I have to admit, I don’t want to appear to be hopping onto a fad just because. The basic truth is that I love training toys. My training method, by nature, is geared more toward body weight exercises, bands, and the local jungle gym than squat racks. I think there is a way to incorporate it all if you want. The purpose of this article is to answer the following question, what system and price range is right for you? I decided the best way to determine that was to try out a few types of suspension trainers and see what happened.
Different Types and Options
There are quite a few styles of training devices out there. Believe it or not, this isn’t a brand new concept. If you are reading this you aren’t the caboose at the end of the train, but you aren’t the engine either. I remember seeing the TRX back in 2007 and reading the arguments between it and the Jungle Gym. Before the TRX, there were other styles and types of suspension training systems. Recently, suspension training has undoubtedly exploded. I give a lot of credit of that to TRX, Men’s Health, and Robert dos Remedios.
For the purpose of simplicity, I am going to stick to discussing various brands of suspension trainers and rings.
I am going to keep this short because, for the most part, the rings have a little less versatility and a lack of rotation that can irritate shoulders when doing certain movements. There has been decent research looking at the differences between the rings and the bar, and the most important one is if you have a history of shoulder problems, you might want to be careful in your intensity progression. I noted a much lower number of cases of shoulder irritation with the TRX style trainer than with the rings.
Another downfall of the rings is the lack of certain lower body exercises that you can do with other suspension systems. Getting your feet in and out of the rings is possible, but not as fluid as with the others.
There truly is nothing like the rings. If you have the option to own both, go for it.
I tested the following:
TRX Brand Trainer
Homemade Trainer 1
I did not test the Jungle Gym, but have heard decent reviews.
Comparison of Three Different Suspension Trainers
|Brand||Cost||Ease of Use (1-10)||Door Use||Durability||ExerciseList/Video||CustomerSupport||Lower Body Work||Overall Value Rating|
* Attaches to door via S ring. Could cause damage to weaker doors up top.
** Depends on materials used.
Overall Opinion of Each
TRX – With the TRX you are paying for style and the brand. This isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. Much like a Mac user, it allows you to belong to a club. For some people, that is important. The TRX is for people who aren’t restricted by cost and like everything in a compact box, basically ready to use. You get instructions, videos, customer support, and a fantastic product. It also has a modern style and a sturdy feel overall. I don’t have any complaints about the TRX; but for some, the cost will be prohibitive.
Freestyle Trainer – For me, this is the winner hands down. You can almost buy four of them for the price of one TRX training system. I also like the style better because of the use of the S clip. It allows for a further separation between the straps and the ability to hang it from higher places easily in legacy mode. I did downgrade its ease of use though, only because the S clip is slightly more complicated than the carabiner. However, if you wanted to switch to a carabiner model, it would be relatively easy to do so.
The customer support was excellent, and while they don’t send videos or instructions, they do provide easy to find instructions and tips online.
The only con is the S clip system, but as I said, you could easily change that if needed.
Homemade Version (via YouTube Video) – Obviously, you can’t beat this price. Although there is work involved in putting together the other systems, the act of going to the hardware store, figuring out new knots, and make-shifting a product isn’t for everyone. Also, if there are any problems or it is a bust, it is all on you. If you are generally talented with your hands, I say go for it. If not, spend the extra few bucks and get the Freestyle Trainer.
Types of Anchoring?
The TRX website has a ton of anchoring accessories for the carabiner style systems. A door pull-up bar/system works too. As stated, the S clip system may not be your preference for the door, so take that into consideration. You can also use the door anchor solo from the TRX and still save money.
Who Can Use a Suspension Training System?
Anyone. I have bought six additional Freestyle Trainers to give to relatives and friends. I very rarely buy people fitness gear, but this is a no-brainer for the majority of the population.
What Are Different Uses for a Suspension Training System?
Do I think that suspension training totally replaces the use or need of free weights? It depends on your needs. Not everyone is into fitness for the sake of getting “stacked” or completing a 500 pound deadlift. Some people want to increase their aerobic capacity, gain some mobility, and do a moderate amount of resistance work. This isn’t to say that suspension trainers can’t offer up extreme demands to physical challenge, because they can (e.g. handstand push-up assists, iron crosses, hanging dips, etc).
