Interrogation Interview: Chris Frankel
SORINEX hosts Director of Programming for TRX,
Armed with a few simple bodyweight movements, and a set of adjustable straps with handles, you can boost strength and stability anytime or anywhere.
That’s because suspension training forces you to use more muscle groups at the same time. Simply change your angle to make an exercises harder or easier.
Nobody understands this better than Chris Frankel, a strength and conditioning coach and sport scientist. Chris is also the brains behind exercise programming at TRX, the Navy-SEAL founded company that created the concept of suspension training.
Check out this Interrogation Interview to learn:
*How to build tactical muscle using a bodyweight-only strength and conditioning plan
*The perfect workout tool to compliment any program
*A proven formula to fast-track your results
*How to train without a gym
JOSEPH ARANGIO: Why is elite physical fitness important for military operators, law enforcement professionals, and prepared citizens.
CHRIS FRANKEL: The term Tactical Athlete has become more commonplace in the industry and helps describe the needs for this personnel. I have heard other coaches say that the needs of tactical athletes are really not much different than any other athletes. I disagree, there are several unique requirements including significant load carriage, environmental factors, uniform “protective” equipment, which inhibits mobility and presents postural and balance challenges, and the need to go from zero to sixty in an instant without notice.
The acute and chronic adaptations required to sustain fitness, performance, and health are very unique and severely compounded by the psychological loads which are part of the job. Add to these facts the health and fitness of this personnel is important for not only them but for the people they protect, and you have a compelling reason for instructors and coaches to constantly stay on top of their game.
JA: Is it possible to make improvements in power, strength, and hypertrophy using a bodyweight-only strength and conditioning plan?
CF: Short answer is yes – but it also depends on the individual.
If you look at the strength and power of gymnasts, it is clear that bodyweight programming is capable of producing tremendous results. There is a wealth of scientific evidence that lower loads can be used to develop hypertrophy, strength, and power.
My experience with TRX and deployed military personnel have provided numerous examples of people who have maintained and improved these qualities. However, my typical response to this question is – yes it can, but it is preferable to have a mix of equipment and strategies in a program.
JA: How can a tactical athlete maintain peak operational readiness while in a challenging environment, using tactical suspension training system?
CF: The Suspension Trainer can be used for strength and hypertrophy as a stand-alone or you can increase load even more by using external loads such as body armor, weighted vests or backpacks. Unilateral (single arm or single leg) and core work is preferable on the Suspension Trainer. Because the TRX is portable, it can be anchored anywhere and be used by anyone. This portability contributes to consistent training frequency.
Even more important to operational readiness, in my opinion, is the ability to use the TRX for mobility training. Mobility is related to flexibility and what is called “corrective exercise” by a lot of athletes and coaches. I have spent a lot of time programming and testing these mobility routines as stand-alone workouts, warm-up, cool-down and movement-prep sets – and we are seeing great results.
The Suspension Trainer really is the perfect tool to compliment any program. I categorize mobility work as low loads, large range of motion, and high levels of motor control using good movement.
JA: How important is it to train in an “adrenalized” state? In other words, getting your heart rate above 165 bpm in order to prepare for the adrenaline dump that happens when in a stressful situation.
CF: This is a great question and an area receiving a lot of attention. In a comprehensive program it is important to have some physiological conditioning in these high and extreme intensity domains. However, these sympathetically dominant states may be best utilized in tactical and technical training situations.
What seems to be a common error is for tactical athletes, and a lot of other athletes for that matter, to spend too much of their strength and conditioning sessions in these domains. The art and science of where training has evolved to is know when to go hard, when to pull back and doing a good job of being disciplined to do each well.
JA: As a segue, please discuss how to prepare your body to focus your vision, calm breathing, and concentrate in order to place a bullet on target… while in this adrenalized state.
CF: The ability to control breathing, heart rate and finding mental focus in the adrenalized state comes from experience, but is also related to autonomic nervous system balance. The experience side has to be earned and the autonomic balance comes directly from how the athlete manages his or her training loads and recovery strategies. This ties into the previous topic of when to go hard and when to go easy.
JA: What is the benefit of changing the training stimulus at regular, or even irregular intervals?
CF: Changing training variables, load, volume, intensity, type and frequency for example are typically intended to maintain or stimulate training adaptations. While there are several types of periodization schemes that can be used, they all focus on keeping the human organism in a state of adaptation. The optimal benefit of manipulating the loads is to keep the athlete at their optimal level of readiness to meet the demands of physical, tactical, and technical training and duty.
JA: How does motivation, adherence, and compliance affect a bodyweight-only tactical suspension training program?
CF: On the positive side, because Suspension Training is convenient, adherence and compliance can be improved over having to travel to a gym all the time. Also, because there are such a wide variety of exercises, you are only limited by your imagination for movements – boredom is never a problem.
One of the biggest challenges is that some people are used to having heavy loads, like barbells and kettlebells. These athletes may feel that bodyweight-style training does not give you the bang for the buck.
JA: What future trends do you see regarding tactical strength and conditioning?
CF: Future trends in tactical strength and conditioning will be integrating the tactical, technical and fitness training in a more streamlined and effective way. This approach has been in sports training for decades where the more experienced and progressive teams and organizations have the strength and conditioning coach at the table with the head coach making strategic decisions.
Having a strength and conditioning coach as an integral part of the support team is going to happen. Having regular pre and/or post-duty movement prep/warm-up routines — similar to pregame warm-ups — is another no-brainer. Chances are these policy decisions will be driven from risk management as much as a performance perspective.
Probably the most impact we will see will come from the use of technology to address readiness, workloads, and recovery to evaluate the effectiveness of programs. Just like the rest of the strength and conditioning world, data and scientific validation will drive the industry to new levels of operational readiness.