Randy Hetrick may not be a household name but there’s a very good chance that you will know his products and may well have one at home (or at the gym). Hetrick is the man behind the TRX® and Rip Chord®. Here the former Navy SEAL tells us where he got his inspiration from and where the world of TRX and suspension training is heading.
Tell us a little about yourself
I grew up as an athlete from the age of 12 or 13. I rowed when I was studying at the University of Southern California for three years and I took up wrestling which I continued training at an ever higher level when I entered the Seals (US special forces). I also really got into martial arts, mainly kickboxing and Jiu-jitsu.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Randy developed the idea for the TRX in the military: Did you get inspiration from anything in particular?
We were deployed on an operation and we arrived at a warehouse where we were to stay for a prolonged period of time. I got thinking about how I was going to train the climbing muscles for the mission profile we were on. It was just by chance that I had a Jiu-jitsu belt stuffed away in kit bag and it came to me to tie a knot in the end and throw it over the top of the door frame.
I wanted to achieve what you can achieve by doing pull-ups, but there was nothing to do these from. So I started using this to do what we now call a power pull using the belt to leverage my bodyweight. It evolved from there, partly from that operation and others, using a piece of webbing and just experimenting until we ended up with the upside down ‘Y’ form that you now see on the TRX.
How were the first prototypes received and what were the main design problems? Did you think at the time of development that TRX would become the phenomenon that it has?
There were no issues with prototypes when I was in the Seals. It was basically a ‘Y’ shape out of nylon. I had worked out how to make it adjustable and used nylon to make foot loops. We worked within our means and did what we could do using the limited resources we had.
The problems came when we tried to introduce this product to the civilian population and we encountered pretty much every issue possible. The TRX Suspension Trainer is now the most highly evolved suspension training tool and that is only after we had worked through many forms of design and materials.
Some of the materials we trialled initially didn’t work so subsequently we moved away from these and patented the product, so competitive products have been forced to use other methods and materials.
I thought at the time that the TRX Suspension Trainer would be a great tool for athletic training and for regular fitness in deployed scenarios, but I didn’t realise at the start of the company how broad the programme would become or how popular it would be within the the general fitness market.
The TRX Suspension Trainer is now the most highly evolved suspension training tool.
Did the military authorities pick up on the potential of the initial product? How did you go about convincing them and the wider fitness world that they were ready for the TRX?
It helped coming from one of the most elite units on earth, because that gave the TRX some street cred within the system. But no, it did not get picked up immediately by the procurement team.
However it did become immediately apparent to my squad mates who were training themselves as elite athletes. It turned out to be a long, painful and unsteady road to convince the procurement team, just like military vendor experiences.
Did you go to business school specifically to market the TRX and learn how to do so? Do you think in hind-sight that you needed to do this as you had an investor and were commensurately developing the product?
No, I actually went to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business to earn an MBA, as a pivot point from having a career as a commando and needing to learn the vocabulary and basic disciplines of business. Whilst I was there I wasn’t compelled, aged 36 and previously a Commando, to go into the world of business as a Junior Consultant or a Banker.
But by the end of my first year, I had gained a huge amount of interest from the S&C (strength and conditioning) coaches at Stanford who, every time they would see me in the training centre there, would come and ask me about how it (The TRX) could be used to train their athletes, men, women, the big and the small.
So this crystallised in my mind and I thought I’ll take this Summer to flesh this out as a business proposition, then I’ll try to validate this in my second year and give it a try. I got very inspired by an entrepreneurship class in my second year, which convinced me to actually launch.
What advice have you got for other fitness entrepreneurs out there?
1. Do your homework and be sure of your concept before you launch and understand your competition
2. Make sure you are not creating a solution for which there is no problem
3. Try to put together a good team who complement each other’s skills. It is easy to form businesses with lots of trainers, but make sure you each have your own distinct skills and disciplines.
Are you still coming up with suspension exercises? How much do you use it? And what other training methods do you follow to keep in shape?
Almost every day, every time we work with new trainers in new sports and disciplines we learn something new about the scope of suspension training. I use it consistently three times per week. I row on a Concept 2, I do speed work on the track and I use the TRX Rip Trainer. I also do fusion classes. When I am travelling I pick up the tactical conditioning programme.
What are your 6 key TRX exercises – the ones you couldn’t do without?
The 6 moves I can’t live without are:
– TRX Lunge
– Atomic Push Up
– Overhead squat
– Power Pull
– Side Plank
– Hip press
What’s your advice for anyone wanting to add suspension training into their workouts?
Your first day is your worst day, realize there is a three time rule: The first time you feel clumsy. The second time you feel clumsy and sore. The third time the switch is flicked and you start to work well. Initially focus on great stabilisation through the core and joints and proper form, then add load as you progress.
What’s the hardest TRX exercise you have seen done?
The TRX Burpee is certainly the hardest metabolic exercise, the hardest core exercise is an advanced TRX Body Saw and the hardest upper body are steep single sided TRX Rows and Presses.
In what markets is TRX not present and how is it being received around the world do you notice different applications and emphases?
There are not many realms of training any more that suspension training is not a part: sport, rehab, seniors, post-pregnancy and what makes it so versatile is making sure that you have the appropriate programming for the end user. The flexibility is one of the greatest assets of the TRX Suspension Trainer.
Are you still looking to develop other products?
Absolutely, we have a significant list of products under evaluation and prioritisation to be developed and we see new products pitched to us all the time. But right now our focus is on the TRX Rip Trainer, it is a question of how many things we can do successfully at once.
Do you think the RIP trainer can be as successful as the TRX?
Certainly, the TRX Rip Trainer is the baby of the TRX family and is primarily in sport and commercial clubs, but I see it working a similar path to the Suspension Trainer. I think the Rip Trainer is the perfect reciprocal offering.
Whilst the Suspension Trainer is based on strength and stabilisation and slow heavily loaded movement, the TRX Rip Trainer is the flip side of the coin, it is about rotational, speed power and dynamic resistance.
When you put them together, I think there is absolutely no reason why anyone who has purchased a TRX Suspension Trainer won’t buy a TRX Rip Trainer, as it is the perfect complement.
Tell us a little about the training academy that enables people to become TRX trainers?
We have become the global leader in specialty professional education for training professionals of all kinds. We are doing more courses than anyone else by a wide margin and we are the only truly multi-domain training brand in the business.
What’s next for TRX?
We are currently working on the biggest thing we have ever launched, TRX CORE®, an exclusive club for TRX graduates.
TRX CORE, developed from over five years of feedback from professional trainers, was created to answer the most common question from TRX® Education Graduates, “Now that I’ve taken a TRX® Education course, what’s next?”
The comprehensive solution will meet the unique needs of all of those who make a living training others.
Support like this is unprecedented and we are dedicated to providing TRX Professionals with the tools and knowledge needed to impact lives, redefine the industry, build thriving businesses and inspire people to achieve their best.
When trainers Join the CORE™, they will not only be served first-rate fitness content regularly, but they will receive valuable assets including licensed logos, exclusive training apparel and accessories.
We have also really added to the service product line, in the form of licence club solutions and membership to trainers. But we look forward to continuing to grow TRX Rip Training and of course building on our successes with the TRX Suspension Trainer in the UK and globally.