I think everyone can benefit from having a suspension trainer even if for one use only—mobility work. The suspension trainer makes low grade resistance rows, dynamic stretches, and core work easy and fun. There is no reason you can’t strap this thing to your door and take a few moments to bust out a few movements. You can also do static stretch work with assistance.
Aside from those, it certainly switches up traditional cardio. Tomorrow, I will share with you one of my new favorite cardio routines.
Can a Bodybuilder/Powerlifter/Strongman or Woman Benefit From This?
While I do think it has sufficient cardio and mobility uses, I don’t think it makes a lot of sense for advanced physique training or high level strength requirements. If you want to get better at a deadlift, do deadlifts. Still, I think it provides usefulness for fillers between lifts and can be a part of a routine to help decrease injury.
The X Factor?
It’s fun. Simple as that, it is fun. When people enjoy doing something, they will do it more often. Since having the ability to hang these puppies up where ever I am, I have doubled my stretching and mobility work.
I highly recommend the use of suspension trainers. Decide which one you want based on your needs and how easy you want things to be.
Do You Support These Products with Affiliate Promotions?
Yes, I support both of these products in affiliate promotions. If you would like to support me at leighpeele.com, please feel free to purchase through the links listed in this post. If not you can easily find both of these products online.
Stacey ReganMarch 10, 2010 at 8:16 am
Hi Leigh – thanks for the review! I was lucky enough to get a TRX system before the popularity and the price went up last year and have it ceiling mounted in my basement. It rocks! I also take the straps with me to my gym and work out on the wall bar mount with a friend who has one too once a week. It has done wonders for my core strength and you’re right – it’s fun!
I highly recommend it!
FabioJune 17, 2010 at 3:26 pm
Leigh I have a couple of questions…Can you set up the freestyle trainer with carribeaners? Also would the freestyle trainer work with the TRX door anchor if you can use carribeaners?
Any ideas for a homemade door anchor for the freestyle trainer?
Leigh PeeleJune 17, 2010 at 7:00 pm
Can you set up the freestyle trainer with carribeaners?
Have you checked out this post I put up about converting it?
Also would the freestyle trainer work with the TRX door anchor if you can use carribeaners?
Yes, it works with the TRX door anchor.
Any ideas for a homemade door anchor for the freestyle trainer?
I am almost there with a completion that is simplistic, a few more days and I should have it, I just want to test out the strength of something first.
LindseyMarch 10, 2010 at 9:19 am
This is the first blog where I have ever even seen an option. I have been wanting one of these so bad but I couldn’t justify the price to myself (or my husband). $50 including shipping? Sold.
Thanks for looking out for our wallets, you never fail to be partial.
Cindy BeverlyMarch 10, 2010 at 10:29 am
I noticed a “Pro” version of the Freestyle. The only difference I can see is that it comes with a DVD. It is $20 more. Do you have any thoughts on whether it is worth $20 for the DVD or do you know if there is something else you get for the $20?
Leigh PeeleMarch 11, 2010 at 2:16 am
I think it boils down to how much “leg” work you want to do to find out movements and exercises. TRX, Robert Dos, and a dozen others have put up a ton of exercises online for people to access. I don’t think the DVD would be a bad investment at all, but I would wager it is going to be how to set it up and a short catalog of possible movements.
If I were going to buy a video I would head to the TRX site instead and look at their options and pick one that speaks more to your needs and desires. For instance, if into golfing they have a golfers workout and so forth.
Neal W.March 10, 2010 at 10:45 am
Leigh, could you pretty please post the pubmed links to the studies on rings and shoulders?
Leigh PeeleMarch 11, 2010 at 2:23 am
Man I read this forever ago (over a year) after reading a book about gymnastics training. It was a cool section on injury mostly discussing women but has a section about shoulder injuries and ring training specifically over the horse and bars. I can’t access the full studiy right now but I believe this was the main one discussed.
An arthroscopic and electromyographic study of painful shoulders in elite gymnasts.
Caraffa A, Cerulli G, Rizzo A, Buompadre V, Appoggetti S, Fortuna M.
Orthopaedic Clinic R. S. Maria Hospital, University of Perugia, Terni, Italy.
