After my last article, I received several requests for recommendations on exercise. As a personal trainer, it is difficult to prescribe an exercise regimen that it is appropriate for all people at all levels and for all considerations. So in this article, I will attempt to deliver as broad spectrum of recommendations as possible, trying to accommodate as many people as I can. There will be many people who will not agree with my comments. I am making these recommendations with the idea in mind that they would be appropriate for the largest segment of the population.
First, let me detail my background a little more. My education leading to my graduate degree in exercise science was long and rather circuitous. I struggled in undergraduate school trying to find my academic feet. I started with a math scholarship, changed schools, and decided I wanted to go into physics. I then found out that I wasn’t exactly cut out for physics and failed horribly.
At the time, father ran a construction company and offered me a chance to work at his company, provided that I earned a degree in civil engineering. So I gave it good shot, but eventually flunked out of civil engineering. It was not a good time my life. I worked out a lot to stay in shape, rehab a recurring shoulder injury, and to be honest, to improve my dating life. And I have to say, I liked the results in all three areas.
I found myself working menial job with little opportunity for advancement. I went back to community college to raise my grade point average and knockout some prerequisites to go back and finish my undergraduate degree. I went back to college, and received a bachelors degree in general studies. My focus was in biochemistry. In 1983, I had to make a decision what I would do with my life.
I saw an article in Shape magazine, and it said one of the fastest growing career opportunities was in personal training. At that same time, there was a crash in the biotech market. Ph.D.s in molecular biology were waiting tables. So I decide to move forward with a graduate degree in exercise science.
Long story short, my abysmal performance in undergraduate school, became an asset in graduate school. All the physics, engineering, biology, chemistry and biochemistry, gave me an enormous upper hand against my competition. I was way over educated for the degree.
That gave me an undeniable advantage in applying what I had learned. The result is that I have exceptional bio-mechanical analysis skills, and a strong understanding of muscle, movement and metabolism. All of this, combined with six years of teaching adult education classes, helped me to develop good communication skills, in explaining very complex things in very simple terms.
So how would all of this help to create an exercise program for a survivalist in the wild? During graduate school I took a class in weight training. The final was rather interesting. We were given a tree branch, some rocks, a broom handle and rope. Our assignment was to design a workout routine that would work all the major muscle groups in the body.
We had to get very creative. For instance, you could do the hanging crunches for your abs. You could grab a heavy rock and do squats for your quads glutes or dead lifts for your hamstrings. You can grab smaller rocks for presses or lateral raises for your shoulders. You could narrow grip chin-ups on the branch for your biceps, and change the position in your hands and do it for your back. Since then, suspension training has pretty much removed the need to be so creative. A suspension trainer has all the creativity you ever need built into it.
A great excercise regimen that could be adapted to nearly any situation is the TRX system:
“The TRX Suspension Trainer was developed by former US Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick, as he and his fellow SEALS searched for ways to stay in peak physical condition with limited access to training implements and/or space. Starting as parachute webbing, it has developed into a well-made, portable training system that is affordable and user friendly. It’s harness system allows you to use your own body weight for strength training. It allows for the explosive movement of plyometrics without the same stress upon landing. The exercises performed on the TRX are multiplaner, which more closely mimics real life situations that require strength. By adjusting body position, the level of difficulty of a particular exercise changes as well, making it appropriate for people at all fitness levels. Best of all, it can be used nearly anywhere and is light enough to travel where ever you go.”
For more information on the TRX system Click here
So, the critical part of the suspension training, is that it takes up a small amount of space, when they can do so much. A suspension training device with optional door mount attachment takes up about the size of a pair shoes and weighs about 1½ lb. Not a bad solution for staying in shape when your environment may become mobile at any given second.
There are literally hundreds of variants of exercises, and there are thousands of videos available for free online that can get you well on your way to being in shape in no time.
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I love the this method of training, in fact I keep one in my car when I’m on the road, and we have several at the gym. That takes away any excuse not to work out.
