Suspension trainers, such as the TRX, are versatile pieces of equipment that allow you to position your body so that it works against the force of gravity in a variety of movement patterns to improve strength, joint integrity and core conditioning. Because they utilize body weight as the main form of resistance, they can be used in weight room and non-weight room settings. They are small, portable, easy to set up and adjust, and one size tends to fit all. Resistance is changed by simply adjusting the length of the straps or adjusting the distance between your center of gravity and your base of support.
If your goal is to get as big and strong as you can, suspension trainers are probably not the best tool for you. However, if your goals are to improve dynamic strength and reactive stability in your upper body and core, they can be an effective tool.
The purpose of this posting is to outline three suspension training rowing exercises for the throwing athlete. These exercise, when used in combination with traditional rowing movements, will effectively improve functional strength and stability in the muscles responsible for moving and stabilizing the shoulder and scapula. The three exercises are: 1) the low row, 2) high row and 3) T – reverse fly. Start with 1×10 of each exercise and gradually progress to 2×10-20.
1. Low Row. Start by hooking the cable to something high. Extend the cable out to its shortest position. Hold the handles with arms extended and palms facing inward (neutral grip). Back away from the anchor point until you feel tension in the straps. Your body should form a 45- to 600 angle to the floor, arms should be parallel to the floor and hands should be just under your arm-pits. Set the abs, retract the scapula and pull your body toward the anchor point by bringing the handles toward the sides of your chest until they are even with your arm pits. Pinch your shoulder blades together at the top, pause; slowly extend your arms to return to the starting position. This is one rep. Keep your body straight, core tight and elbows close to your sides. Make the movement harder by increasing the length of the strap or moving your feet forward to increase the angle of lean.
2. High Row. Using the same set-up as before, grab the handles with your palms down (pronate grip), arms straight and hands at shoulder height. Set the abs, retract the scapula and pull your body toward the anchor point by bringing the handles toward the sides of your chest as you rotate your palms inward. Pinch the shoulder blades together at the top, pause, return to the starting position and repeat for the prescribed number of reps.
3. T Reverse Fly. From the same set-up position, grab the handles with your palms down and hands at chest height. Set the abs, retract the scapula and pull your body toward the anchor point by pulling your hands away from each other and squeezing the shoulders together. As you pull your body forward, rotate your palms inward until your thumbs are up. When your arms are extended out, your body and arms should form a T with palms forward and thumbs up. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Using a suspension trainer for upper body movements requires attention to detail in maintaining proper technique for each exercise. Exercise difficulty can be self-adjusted by varying the length of the strap or the position of the feet relative to the anchor point. Increasing strap length and moving the feet forward puts the body in a more horizontal position and increases the difficulty of the exercise. Shortening the strap and moving the away from the anchor reduces body lean and the difficulty of the exercise. Advanced athletes can wear a weighted vest or place their feet on a low bench for additional increases in difficulty, as long as the quality of movement is not compromised.
Eric McMahon, M.Ed., CSCS, RSCC, is strength and conditioning coach for the Frisco Roughriders, Texas Rangers.
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