Shoulder problems are common in overhead sports like baseball, basketball and volleyball. Although gymnastics also includes overhead activities, there are few reports about shoulder problems in this sports activity. During the time period 1992-1995 we treated five young competitive gymnasts for shoulder pain. Arthroscopy revealed that they were all suffering from SLAP lesions or other labral pathology, although they had never dislocated their shoulders. These injuries have not been described earlier in connection with gymnastics. In a survey of 13 gymnasts in an elite club, we found that six (46%) complained about shoulder pain. Since four of these athletes explained that their shoulder pain started acutely during ring exercises in suspension while one suffered a slower onset with pain also during parallel bar exercises, we undertook an electromyographic study of the shoulder musculature of three normal elite gymnasts during exercises on the parallel bars and rings. We found that during the ring exercises in suspension there was a “critical phase” during which the muscle activity around the shoulder was very low, leading to great articular stresses. This might explain the occurrence of labral lesions like the SLAP lesions in this type of athlete. If shoulder pain in elite gymnasts does not respond to rest and physical therapy over 2-3 months, a shoulder arthroscopy should be considered.
Logically speaking rings are going to require more internal rotation than say something like the freestyle trainer. Most of my conversation was based on anecdotal experience, but it could also be I am just not up to par right now and the rings are too advanced.
LolaMarch 10, 2010 at 12:13 pm
Leigh – Thank you so much for this review. I had been looking at the TRX system but it is too expensive…the Freestyle Trainer is the PERFECT option. So excited to try.
Eric GarlandMarch 10, 2010 at 1:15 pm
I never knew about the jungle gym or the freestyle trainer. I like the look of the freestyle a little better so I think I will grab that. Thanks Leigh.
amy StaniszewskiMarch 10, 2010 at 11:26 pm
Thanks so much for the review! I’ve been researching these and trying to make a decision! You rock! Any chance you are going to create a suspension workout for your members? *hint hint*
CovermeaMarch 11, 2010 at 12:54 am
here here, would love that.
Leigh PeeleMarch 11, 2010 at 2:24 am
It will be posted up in a matter of mins actually.
amy StaniszewskiMarch 11, 2010 at 9:35 am
I just saw it! Thanks again Leigh!
CovermeaMarch 11, 2010 at 12:54 am
I have been toying around with buying the TRX now I am thinking I will go with freestyle.
KrisMarch 11, 2010 at 3:24 pm
Thanks for the article. Options are good! At my gym, I have used a similar trainer called the Versus from Myoforce.net. It’s pretty cool– it has a pulley system that lets you resist against a partner or yourself for some movements. Unfortunately the price is similar to the TRX….
FrankieMarch 11, 2010 at 4:31 pm
Great stuff Leigh! I am former competitive gymnast and now as Strength Coach that uses the TRX/ Rings Kettlebells as their primarily tools with their clients and athletes. I started using the TRX Trainer nearly 4 years ago in a physical therapy clinic for exercise rehab with our patients along with a Pilates Reformer thera bands etc.. From 9 to 90 years old, pre surgical, to post surgical and everywhere in between. This by far is the most functional/ and versatile piece of equipment I have used in personally and professionally. I would say this is the closet thing I have found to my ring work as a gymnast. And we know, gymnast primarily train only using their own bodyweight and build super human strength and jacked physiques . Coach Sommer our top Jr Olympic Gymnastic Coach once a year test the strength of his athletes and has recorded his high school gymnast deadlifting over 400 hundred pounds on their first attempt. It doesn’t translate the other way around though. Some of the strongest wrestlers at my high school would come into our gym ridicule us until we told them to support their body weight on the P bars or rings. They would shake and fall off never to be heard from again. Robert Dos Remedios is my mentor, you should see this 240lb 6.3 man do work on the TRX! Check out our vids on youtube at robertdos, we have many TRX vids posted! Keep the great stuff coming Leigh!
Leigh PeeleMarch 15, 2010 at 1:13 am
Frankie, I have seen a lot of those youtube videos actually and not only that, showed them to quite a few people. In particular I pass on the video with you and Bob about hardcore training as a kick in the ass to people who talk about being too old. You do great stuff, thanks for stopping by the blog.
FrankieMarch 15, 2010 at 1:43 am
Thanks Leigh! Dos and I think you have a really slick sight! Next time your in LA we hope you stop by The Lab!
