Cutting-Edge Conditioning

TRX Suspension Training Comes to Punahou

Department: Athletics

By Samuel Vierra

After “suffering” through fitness trainer Megan Clark’s boot camp, Punahou Athletic Director Jeaney Garcia limped away with two ideas: First, she had found an innovative new training method to introduce to Punahou coaches and athletes. And secondly, she had discovered a practical solution to a growing space problem in the School’s weight room. Garcia believed TRX training would offer a cutting-edge approach to train Punahou’s athletes for competition, and the compact nature of the TRX Suspension Trainers would ease the space problem in the School’s weight room, which Garcia says “was way beyond capacity.”

It took some time to find a place for the TRX Suspension Trainers, but eventually the Athletic Department decided on the loft, in upper Thurston Gym. Introducing a new training option to teams and athletes with limited time and set routines is not easy, but those who have incorporated TRX are convinced it has helped them achieve individual and team success.

What Is TRX?

TRX was invented out of necessity. Navy SEAL commando Randy Hetrick devised the TRX Suspension Trainer – imagine adjustable seat belt-style straps connected to gymnastic rings – as a way to keep up fitness conditioning while on Navy SEAL missions, far from the nearest gym. With TRX, a workout can take place anywhere the Suspension Trainers can be supported; a pull-up bar or tree do just fine.

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Cheerleader Monica Shimabukuro ’16 trains on the TRX suspension system at the Asa Thurston PE Center loft.

The philosophy behind suspension training is to get a total body workout that develops strength, muscular endurance and a solid core. The exercises, of which there are over 300, are based on functionality and specific athletic movements.

According to Hawai‘i’s only certified TRX Force Instructor Megan Clark, “TRX is functional. It works on movements you perform every day using your whole body.” TRX appeals to coaches and athletes because workouts can be designed to fit the specific movements, muscles and functions of a particular sport. Major League Baseball, UFC, and Olympic cycling, swimming and running athletes are using TRX to meet the precise movements and muscle functions of their sports. Drew Brees, the All-Pro quarterback and Super Bowl Champion of the New Orleans Saints, has starred in national TRX commercials.

TRX emerged only recently on the fitness scene and finding certified trainers can be difficult, which is why Garcia did not hesitate to hire Clark – currently O‘ahu’s most experienced TRX trainer. Clark graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in kinesiology. She was a civilian fitness trainer for the U.S. Marines before working with Punahou’s cross country, track, air riflery, tennis, bowling, soccer and cheerleading teams – making Punahou the first school in Hawai‘i to offer the method as part of its athletics program.

Initially, notes Clark, many athletes are not impressed by TRX’s simple appearance. “Most people, especially the bigger guys, will look at the suspension trainer and roll their eyes.” Clark always has the same response for the doubters: “You think this is going to be easy, don’t you?”

A Team Concept

Perhaps no team has seen greater payoff from TRX than the cheerleading squad that bested Kamehameha in an individual competition for the first time in years this past fall. Cheerleading head coach Taylor Wong ’05 believes the suspension training method challenges her athletes with “continuous movement and core strength.” According to Wong, TRX has made a big difference. “It shows in our overall routine. From simple motions to tumbling and stunting, it gives us a lot of strength and mental toughness.”

Team building is another positive side effect of the TRX method. During a cheerleading practice, Clark arranges the Suspension Trainers – there are ten in total – so that each apparatus is fit for a specific exercise: pike pushups, burpees, jump squats, hamstring runners, sprinter starts and handstand pushups. Each member of the squad works at a station for a 30-second interval before moving to the next exercise. This gives the athletes an opportunity to work out on the same schedule and to help each other through the more difficult exercises. JV cheerleader Nicole Harrison ’16 believes the suspension training “brings us closer together. In the weight room we’re all alone. With TRX we work out together.” In addition, TRX’s 300-plus exercises keep athletes engaged. “The weight room is always the same,” says Harrison. “TRX is fun because it’s always interesting.”

The Future of TRX

The initial success of TRX, under Clark’s expertise, may make it a staple training method of Punahou’s athletes, and the Athletic Department hopes that more teams use it as a supplement to their current regimens to meet the demanding physical needs of their sports. TRX should be used 50/50 or 60/40 with weights or other traditional training methods, according to Clark, who believes, like Garcia, that TRX is “just another tool in the box” for athletes and coaches.

According to Garcia, TRX “fits with President Scott’s vision of Punahou being innovative and the Athletic Department is no different. We want to be on the cutting edge.” Though not everyone has incorporated TRX into their training programs yet, Garcia has a simple suggestion: “Just try it.”

Samuel Vierra is a high-school English teacher who has coached water polo and baseball, and is married to Robyn Borofsky ’99 Vierra.

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