SEAL workout has to focus on hips, knees, and ankles, and these ten exercises target the muscles that drive those parts.
One of the best moves for SEALs is the TRX Lunge. “The standing TRX lunge is probably one of the best exercises for a tactical operator that you can find because it works on all the stabilizers. You’re doing it with one leg, so it doesn’t take much extra load to turn that into a really difficult exercise from a strength perspective,” Hetrick says.
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Hetrick suggests complementing TRX Lunge with TRX Single Leg Squats and TRX Sprinter Starts for a complete lower-body workout. According to Hetrick, those single-sided isolation exercises are important for preventing and recovering from injuries.
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The next moves to master focus on upper body strength. No Navy SEAL workout is complete without the TRX Power Pull: the first exercise Hetrick programmed with the original Suspension Trainer prototype.
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Hetrick developed the move to approximate the action of a caving ladder, one of the real life tactical challenges that SEALs encounter. As a single-sided move challenged by gravity, the power pull forces you to stabilize your core, row with one arm, reach, and repeat, much like climbing a wobbly rope ladder.
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The final element to SEAL strength training with the Suspension Trainer is the supine (face up) and prone (face down) plank series. Anyone who has tried a TRX Hamstring Curl or Hip Press knows these moves are no laughing matter. (Hetrick refers to it as “horrifically good hamstring and glute work.”) Even though both moves rely solely on bodyweight, they’re among the best hamstring challenges available.
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But, when it comes to a SEAL’s favorite move, Hetrick says there’s no beating the atomic pushup.
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“You can put somebody’s toes in, suspend them, and tell them to do pushups with a knee tap until they disintegrate, and they’re just happy as can be,” Hetrick says. “So atomic pushups ought to be in any military workout because guys love that stuff.” (Actually repping out to failure, however, is a myth, Hetrick warns. A SEAL’s number one priority is always a safe workout because an injured soldier can’t serve his team.)