LeighMarch 11, 2010 at 8:16 pm
Great article, I’ve been playing around with the idea of getting a TRX for a while. I got quite excited when I read your review about the Freestyle! Unfortunately they don’t ship to Australia and I can’t find a distributor here. Any ideas?
P.S. Awesome name 😉
ColinMarch 14, 2010 at 10:19 pm
TRX trainer are definitely available in Australia. Just Google and you should be able to find a supplier. However read my comments about the Lifeline product, The Jungle gym. I know they ship to Australia as I’ve bought some DVD s and other items.
ColinMarch 14, 2010 at 10:14 pm
Nice article Leigh
I am a suspension trainer fan and recommend the split Jungle gym 2 from Lifeline. Not only is it significantly cheaper that others but the split design is more versatile. It can be joined also if required. The foot cradle also holds the feet in a more secure position as well. If you get one you won’t be disappointed. It also comes with an included DVD I believe.
I have actually made a homemade version of this trainer. The buckles are available and 11/2″ webbing is quite cheap. With a sewing machine and polyester thread its quite simple. Trust me – I’m a guy!
Leigh PeeleMarch 15, 2010 at 1:18 am
Thanks for throwing out that info Collin. I might have to get me one of the jungle gyms to test it out. I saw a few cool videos with JC Santana using the waist attachment that looked pretty interesting.
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Vanvance1March 26, 2010 at 6:19 pm
I’ve got a lot of different suspension trainers and the TRX was my first and probably least favorite.
I don’t have the freestyle trainer you mention, but I do have the EFX rings from the same source and they are superb. Rogue rings are nice if you want something made of metal. The USA is amusing and different (not the best quality of manufacture).
Big thumbs up for the jungle gym split. Cheap, easy to adjust, straps are not too long which works out when you’re pressed for space in your luggage or gym bag. Like most Lifeline stuff it looks cheap but performs really well.
ETANA FINKLERJune 12, 2010 at 11:02 am
I’ve got a lot of different suspension trainers and the TRX was my first and probably least favorite.
Can you describe why it is your least favorite? I was thinking of choosing the TRX when I saw it for $99.99 (see my post below). But before that, I was thinking of getting the Freestyle Trainer. Now you’ve confused my choice. Can you give details. Thanks.
VanceJune 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm
The TRX has a single point of attachment. This limits/eliminates a few of the very best suspension exercises a person can do. Namely pull ups and dips. A suspension device that is split works well for these exercises. It is also easier to do things without the straps rubbing against your arms.
In response to the other message I got: Suspension training will make you stronger, any resistance exercise will. However if you want mass/size you need to lift heavy weights. I love my suspension trainers, I love rubber resistance… but neither will give you the same gains in mass as dumbbells and barbells properly used.
Focus on the basics and never forget the importance of the squat and/or dead lift.
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ETANA FINKLERJune 11, 2010 at 11:54 am
I can’t think of a doorway in my townhouse where I’ll be able to swing with much distance. I saw above that these can be suspended from the ceiling; is that something I can do myself by finding a beam? Is that recommended?
This is interestingl, that’ we’ll HAVE to learn to use this equipment! It’s fun being pushed beyond what’s comfortable…
ColinJune 12, 2010 at 9:21 am
Yes, a beam is much better and will give you the room you need. Just go to your local hardware store and get some advise on the most suitable screw in fitting, assuming your beams are wooden.
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[…] can get one, great. However, cost is an issue for a lot of people, especially right now. I already reviewed other suspension training systems and showed you one homemade version and an alternative version called the Freestyle Trainer. Some […]
suman das.June 15, 2010 at 9:09 am
sir i wanna build muscle and loss fat will it possible for me with freestyle trainer ?
apart from free style trainer which is less cost suspension trainer.
ETANA FINKLERJune 16, 2010 at 5:35 pm
What intrigues me about the suspension trainer is that I’ve really had a hard time with squats and lunges due to both balance issues and foot issues, but I think the suspension trainers will give me some support on these.
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HenrySeptember 12, 2010 at 2:16 pm
Will the s-clips ever slip out when doing certain exercises?
Would it work if I switched out the s-clips for carabiners?
