Get Smart With Your Training
Slingshot & Enforcer, $50 each, twistconditioning.com
SMART Muscle Training, developed by Peter Twist, president and CEO of Twist Conditioning, is all about overloading the hard drive of your body to build smarter, more skillful muscles.
The Slingshot, a SMART tool that uses a heavy resistance tube to connect two weight belts, is good for overspeed resistance training. The lead runner pulls the tube plus his partner's weight. Then on command, he slows down so his partner accelerates to receive the pull and "slingshot" past the lead runner. Weight-room uses for the Slingshot include Step-Ups, Squats and Lunges. All you do is attach one weight belt around the post of a power rack.
Twist says, "With the Slingshot, the athletes get movement and they can work at an anaerobic pace. The training feels athletic."
Another SMART tool, the Enforcer, provides a load on the core and hips, which translates to good leg action in sports. "It gives you a very quick overload fatigue and burn," Twist says. "Our hips and legs need to be able to link into the core to be able to pull the loaded stretch on the Enforcer."
Says Twist about the SMART products: "There's been an effort to simplify, so there's a one-sizefits- all [through a] quick adjustment, and you're ready to go."
Like a Laser
Fatskin LXR Racer, $290-$550, speedousa.com
Michael Phelps sported Speedo's latest creation, the Fatskin LZR Racer, at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games, where he set seven world records while claiming eight gold medals.
While Phelps wouldn't have accomplished this amazing feat without years of dedication and training, his virtually seamless suit played a major role. According to Speedo, which developed the suit with help from NASA, the LZR allows for 10 percent less passive drag than the brand's Fatskin FSII, and five percent less than their Fatskin FS-Pro. Altogether, the suit makes a swimmer's oxygen intake more efficient, so less effort is required for a specific pace
TRX Suspension Training, $150, fitnessanywhere.com
Whether you want to cut loose from the weight room or add a new component to your program, TRX Suspension Training is a functional tool for building strength and endurance. "You can work your full body, from feet to fingertips," says Todd Durkin, strength coach and owner of Fitness Quest 10 [San Diego]. "There is a stabilizing factor, so it works the small muscles as well as the big muscles."
This suspension-strap system harnesses your bodyweight to create resistance as you train. Simply put, your body becomes your machine.
Durkin, coach to elite athletes such as LaDainian Tomlinson and Kellen Winslow, has been incorporating the TRX into his training since 2005. In fact, it was the main ingredient in New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees' 2007 off-season rehabilitation program, which Durkin created. "When I'm working with athletes," Durkin says, "[I'm] trying to develop athleticism overall…[and] the TRX is a phenomenal tool to improve strength and power."
Denver Nuggets S+C coach Steve Hess uses the TRX to mimic sport-specific movements. He says, "I take this piece of equipment and work 15 different players with 15 different exercises 15 different times a day."
To maximize his athletes' training sessions, Durkin makes TRX part of their overall programs—using it both as a standalone tool for exercises like push-ups and rows, and in drop sets [continuing an exercise at a lower weight once you reach failure] with the straps.
"If you're going to do a set of the bench press, you can immediately go to the TRX and hit a set of suspended push-ups," he says. "You have the absolute strength of the bench press, and then you have the strength with the suspension training."
The TRX also works flexibility. "It doesn't beat up your joints," Durkin says. "The stabilization that must occur in the body helps develop joint integrity and safeguards against injury."
Using the TRX system is simple: Attach the straps to the doorjamb and get to work. If you're at the gym or in the weight room, wrap the straps around a cable crossover machine. The exercises are easy to perform, too. You use your bodyweight to achieve the desired movements, which gives you complete control over the difficulty of the workouts. "All you have to do is adjust your feet either deeper underneath the system to make it harder, or walk further away so you're more upright and you don't have to pull up as much," Durkin says. "The lower you are under, the harder it will be."
Hess adds, "Once you have the basic principles down, you can change it so many ways and use your imagination to come up with the most incredible exercises."
Poetry in Motion
Under Armour Ilusion, $95, underarmour.com
Under Armour, once known for its groundbreaking sweat-wicking apparel, is taking the running world by storm and creating buzz within the road warrior clique with their latest series of products, running shoes, including the Illusion.
After testing and incorporating all relevant technologies, Under Armour says they've designed the perfect running shoe. "The UA Illusion gives runners exactly what they need for that linear movement and repetitive nature that running entails," says Chris Brewer, Under Armour's director of running and training footwear.
Built for runners with flexible arches and who like firm cushioning, the Illusion has a midsole that features "cartilage," which, as Brewer explains, "is the main independent suspension system that allows the foot to land on the ground and roll through the [running pattern] more smoothly. We eliminate all jarring forces while reducing the sheering forces that happen at impact."
With a comfortable midsole as the shoe's base, Under Armour designed an ultra-rugged outsole. Using a blend of carbon, blown and solid rubber from heel to toe, the Illusion acts like a Michelin on tough terrain. "You get durability from the carbon rubber, maximum cushioning and light weight from the blown rubber, and the best blend of the two from the solid rubber," Brewer says. "There's also progressive traction on the outsole for better propulsion in the forefoot area."
One essential but often overlooked feature that every runner should check out when shoe shopping is the tongue's fit. Under Armour focused on this area, creating a "foot sleeve" instead of a tongue. "It creates a better environment in the shoe that allows for heat and moisture movement, giving it a more comfortable fit through the mid-foot area," Brewer says.
Recovery Acceleration Apparel
IonX Recovery Gear, prices range from $30 to $70, canterburynzusa.com/ionx.php
It's not magic, but pretty close.
Canterbury of New Zealand has developed IonX Recovery Gear, a high performance clothing line that increases oxygen supply to the muscles to improve output and accelerate recovery.
The apparel's fabric features IonX technology, which reacts with heat and sweat to create a negative ion charge that stimulates the flow of oxygen-enriched blood, bringing more energy to the muscles and speeding up the removal of lactic acid. Endorsed by PGA star Jim Furyk, Canterbury's recovery line is said to improve muscle function, block pain and reduce inflammation.
Pull-ups Made Possible
Perfect Pullup Complete Plus [includes ab straps], $90, perfectpullup.com
Pull-ups have been around for a long time; they've just never looked this perfect.
It was only natural for the makers of Perfect Pushup to revolutionize the push-up's calisthenics kinfolk—the pull-up. Even more natural is the Perfect Pullup's basic principle. "The whole premise of functional training is getting your body to move in its natural movement patterns," says Alden Mills, a seven-year veteran of the Navy SEALs and inventor of the Perfect Pullup. "Once your arms extend and contract back in toward the body, they want to rotate again. Your body actually wants to do a pull-up and a chin-up."
The Perfect Pullup makes that possible, no matter your strength or athleticism. The adjustable bar and swing arms make it easy for beginners to engage in pull-up movements, such as the Standing Upright Row. Attach handles to the bar so they hang, which allows you to rotate your arms 90 and 180 degrees, depending on your strength and how much muscle you want to engage.
Once you've mastered the Upright Row, crank it up a notch with the Australian Pull-Up—one of Mills' favorite exercises. You can also pump out Tricep Extensions, Single-Leg Squats and Lunges.
Take it from Lt. Cmdr. Mills: "This isn't about just chest and triceps and back and biceps. It's about engaging your entire core through natural movement patterns that are only going to help you with speed, coordination and endurance."
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock