View Full Version : Weightless workouts

05-19-2008, 05:30 PM
Weightless workouts
Gain without a lot of strain
E-mail | Print | digg us! | del.icio.us! | Click-2-Listen

In the company of cable machines, leg presses and other trappings of a weight room, the two-pound TRX Suspension Trainer looks like an apparatus for gymnasts or circus performers, not Major League Baseball players.

But for Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo, doing lunges and rows while suspended from the nylon straps provides a solid workout for his shoulders, back and core – no free weights required. And it’s portable.

“Every weight room is different. When you go to older stadiums like Wrigley (Field in Chicago), you don’t know what you’re going to have to work with,” Arroyo says.

The balancing acts of Suspension Training, Pilates and yoga may seem like the softer side of health and wellness – not conditioning that can increase a pitcher’s shoulder strength, extend a golfer’s drive or intensify a tennis player’s forehand. But the benefits of these “alternative” conditioning methods – increased balance, core strength and joint stability – have gained mainstream attention and support from trainers, coaches and pro athletes.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees used the Suspension Trainer to recover from a partially torn rotator cuff last year.
In March, tennis pro Andy Murray said practicing yoga in a hot room helped him clinch a victory over top-ranked Roger Federer in the first round of the Barclays Dubai Open.

Tiger Woods says he practices Pilates.

But the best part about this trend is that any weekend warrior looking for improvement on the golf course, tennis court or pavement this summer can benefit from these stability-challenging moves.

Suspension training

Matt Krause, strength and conditioning coach for the Reds, was attracted to the portability of the Suspension Trainer, developed by a former Navy Seal to allow special operations units to train anywhere.

But after introducing the Trainer to Arroyo, Aaron Harang and a few other Reds this season for workouts on the road, Krause found the players benefited by using it even in the home clubhouse.

The system ($150 for a base model) takes traditional strength training and removes the stability. Exercises involve minimal contact with the floor and often hanging – from the hands or feet – at sharp angles to support 5 to 100 percent of the athlete’s own body weight.

That means that whether Arroyo is doing a reverse one-leg squat or a row, his core muscles in the back and abdomen are engaged.

The wide-open, 12-foot reach of the system allows athletes to build flexibility within the framework of proper movement. Amateur golfers can use the equipment, from a standing position, to extend the length of their swing or correct a lower-body sway. Swimmers can practice their stroke or technique out of water.


Like suspension training, yoga’s unstable poses can yield better balance for athletes.

“With a lot of the yoga exercises, you’re standing on one foot or you’re balanced awkwardly,” says Buck Niehoff, a marathon runner and cyclist from Hyde Park.
Niehoff, 61, ran the Paris Marathon in France in April and rides his bike 30 to 60 miles twice a week with friends. He credits weekly yoga classes for keeping him on the go – and balanced on his bike.

“Most of my friends I used to run with aren’t running anymore because they hurt too much,” Niehoff says. “What yoga is helping me do is keep running without pain.”
Yoga’s “tree” pose (done by placing the flat of one foot against the inside of the other knee) stretches the hamstrings and glutes and is a favorite for Niehoff and other cyclists.

Runners can benefit from “moves that strengthen ligaments on the sides of the knees and build flexibility in the legs and hips,” says yoga instructor Jen Damaska of Kenwood, who leads yoga classes for athletes and has shaped up hockey players and Bengals.

For tennis players, the “downward dog” pose can strengthen the shoulders, wrists and arms to help absorb the impact of the ball and reduce tennis elbow.
To increase the power of a tennis serve, the Yoga Journal recommends poses that include rotation in the spine.


Pilates, which focuses on activating core muscles, can help athletes who are training hard but have hit a wall with their performance.
“All movement should come from your core. If you’re always just using your arms, you’re not getting the torque,” says Kimberly Kuncl of Anderson Township, a physical therapist who teaches Stott Pilates, a method that focuses on functional movements.

Kuncl, who has worked with professional dancers and top-level athletes, says moves that strengthen the core – like “The 100” – also reduce muscle soreness.
“People don’t strengthen those smaller, deeper muscles. What happens is their big muscles, like hamstrings, get really tight,” Kuncl says.

Because body alignment is a hallmark of Pilates, the method is ideal for teaching golfers “how their body works, like hinging at the hips versus flexing through the back,” says Moira Merrithew, Stott Pilates co-founder and executive director of education.

A golfer can increase the rotation of his hips in relation to his shoulders – and the speed of the club as it strikes the ball – through performing the Pilates “spine twist” while holding a club and extending into a backswing.

“It helps them get that neuromuscular connection,” Merrithew says. “Their body ‘remembers’ that the next time they’re on the course.”