I’m currently deciding between the vegas pro straps and the freestyle trainers. The vegas pro straps have carabiners and the daisy chain type design on each strap, but the freestyle trainers are still $30 cheaper
ColimSeptember 16, 2010 at 7:12 pm
Check out the soon to be released Jungle Gym XT by Lifeline. This will probably become the new gold standard for suspension trainers. Out in October.
Brian MeehanOctober 12, 2010 at 5:43 pm
You’re correct. The Jungle Gym XT from LifelineUSA is currently available. You can order online here: http://www.lifelineusa.com/en/products/new-jungle-gym-xt?section=whats-your-fitness-goal
We’re planning to send a product sample to Leigh so she can review and provide feedback.
Thanks for your interest!
Brian (The PR guy for LifelineUSA)
Vanvance1October 12, 2010 at 7:20 pm
It’s looking good on the site. Alas, there are a few things that strike me as downsides compared to my jungle gym split (for which I have the highest praise).
1 – It is more expensive. This is always a negative though it’s not that important if the upgrades are valuable.
2 – The straps are now wider (does anyone really need straps that hold a combined weight of 3000 pounds) adding bulk and weight to the product. The new handles/foot cradles appear to do the same.
3 – The very easy to adjust buckles (compared to competition like the TRX) have been changed. For the better? Open question.
Holly StLawrenceNovember 15, 2010 at 2:36 am
What is better? The V style straps or the parallel individual straps?
Would that mean that I would have to separate anchors on ceiling?
Does anyone know how the Slastiks work when added to the straps?
I’m wondering if this gives resistance in addition to your own bodyweight and if so, how do you hang or push or swing without falling due to the give in the bands?
Holly StLawrenceNovember 15, 2010 at 2:38 am
Reason I ask is because I have 2 offers
1. TRX for $125 or
2. Stroops Body Weight Gym III that comes with 2 150# Slastik bands for extra resistance.
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TiffanyMay 5, 2011 at 5:50 pm
I’ve tried many diferents suspension trainings which I love because it’s a functional training…last one that I’ve tried was crosscore (war machine) great product because u work the rotation of ur body and the other ones don’t. They are all pretty good but to me the pulley system is much better than the straps. I recommend the crosscore war machine !!!
ServyAugust 10, 2011 at 8:44 pm
Has anyone tried the Gflex? Id appreciate a review or feedback from anyone who has used it. It seems to be the least expensive alternative to the pricer systems. It even compares in cost to making your own system.
CameronOctober 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm
I got VPS straps they are sweet. I don’t like V straps they hit my shoulders.
JohnnyNovember 29, 2012 at 3:38 pm
Dose anyone known what exactly is panented by trx .
It seems there are a lot of suspension trainers out there.
I have tried a few sets . And eventually I just put together a set of my own that I feel works better than most of the ones out there. could I just sell my own brand?
LarryMarch 12, 2013 at 7:24 pm
I have both the TRX and the Gflex. While I love the TRX I must say the one can get a much better workout on the Glex. I was looking at the war machine but with my current investmet in suspension systems the $249 price is just too steep for me espcially since the $69 Gflex is almost the same thing. Get the Gflex!
loleanJanuary 13, 2014 at 7:05 am
Hey! Which is the best?
AnneOctober 25, 2016 at 3:59 pm
I know this post is quite old now! However, I have a Freestyle Suspension Trainer that has been sitting in a box for ages and ages never used. It does not have set up instructions. I have looked online with very little success. Specifically I am concerned about installing the buckles that you use to adjust the straps correctly. If you have any links t good videos or PDFs or any good I would really appreciate your help!
LeighOctober 25, 2016 at 10:02 pm
The Freestyle Trainer is the exact same “style” and setup as the Elite rings. The only difference is the bottom of the trainer (rings vs. handle/straps). I’m not 100% sure what you are asking but maybe this video will help? If it doesn’t let me know.
Also, working updating this post.
AnneOctober 26, 2016 at 9:39 am
Thank you so much for yr help!
robert bowlesDecember 29, 2016 at 10:44 am
Nice post and looking forward to your update. Would you mind to take a look at my suspension training product? It’s called Recoil S2 and will be launching early 2017.
The website will be finished soon but in the meantime you can find us on Facebook and Instagram @recoiltraining
Thanks a lot.