written by Neal Dranoff

This posting is a follow-up to my August 3rd post in The 50 Plus Male, “Refining The Physically Fit Male—Surviving The Urban Jungle.” I regard that as one of my more important editorial pieces since it revolves around improving our health, specifically in the “newly” recognized area of functional fitness.

While the August post dealt with the MovNat fitness philosophy, today I want to introduce two specific pieces of fitness equipment that many 50 plus males may prefer to utilize as an addition to or in lieu of use of free weights. First we will discuss TRX suspension training, followed by a brief discourse on working out with bands.

The TRX (total resistance exercise) system was invented by ex-Navy SEAL squadron commander, Randy Hetrick, when he was seeking a way to keep his men in shape with an apparatus they could use in any type of environment. The TRX is basically two industrial-grade nylon straps with cam buckles sewn to rubber handles (for your hands) and foot cradles, attached to an additional anchor strap/carabiner that you can connect to a beam, tree limb or any other type of firm anchor. The entire piece only weighs a couple of pounds and can be kept in a companion mesh storage bag.

The result is a highly efficient suspension system that uses your own body weight for resistance. When your feet are suspended, you are forced to engage your core muscles. You can adjust the straps and the position of your body to develop your own personalized workout because these actions will increase or decrease the level of difficulty for a given exercise. Don’t worry if the idea of even minimal suspension seems too daunting; you can just grip the handles and lean back to perform multiple exercises that cover the major muscle groups. By enabling you to increase your strength, flexibility and balance simultaneously, you are provided with a well-rounded functional fitness routine that allows you to better handle life’s daily mundane requirements such as lifting and climbing. For more information you can visit the TRX web site, www.fitnessanywhere.com.

Many of us, especially when we were “south” of 50 years old, only equated strength training with free weights. Nothing else was considered other than grunting and sweating while we pumped iron. Well, I’d like to remind you of another type of strength-training apparatus, elastic bands; basically surgical-grade elastic latex tubing (found in premium band systems) of varying lengths and colors attached to plastic handles encased in foam, with a door anchor component at the other end. Length and color denote the varying amounts of tension when the tubing is stretched. The handles will have carabiners attached (once again, only in high-quality kits) that enable you to instantly click on various combinations of the tubing to enlist a multitude of resistance-level choices.

The bands allow you to mimic almost any type of sports movement and can provide many benefits: increasing your strength/boosting your aerobic conditioning/adding muscle/reducing your chance of sports-related injury. You’ll find yourself burning calories much more efficiently while improving cardiovascular fitness. As with suspension training, band training can pretty much be done anywhere. This is particularly beneficial for those of us 50 plus males who travel extensively for business.

I can recommend two band systems for you. The first is made by Bodylastics, found at www.bodylastics.com. (For full disclosure purposes, I must note this system is also offered through The 50 Plus Male Store, but I’m not pushing this system over any other; it’s ultimately up to you to decide.) The second system is the SuperBand system (www.ihpfit.com), developed by J.C. Santana, M.Ed., C.S.C.S., of the Institute of Human Performance in Florida. Mr. Santana is one of the country’s leading authorities on band training, and has been written about in Men’s Health magazine. One final note of caution: care must be taken when exercising with bands in combination with the door anchor component. Please make sure the bands are securely anchored in the door; if not and the bands break free from the door, they can snap back and hit you—possibly resulting in significantly painful injury anywhere in your lower extremities (guys, I’m talking about a major ouch and discoloration; you won’t have any “spring to your step” for a couple of days).

Folks, I don’t presume to present myself as a fitness expert…my sole intention is to educate you on proven functional exercise alternatives to your current regime. Both the TRX system and exercise bands are used in many fitness facilities throughout the U.S., which provide utilization and safety guidance. For use at home, premium-grade systems will offer an instruction book supplemented with a training DVD.


Tags: fitness equipment, fitness routine, major muscle groups, nylon straps, resistance exercise

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