One of the reasons why I like the TRX, is that if one transitions between exercises at a sufficiently fast pace, your weightlifting program now becomes your cardio program at the same time. Just last week I did 45 minutes of TRX upper body workout, and my heart rate stayed between 130bpm and a higher than 150bmp the whole time. This closely matches my target heart rate zone for cardio. In short, I get to do my progressive resistance training at the same time I’m doing my high intensity interval cardio training. Double bang for your buck. So hopefully I won’t need to sell you on the idea anymore about how important a suspension trainer will be in your survival SHTF bag.
When you buy a TRX suspension trainer, you get a laminated card with a full body exercise routine. These are the simple and easy to do exercises that work the major muscle groups. I do some of them but not all of them. Experience has given me my favorites. So let’s walk through a few of my favorite exercises I think most people should be able to do and would keep you fit strong and mobile.
Like most exercises there’s progression built into the program. With most exercises to make it more difficult you simply increase the angle amd make yourself as close to the floor as possible and to make the exercise easier you bring yourself to more of an upright position. It simply about moving your center of gravity farther and farther from your feet. So here we go.
An important point in all of these exercises is to not bounce or as I call it “bungee” from one end of the movement to reverse the direction. Control is important and you will get more out of the exercise than if you cheat. One of the most important aspects of any progress resistance training exercise program, is its not how much, it’s how well you do it. To get the most out of this duration program make the transition from one exercise to the next as quick as possible. For example, do the squat row, and then transition to the atomic push up as quickly as you can. Try doing 4 sets of each doing 10 reps each set. Then matched the biceps and triceps. Finally, in this example, I would match the hamstrings and shoulders. This beginning level program only has 24 sets so you should be knock out the whole thing and less than 30 minutes. If you maintain a fast transition between the exercises, and maintain a high intensity you’ll be knocking off your cardio the same time you’re accomplishing your progressive resistance training program. Two for the price of one always sounds good to me.
So what is the takeaway on this article? It’s critical, from my previous articles, that we stay in shape in a scenario of a protracted emergency or disaster. We need to keep the muscles stressed to stay strong. Resistance repetition and movement are all components all of that effort. We also need cardio to stay in shape.
A suspension training offers that duality in our efforts to stay healthy and stay alive. If you have never tried suspension training, I highly recommend it. It’s affordable, convenient, adaptable to the environment, progressive and offers an almost limitless variety of exercises. You can’t go wrong incorporating suspension training in your survival gear. If you buy a pre-made suspension training apparatus, such as the TRX expansion trainer or the TRX Pro Pack Basic. They are a bit expensive, coming it at around $200.
But if you are the hands on type, you can build your own for a fraction of that cost. Just go to YouTube and search on building your own suspension trainer. For all of $40 to $50 and about 15 minutes of your time, you can build your own suspension trainer. It works just as well as the expensive model. Recently I went on an outing, and not wanting to take a chance of losing my TRX in a foreign country, I took some rope, and just built my own suspension trainer so I could train anywhere while I was there. I have pictures of me training in my hotel room using my cheapo trainer attached to the bathroom door.
The benefits of the pre-built models are that they all fit neatly into a small pack ( usually under 5lbs) and they come with a card ( or a dvd) of all the beginning exercises that you can start with. But they are expensive, so if you want to stay fit but cost is a big hold up, look into building your own version.
So if my goal was to find the best resistance training solution that the majority of people could buy or build, and a variety of exercises that almost anyone could do, now or in a crisis, I am going to commit and say you cannot beat a suspension trainer for its features, price and portability. Everyone should have one, use it, learn it and keep it handy.
What I mean when I say learn is you should invest some money and attend a TRX class a few times to get the basics down. Even if you were to end up without it, a piece of rope will suffice once you know the exercises. I cannot praise this exercise technique highly enough. Whether you are bugging out or if a gym membership is just not an option, a suspension training apparatus needs to be in your bug out SHTF bag.
Now go get one or build one, however you choose to get started, like Nike says, “Just do it!”
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