DIY External Loading
When tactical athletes have their functional fitness tested in the line of duty, the trial often comes while they’re humping a 50 to 100 pound ruck while wearing full body armor. In part 2 of the Tactical Fitness series, we covered how tactical athletes should progress their TRX training after completing the first 12 week cycle of the TRX FORCE Program. Here, we’ll explore how to go beyond the increased stability, vector and pendulum challenges explained in part 2. The next progression for the tactical athlete is to work up to TRX training with the body under the same load it bears while humping a ruck and wearing body armor and full kit. Adding external weight allows the tactical athlete to mimic, as closely as possible, the demands placed on the body in real-life operational environments.
A word of caution: if you’ve skipped the first two parts of the Tactical Fitness series, go back, study them and apply the protocols they describe to your training before attempting to incorporate the techniques described here. Loaded TRX training is not for beginners. It’s critical to first make the preparations described in part 1 and part 2 to develop the foundation of rock-solid functional movement and mastery of basic motor patterns before making the leap to loaded training.
The light weight, durability, and portability of the TRX makes it ideally suited to in-theater training. It’s not always possible to bring extra equipment like kettlebells or weights to provide an external load but adding an external load to your TRX training doesn’t require these tools. Instead, you can repurpose standard issue equipment that’s easy to locate and re-source for your TRX training purposes.
Any of the following common items can be used to increase TRX training external resistance:
- Flak jacket
- Helmet (load with sand)
- Five gallon water jugs (fill with water)
- Ammo boxes (load with sand)
- Canteen (fill with water)
- Sand bags
This is but a brief sampling of the common objects you can easily transform into external loading devices for TRX training. The sky is the limit, and your ingenuity and imagination are the only limiters.
Once you’ve sourced your external loading device, use the following steps to successfully progress to “fully loaded” TRX training:
Start small and start slow. Select a resistance object from the list above that you are capable of using for every movement in the TRX FORCE Program. During your first session with external resistance, test to make sure you can handle the load you select on every TRX movement with perfect form. If you can’t, regress the load.
Use fewer repetitions. When you add an external load you’ll immediately notice that it’s more difficult to stabilize yourself on the TRX. Using less repetitions and focusing on executing movements perfectly will prepare the habits and movement patterns you’ll need to handle heavier and heavier loads later.
For ground-based movements like the TRX Pike, TRX Hip Press or TRX Hamstring Curl, place the external load on your back (using a ruck) or stomach.
- Progress through the 12 week TRX FORCE Program cycle and increase the external load as you become stronger. Every time you add resistance, repeat steps one and two and be sure you can handle the extra weight on every movement.
In real life, if you find yourself under enemy fire and have to pull yourself out of a hole by pulling up on a beam across the top of the hole, you’ll be wearing your ruck and body armor when you do it. If you have to bend over, rotate, and grab a buddy to drag him out of harm’s way, you’ll be doing it with the full weight of your ruck, kit, and other gear.
Progressing TRX training using DIY external resistance will help prepare you to successfully execute these and other movements that are commonplace in the course of modern duty. Train on the TRX with this thought in mind.