Monday, June 15, 2009

The Infamous TRX Workout: Phase 4 Metabolic Workout B aka The One With The Suspended Burpees

Actually, this one turned out not to be as bad as Workout A, probably because the exercises weren't too terribly much of a progression from Phase 3. In Phase 3, you may recall, some power exercises were included in Workout B thought not in Workout A. Phase 4 tweaks the power exercises a bit but not enough to make them significantly harder. In fact, I actually found Phase 4's suspended burpees to be slightly easier than the suspended plyo lunges of Phase 3 because there was less of a continuous demand on the working leg.

Unless you're a TRX devotee who's been following Fraser Quelch's blog on the Fitness Anywhere site for a while, you probably have no idea what a suspended burpee is or why it would be considered a progression from a suspended lunge. I'll do my best to explain, but your best bet is probably to go to Fraser's blog (see my blog list) where there's a video clip of Brave Test Animal Brad (I think it's Brad) doing the entire workout while Fraser stands helpfully by and makes encouraging noises along the lines of "You suck! Go faster!" I'm only kidding, of course. Fraser doesn't do anything of the kind. He's Canadian after all and Canadians, even the ones who are personal trainers, are way too nice to tell people they suck.

Anyway, the start position for a suspended burpee is much the same as for a suspended pushup, except that the TRX is in single-handle mode. Your nonworking leg is in the foot cradle where it (hopefully) will remain throughout the exercise. Your working leg is floating alongside, and most of your bodyweight is supported by your hands and core musculature. You initiate the burpee by contracting the core so the working leg comes in and underneath you. Once it touches down, your hands come up off the mat, and then you jump up. At this point the exercise is identical to the suspended plyo lunges from Phase 3. Once you land from the jump, the hands come down and the working leg shoots back until you're in your starting position.

It's even more fun than it sounds, trust me.

Other exercises were the sprinter's start from Phase 2, only with power, the low chest press, the single arm power pull, and the pendulum with pike and hold. For the sprinter's start you begin in a staggered stance, arms supported by the TRX and body at about a 45 degree angle. The back leg pushes off and the knee of that leg comes in toward the chest, while the front leg straightens (no power) or does a little hop (power). For the single arm power pull, the setup is the same as for a single arm row, except that you begin with your torso rotated so that the free arm is hanging toward the ground. As you pull with your working arm, your torso rotates in toward the TRX and your free arm reaches up toward the attachment point. If you're training with a partner you can have him or her push you back in the direction of your starting position so that you'll need more power to initiate your next rep. Fraser helpfully demonstrates that variation in the video. Brave Test Animal Brad, however, refrains from demoing the equally valid "torso rotation and trainer punch" variation, which makes me think he must be Canadian too.

Parameters for the workout are 45 second work intervals, no rest other than whatever time is needed to transition from exercise to exercise, 2 minutes rest between circuits, 3 circuits total. In Week 8 I will be adding a fourth circuit but nothing else will change.

And then I will be done with the program--woohoo! Frankly I'll be glad to move on, not because I've disliked it but because my ETK sessions will be getting longer and more demanding, and I will be wanting to include kettlebell work on my off days as well.

In other semi-related news, I took some check-in photos yesterday for the first time in forever. I try to do this periodically because I find photographs to be more informative than the scale or even the calipers when it comes to gauging fat loss, muscle gain, etc. That's a pretty secondary concern for me right now, but for my clients it's their number one priority. So, when I change up my training I like to keep track of the effect it's having on my physique as well as my performance so I'll know whether the changes are anything that I might want to implement with clients.

Anyhoo, on looking at the photos I was surprised to see that I have somewhat less visible muscle mass than I've had in the past, even though I'm probably stronger than I have ever been. I don't regard this as particularly a good thing, but given how many of my female clients are deathly afraid of bulking up it's probably good that I can reassure them from personal experience that it won't happen if they train for strength and improved function using a combination of free weights, the TRX and kettlebells. I was also pleased to note that I have NO cellulite on the back of my legs and almost none on my butt, which is unusual for a Caucasian woman in her late 40s who likes to eat. That would be the kettlebell effect.

If anyone is curious I will post the pics but probably won't leave them up for long. I'd like to say it's because I am modest but actually it's vanity: I took the photos first thing in the morning and you wouldn't believe how hideous I look without lipstick!