Why get an ordinary full-body workout when you can get an antigravity, Navy SEAL workout? Enter suspension training: a somewhat intense way to stay in shape that’s garnered a lot of attention in recent years.
TRX (total resistance exercise) was designed by Randy Hetrick back in 1997, while he was on deployment. Later, in 2001, his new system gained popularity among athletes and trainers, and by 2005, TRX as we know it today took the world by storm.
I’m not sure if it’s the enticing look of it or the credibility behind it that pulls so many people in. What I can say is that there’s a ton of hype surrounding it, and this alone makes it subject to review.
Is it worth the money? Does it really work? Which other options are suitable alternatives? I’ll answer all of these in this post, but first, we’ll dive into what exactly TRX is.
TRX is a mashup of cardio and weight training that uses your core strength to “improve mobility, flexibility, strength, endurance, power, core strength, and heart health.”
The idea behind it is simple. Using your body weight and suspension cables in place of machines and weights, you tone and develop all areas of your body. It’s suitable for most levels of fitness and is praised by professional and elite athletes, famous faces, and newbies alike.
The suspension cables are easy to set up, so a perk of TRX is that you can practice it pretty much anywhere. There are also hundreds of exercises you can do with them, so it’s a creative way to stay fit, lose weight, and build strength—one you won’t easily grow bored of.
Here’s a good look at how TRX is done:
It looks great, right? Hold your horses for just a second. You might be inspired to strap yourself right in, but there’s more you need to know.
Does TRX Really Work?
In 2014, researchers with the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked into how effective TRX suspension training is. They found that, although TRX is superior for core muscle strength and muscle activation, it’s inferior to good ol’ push-ups and bench presses.
They noticed, though, that TRX is better for your spine, even more so under the supervision and guidance of an instructor.
This is not to say that TRX is an ineffective or disadvantageous regimen. Proof exists that TRX suspension training has an array of health benefits and is a suitable alternative to traditional exercise.
Should You Do TRX?
It’s worth a try. There are few complaints against it, and it’s a viable, scientifically sound option. Even so, there are some risks.
For one, TRX might be great for practiced enthusiasts and beginners alike, but for the latter, it’s not the easiest system to start for those with no experience or low fitness levels. Certain motions could prove difficult for beginners, and that could make your work out uncomfortable or, even worse, dangerous.
A lot can go wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing. So to prevent injury, it’s advised to start off with an instructor or coach—something not everyone can access or afford.
- All-around workout that includes cardio, weight training, and a valuable full-body workout
- Practical—so long as you have learned how to use it safely and responsibly
- Can be practiced almost anywhere, anytime
- The setup is effortless and easily portable
- Suits most fitness levels, and you can set your own intensity
- Hundreds of exercises to choose from
- Research is promising and has already proven that TRX is safe and effective
- Although intended as a replacement for machines and weights, specialized equipment is required
- Not easy for absolute beginners—safest (and most effective) for those who have already developed their core strength
- Strongly advised to start off with a coach, which will cost extra and may be inconvenient
- Regardless of promising research and proven results, not vastly superior to generic or traditional exercise
- Falls short in many areas when weighed against simpler forms of weight training
The pros outweigh the cons, and it goes without saying that TRX is something you should look into if you have the time to invest in perfecting it. But here’s the thing: TRX is popular. In fact, it’s very popular—but it’s not the only brand that exists.
Some people feel it’s overhyped and its price can’t be justified. It might have innovated mainstream suspension training, but there are alternatives for those who—for whatever reason—can’t or don’t want to look into it.
What Makes a Good Suspension Trainer?
Suspension trainers have to be strong enough to support your weight. It’s all right to want to save money by purchasing cheaper brands, but never compromise on quality. Cheap materials could increase your risk of things going wrong, and you could seriously hurt yourself if it buckles or snaps.
When shopping for suspension trainers, consider the following:
The best trainers are military grade. These are less likely to bail on you because they’re thicker, stronger, and more reliable. They’ll last so much longer and keep you safer too.
You’re probably going to want to adjust your straps often. Make sure that the buckles on your trainers are not difficult to maneuver and they’re not so loose that they slip out of place.
You can choose between rubber or foam, but word on the street is that rubber trumps foam because it has a better grip. They’re also sweat resistant, which keeps you safer.
Trainers that have more anchor options give you more choices of where to train, so you get more out of buying them. Those with limited anchor options aren’t useless, but if you want a versatile trainer, it’s something you’ll have to pay attention to.
Five Alternatives to TRX
Without further ado, let’s look at TRX’s competitors:
This product by Intent Sports keeps up with the brand names, even if it’s lesser known. It’s got high quality, 1.5-inch wide webbing, and you get a lifetime guarantee for its straps. Its one-size-fits-all anchor is fully integrated, and it has a carabiner hook.
Intent Sports has also thrown in a carry bag and a setup guide to give you a complete package.
- Made from excellent quality materials
- Great value for money
- Includes a lifetime guarantee
- Versatile, no-fuss, full trainer kit
- Thickness of straps could make closing doors difficult when in place
This is not the most conventional suspension trainer, but that’s what makes it stand out. It works a little differently and can be used for stable surface exercise too.
This suspension trainer has a one-of-a-kind patented pulley system that focuses a lot more on mobility and range than other brands. It has a pin lock, so you can easily switch between modes, and a mesh carry bag is included.
- Pulley system improves mobility and can increase difficulty/intensity
- Pin lock makes it easy to switch between stable and unstable surface routines
- More versatile and useful than similar products
- The unconventional system might not appeal to those who are interested in TRX
#3 QonQuill BodyWeight Fitness Training Kit
This is perhaps the most popular choice and is a bestselling TRX alternative. It’s made from good-quality nylon and has nonslip handles and an extension strap for extra resistance if you like.
Its coolest feature is that it comes with five different anchors. You will also benefit from the added guide book, which includes more than 300 exercises for you to try.
- Great reviews and impressive customer satisfaction
- Complete package suitable for beginners
- Can hold up to 400 pounds
- Lower grade than some other brands
- Best suited for a home gym and not as suitable for commercial or outdoor use
Another bestseller, NOSSK may not be the most sophisticated of all suspension kits, but it sure is a crowd-pleaser. It’s all-American and has military-grade webbing.
The foam handles and built-in door anchor are its only features, but NOSSK does the job well, regardless of specs.
- Budget-friendly without compromised quality
- Holds up to 300 pounds
- Great customer reviews
- Little information available regarding brand
- Few resources available specifically for NOSSK, so it might not be beginner friendly
This suspension training kit is sturdy, stylish, and heavy duty, so it’s a great option for those who are looking for a more intense workout. It’s got a split-anchor design with fully adjustable straps. The Lifeline Jungle Gym XT has both an industrial-grade option for strength and lightweight for ease of use.
- Lightweight and durable, so suitable for all intensities
- Split anchor gives you more mobility
- Reports of poor customer service
My Choice for Best TRX Alternative
There are many more suspension trainer systems out there, but this review should give you an idea of where to start.
My top pick is the Bodyweight Fitness resistance trainer kit. I couldn’t find a downside to this product. Intent Sports has proven that it’s a top-quality brand that fits nicely into our budgets.
This trainer kit does everything the original TRX system does, and it’s easy to set up, even if it’s your first time. It’s a safe, stylish, and affordable alternative, so if branding doesn’t matter to you, I highly recommend that you look into it.