In today's operational environments in Iraq and Afghanistan, service members must be able to react instantaneously to IEDs, ambushes and incoming fire while humping from 80 to 120 pounds of gear on their backs. The challenges service members face can come from any direction at any moment. In order to avoid injury or worse, they must be able to react in any direction, too—by moving laterally, forwards, backwards, up, down or rotationally, at any given moment. Even on base, service members must have bodies that are mobile, agile, strong and powerful in every direction to execute day-to-day tasks—like strapping on those massive rucks. But do the training modalities service members use in physical training best prepare them for these demands? Or is there a better way?
The Status Quo
For decades, linear movements like push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups coupled with steady state cardiovascular modalities such as ruck humping and long distance running have been used to prepare service members for duty. This type of training can yield service members who seem strong, fit, mobile and agile. But because the bulk of their training targets the sagittal plane (any movement of the body forwards or backwards, such as the above push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups) and the frontal plane (any movement occurring in the plane perpendicular to the front of the body) while neglecting the transverse plane (any rotational movement) almost entirely, service members do not develop the motor patterns and muscle memory needed to yield optimal fitness for duty.
“The military is trying to work with different PT programs to evolve preparation of service members to meet in-theater needs,” says TRX Director of Military Education, Dr. Joe Martin, D.C.. During the past four years, Dr. Martin, a former Navy SEAL, has spent time with wounded warriors at facilities throughout the United States and abroad and has taught more than 100 TRX orientations and training classes to service members. “But the typical training the military has used for the past 30 or 40 years has resulted in the biomechanical breakdown of soldiers in the modern combat environment.”
No matter how many pull-ups or push-ups a tactical athlete can perform, it will matter little when enemy fire starts to whistle overhead from out of nowhere and he has to kneel in a lunge behind a rock with a 80 pound ruck on his back and rotate to address incoming fire. If he doesn't have strength in the transverse plane, this very basic movement could result in a back, neck, shoulder or pelvic injury at the worst possible moment.
A Better Way: Multi-planar Training on the TRX
During the past decade, athletes elite and amateur alike have embraced functional training methodologies. One of the fundamental precepts of functional training is to mimic the demands the athlete will face in competition (or combat) as closely as possible in training. In the case of the tactical athlete/service member, this would mean training in a multi-planer fashion with an equal emphasis on developing strength, power, endurance, agility and mobility in all three planes of movement in order to mimic the demands of today's operational environments.
A true multi-planar training tool that engages the entire body and develops balance and proprioception with every movement, the TRX is ideally tasked to developing the functional fitness today's service members need down stream. The TRX FORCE Kit and TRX military education programs have been designed expressly for this purpose. Every movement on the TRX challenges the body in all three planes of movement. Even old school moves like the push-up take on a new multi-planar dimension when performed on the TRX—with the feet suspended off the ground in the TRX's foot cradles, the TRX push-up forces the body to stabilize itself and counteract rotational forces in the transverse plane in order to stay balanced, and the movement becomes a whole body movement that requires coordination, strength and balance in all three planes of movement.
One important component of the TRX FORCE Kit and TRX Training's military education programs is prehabilitation. “Prehabilitative training is doing strength and conditioning work before injuries occur to stop or mitigate their frequency. If you can get as close to mimicking the way service members must use their bodies down range as possible, their bodies and minds will already have internalized how to perform these movements, leading to less of a chance of injury. When it gets to the shit hitting the fan, the tactical athlete isn't going to have to think about the engagement of other muscles. Their bodies will be very reactive and the body will subconsciously remember how to perform the movement. This means that the tactical athlete has a higher probability of getting out of that proverbial shit hitting the fan without injuries.”
While many training modalities can be used to achieve multi-planar training, the TRX is an exceptionally powerful, economical and sensible multi-planar training tool for today's tactical athlete. It can be used pre-deployment in training on base. Since it weighs 1.7-pounds and stows in its own compact stuff sack, the TRX is easy to transport to any in-theater environment down stream. Because the TRX can be anchored virtually anywhere, it's simple to transport and use in-theater as well. Equally adept at cultivating mobility, strength, power, mobility and aerobic and anaerobic endurance, it's the Swiss Army knife of multi-planar training tools, and it can help make tactical athletes as prepared as possible for today's challenging operational environments.
How has the TRX made a difference in your tactical fitness relative to conventional PT? Post your comments below.