How To Get Summer Abs With TRX Founder Randy Hetrick

An interview with the inventor of the TRX suspension trainer, revealing what you really need to do to get summer abs.

Josh Helmuthby Josh Helmuth

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When I was 15 it was home work.

When I was 20 it was picking a career.

And, when I was 25 it was committing to a girlfriend for more than 3 months.

I’m a procrastinator. It’s what I do.

Sure, I may have become better at eliminating the habit in recent years, but if you’re like me, you also tend to wait until it’s actually summer to try to get that ‘summer ready’ body.

My metabolism has gone belly-up over the last five years, but it doesn’t mean I have to let my belly blow up either, according to Randy Hetrick.

The Navy SEAL and founder of TRX has put together a series of intense exercises meant to help you get ripped army abs.

But before we get to the details, our chat below is a must-read. 

Navy SEALs

Josh: Are all Navy SEALs totally ripped?

Randy: SEALs are all tough, smart dudes—but it definitely isn’t the case that they are all “ripped.”

SEALs come from all walks of life and represent a wide variety of athletic backgrounds and body types. Getting through BUD/S—and the demands of the job as a SEAL Operator—transforms nearly anyone, both mentally and physically. To put it in perspective, most guys in BUD/S somehow manage to lose weight while ingesting an aggressive diet of around 6000 calories a day.

So, yeah, not only do you have to be in great shape just to get in, but the program is designed to strip you down, expose your weaknesses and then build you back up to become a member of the baddest, wiliest fighting machine on Earth. And the program works. 

That said, when I was a SEAL, the responsibility for maintaining peak-operational conditioning sat primarily with each individual.  Being deployed on operations into remote and austere environments forced us to get pretty creative with the limited gear and resources we had. This ultimately led me to develop an improvised solution [which] would eventually become today’s TRX Suspension Trainer. 

TRX?

Josh: What does TRX stands for and where does it come from?

Randy: Military dudes love a good acronym because the world they live in requires the ability to communicate complex concepts quickly and efficiently over the radio and elsewhere. I created the name “TRX” as shorthand for “Total-body Resistance Exercise”, a complex concept that I needed to convey quickly and simply so that trainers could grasp it in the 5 minutes of their time that they were initially willing to give me.

I drew upon the idea that you can leverage your own bodyweight—across hundreds of common (and not so common) movements—to achieve literally any fitness goal. The TRX Suspension Trainer® is such a versatile tool, that our biggest challenge is always trying to decide which movements to focus on to achieve the best results for each specific user.

To be honest, TRX as a brand has evolved over the past 10 years to include an ever broader range of functional training tools and techniques to achieve every type of training goal. We use everything from our TRX straps & Rip Trainer® to medicine balls, kettlebells and Olympic lifting to help clients and athletes achieve their goals. And those goals span a wide range, from professional football, basketball, MMA to yoga, to injury prevention for runners. Whatever you do, TRX can help you do it better. So, for me, “TRX” simply stands for the pursuit of better. 

Male menopause

Josh: At what age does it seemingly become exponentially more difficult to get those six-pack abs? I noticed my metabolism jump off the deep-end around age 27 or 28. 

Randy: Ha, well, I’m no expert in male menopause, but I can tell you that it doesn’t get any easier to become (and stay) lean over time. That said, for me, stuff started to “stick” a lot more beginning in my mid-thirties. It became a lot easier to get gooey. And the irony is that it’s around that time that guys start to experience injuries for the first time—muscle tears, tendon & ligament pain, overuse issues—which only set you back more.

But if you want to get lean, the obvious stuff is still the best place to start: lay off the beers for a few weeks, limit your white carbs, ditch the sweets and sugary drinks, and stop eating a few hours before you go to bed. I like to do the math and figure out where my excess calories are coming from and where I can cut them out. If you think about it, you can easily drop 1000-1500 calories over a week in just beers and impulse snacks. That’s more than half of a day’s caloric intake for a lot of people. 

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Josh: What’s the biggest mistake people make when trying to improve their core?

Randy: I’m assuming that by “improving your core” you mean having visible abdominal muscles. The short answer is: too much garbage down the pie hole.

But a better answer is a bit more nuanced. Your body isn’t a hunk of stone, and you can’t just chip away on specific areas like a sculptor. Instead, you need to think about the whole system. Full-body, compound exercises and workouts that engage your biggest muscle groups (think quads, glutes, hamstrings and back) are going to do a lot more for your core, faster than thousands of crunches. They require a lot of blood flow to fuel their movements—which burns more calories in the long run.

Forgive me a quick, shameless plug, but that’s the beauty of the TRX Suspension Trainer. Almost every exercise involves the whole body and forces you to generate strength, stability and power from your core. Even if you are doing a chest press, you are stabilizing through your core, making it far more metabolically taxing than bench press or a push up. And you are also engaging all of the small stabilizer muscles as well–meaning you burn more calories, and build more muscle, faster. 

But remember, generally speaking, “six packs” are made in the kitchen, not in the gym. Competitive powerlifters have some of the strongest cores of any athletes in the world, but you seldom find a top ranked powerlifter with washboard abs. That’s because they aren’t cutting weight by dieting; they are focused on strength rather than aesthetics. 

What to eat

Josh: What do you eat before and after a workout?

Randy: Depends on the time of day and type of workout. Usually a banana and a cup of black coffee will fuel me for about 45 minutes to an hour of getting after it. Post-workout, I’m not really a big protein shake guy. Given the option, I much prefer a chicken breast salad or even the occasional burger to a few scoops of powder and water. 

The exercises

Josh: Briefly walk me through why this combo (atomic pushup, pike, hinge, body saw) is ideal.

Randy: This total-body combo lights up nearly every major muscle group with special emphasis on core strength with just four exercises.

You start off with one of my personal favorites — the atomic pushup — to challenge the chest, triceps and anterior core wile providing an awesome coordination challenge.

Moving on to the pike, you’ll develop strength and mobility in your shoulders while torching your abdominals and obliques.

Next, you’ll move to your back side strengthening and activating your glutes, hamstrings and lower back with the hinge. To finish everything off, the body saw will develop shoulder mobility and 360-degree core stability.  

On girls

Josh: How can you really pick up a girl at the gym? How do you avoid being “that guy?”

Randy: Ha, well, my advice is just don’t be “that guy.”

Go to the gym to pick up weights, not girls. If you want to impress a girl, try not being one of the 10 guys tripping over themselves to spot her every time she goes to re-rack a 15lb dumbbell or get a drink. Instead stay focused on your training, nothing is more impressive than dedication, focus and success. Let her notice you—not the other way around.

Now for the ‘summer abs’ workout 

These state-of-the-art exercises include:

1.       TRX Atomic Push Up – Not your Grandfathers pushup

2.       TRX Pike – Take your usually Pike workout and elevate your feet. Feel the burn yet?

3.       TRX Hinge – Dead lift position, into a front lean, all supported by your abs

4.       TRX Body Saw – Don’t let the name scare you, just wait for the burn

 

TRX Atomic Push Up

TRX Pike

TRX Hinge

TRX Body Saw

Josh Helmuth is the editor of CraveOnline Sports.