Serendipity (ser-en-dip-i-ty): The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
What does cleaning out a closet to paint it have in common with training a world-class snowmobile X Games competitor to overcome back pain? On the surface, nothing. But the intersection of these events in my own life led to a breakthrough that would change my life, my future and the world of training, forever. Serendipity is a beautiful thing.
It was the winter of 2008 when a friend of mine who was also a client happened to be sponsoring an X Games athlete who competed in SnoCross. If you’re not familiar with SnoCross, it’s a crazy sport in which snowmobiles rip around a track filled with 90-foot gap jumps, whoop-de-dos and general chaos all while controlling a 500-pound sled.
SnoCross competitor Mike Schultz was preparing for the X Games and needed a physical therapist that understood the demands of high-level sports to help alleviate his low back pain prior to competing. Although I performed typical back treatment on Schultz including soft tissue mobilization, active and passive stretching techniques, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and ice, I realized I needed an out-of-the-box core strengthening routine that simulated the type of rotational loads he would experience on his sled.
That’s where serendipity came into play At the same time I was working with Schultz, I was painting my closet and had removed all the clothes and hangers from the closet rod. While taking a break I looked up at the closet rod and thought, “That would make a good snowmobile handlebar.”
Without hesitation, and fueled by a mild case of attention deficit disorder, I stopped painting and went to the garage with the closet rod in hand. I drilled out the end of the closet rod and screwed an eyebolt into it. I found a sport cord and cut off both handles exposing the nylon webbing. I looped one end of the sports cord through the eyebolt and the other to a rock-climbing carabiner, so I could anchor the system to a ski rack in my garage.
The instant I felt resistance through the lever bar, the hair on my arms stood up and I got goose bumps. In all my years of training, I had never been challenged in the transverse plane like that. It instantly became a game in which I would try different pushing, pulling and rotational movements to throw myself off balance, similar to how a snowmobiler would be tested in a race.
My core was on “fire” and I noticed a significant sweat now forming on my forehead. As my A.D.D. set in again, I forgot about snowmobiling and turned my focus to martial arts, something I have extensive experience in as a US National TaeKwon-Do champion. I began to perform striking type motions as if I were a samurai warrior trying to slice through bamboo trees out in the forest. Playing with angles and differing speeds, I experienced something that I had never felt before: the combination of pushing with one hand, pulling with the other and rotating on every strike.
This was the exact type of rotational-power development that athletes use to hit homeruns, drive golf balls and knock out opponents in the boxing ring. At this point I was gasping for air and forced to stop from the intensity of the work. I took this janky prototype to Schultz the very next day and began training him on it. He was so impressed with the workouts, prior to departing back to Minnesota, he asked where he could get one of these units and the concept of TRX Rip Training was born.
Six years later, TRX Rip Training is a tool used worldwide by strength coaches, physical therapist, group-exercise instructors and individuals looking for a novel way to train. TRX Rip Training has changed the way the industry looks at rotational movement and proven to be one of the hottest modalities on the market.
The funny thing about the origin of the TRX Rip Trainer is that I have lost touch with Mike Schultz and he has never seen the final product he was instrumental in creating. Schultz, if you’re out there, I thank you for your support, belief in me and your willingness to think outside the box on your way to becoming a 4-time X Games gold medalist!