Any fitness enthusiast will agree that introducing something new to your exercise schedule is a sure shot way to give yourself a boost. Be it a new pair of shoes, a new trainer, a new work-out partner, new gym wear or a new place to workout—they all add some fun and spark to the routine. Kettlebells and TRX workouts are such options that not only promise to add an element of novelty but also make your workout more challenging.
TRX training is a great option to spice up your humdrum workout and giving it an extra edge. It is a way of performing exercises by the body suspension method. The TRX equipments prove as excellent allies to train, tone and strengthen every individual muscle of your body.
How to use TRX
The idea of suspending the body may sound as a thing for the daredevils. But in fact it is completely the opposite. The TRX equipment simply consists of some straps that have to be anchored on a very steady surface. Using these straps you can suspend yourself and perform any of the exercises.
Who should use TRX
TRX was originally developed by the US Navy SEALS to improve their strength and overall fitness. Don’t let that deter you into thinking that it is a strict regimen for the super fit. The entire TRX equipment is very compact and sturdy. It can be comfortably used by a person of any height, weight, age or sex. Plus its mobile structure makes it very easy to carry around with you anywhere and strap it on to a door or even a window grill. The skeptics must note that it is extremely strong so you do not have to worry about it snapping or falling apart. The same equipment can be used to plan a workout for a beginner or even a person who has been training for years.
Below listed are a few basic TRX exercises with simple variations that can be attempted by anyone.
Basic TRX exercises:
Grip both handles of the TRX firmly and suspend yourself at an angle that you are most comfortable in. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back straight and abs tight, perform a squat. Continue this sequence for 15 reps. This is an excellent way to work the quadriceps, glutes and core muscles.
Variation– To make the above squat tougher you could keep one foot on the floor and the other foot on its heel while doing the squat.
Ditto to the technique mentioned above, perform a squat. But this time, you finish the squat and come up; instead of pausing jump off the floor. Once you finish the jump immediately go back to squatting. Continue for 15 reps. This will strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and core muscles.
TRX back rowing
Gripping the handles firmly yet easily and keeping your feet at shoulders width apart, draw yourself towards the TRX in a rowing motion so that your elbows are bent and the TRX handles are on either sides of your chest. Continue for 15 reps. This techniques is ideal to work
the muscles in the upper back or Lats, shoulders, biceps and core.
TRX chest press
Stand with your back towards the TRX and then grip both handles in front of you with arms straight. Suspend yourself so that you are looking down at the floor. Now move your arms out like you would while doing a dumbbell press and bring them back together. Continue for 15 reps. This exercise will work the Pectorals (chest muscles), triceps, shoulders and core muscles.
TRX Ab workout
Lie down flat on the floor on your back preferably on an exercise mat. Hook your ankles firmly in the TRX handles. Keeping your hands by your side on the floor, raise your hips slightly off the floor. Now curl both legs towards your chest and then straighten your legs again. Continue for 15 reps. A great technique to work the lower back and core muscles.
Kettlebells are moulded weights that are shaped as small bowling balls. They have handles attached to them to provide a firm grip. Kettlebells help improve your overall strength as well as work on your balance and flexibility and provide a perfect way to spice up your gym routines.
How to use kettlebells
The use of kettlebells is actually the exact opposite of the traditional dumbbells. When you lift the regular weights or dumbbells you have to go slow and do it very gradually working one muscle group at a time. However kettlebells exercises involve fast, dynamic movements that work out several muscle groups together. It also engages the core muscles as well as your stabiliser muscles.
The deep stabiliser muscles are the transverses in the front and the multifidus at the back. The weight on a
kettlebell hangs a little below where you grip it as a result of which it is harder to balance it and because of the gravitational pull it makes your muscles work harder.
Who should use kettlebells
If you have been training in the gym for at least 3 – 6 months and have good form, a strong back and strong shoulders then you can easily add this to your routine or do an entire routine with kettlebells under the guidance of a trained instructor. However if you are a beginner and especially if you have weak shoulders and/or a weak back, you must train for a few months with regular weights. Only then should you graduate to these as the chances of you injuring yourself are high.
The most important thing to remember when using kettlebells is that your form should be perfect. Randomly lifting and swinging these weights can cause unwanted strains and sprains. Secondly, if you want these to give you results you must lift beyond your comfort zone. Choose a weight that is as heavy as you can manage for several reps, if the weight is too light it will be ineffective. Use of kettlebells involves both, force and momentum so this is not an exercise you are supposed to do at an easy pace. If you are doing it, be prepared to put in all your effort and strength and expect to be tired and/or sore after the first few workouts.
The good thing about a kettlebell workout is that you can plan a routine that lasts 30 minutes or less. It is actually a combination of cardio and strength training You don’t even need several kettlebells just one or two can do the trick and replacing certain dumbbell exercises in the gym with kettlebells, can alter the results dramatically.
There are various ways to use the kettlebells, a few are given below. Choose whatever is convenient for you.
Before you start, warm up your body, begin with the neck. Move your head slowly up and down and then side to side at least 10 times. Then rotate the shoulders clockwise 10 times and anticlockwise 10 times. Now move to the torso, do side bends with 10 reps on each side. Then you can step it up to jumping jacks or starjumps for 10 – 15 reps or even on the spot jogging for 1 – 2 minutes.
Basic kettlebell exercises
Stand with your feet together holding one kettlebell with both hands in front of your thighs. Bend your knees, thrust your hips backwards and get into a squat position while lowering the kettlebell. Immediately step back up, while lifting the bell to your chest level with both hands. Do this for 30 seconds first stepping out with the left leg then the right leg.
Stand straight holding the kettlebell with both hands and hands in front of the chest in prayer position. The bell will rest at the back of the hand. Step out with one leg going into squat position while at the same time one hand with the bell will lift upwards and the other will be towards the floor by rotating your trunk. Step back to position one and repeat for 30 seconds.
Stand with the kettle bell in one hand on the side. Get into a lunge position by taking one leg behind and at the same time do a bicep curl with the bell. Finish one side and then repeat on the other side.
Holding one kettlebell in each hand, get into push up position with hands straight. Lift one bell in rowing position for the back and as soon as you set it down lift the other one. Continue for 30 seconds.
The movements are supposed to be done dynamically, fast and with force in order to be effective. Once you are done, do stretches for the entire body, you can even lie down on the floor for 2 full minutes to get the heart rate back to normal. Do not attempt any exercises on your own without the supervision of a trained instructor.
This was first published in the February 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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