Suspension trainers are like a gym that you can take anywhere. TRX, the current popular darling, is used in homes and boot camps for bodyweight workouts, but the monkii bars 2 gives it a run for its money in both aesthetics and features. Both add a ton more variety to your workouts and let you work out anywhere, but let's see how they stack up in the categories that count.
Over the past year and a half, I spent a lot of time following bodyweight workouts, mainly because I've been away from home and don't always have access to a gym. Suspension trainers, which are basically a pair of straps with handles that you can attach to sturdy objects, allow me to keep up my fitness and get stronger, no matter where I am. I've worked out at playgrounds, on beaches, on rooftops, under bridges -- you name it, as long as there was a safe place for me to set up, I'd roll with it. While there are a lot of suspension trainers on the market, we decided to pit a perennial favourite against the new kid on the block.
- TRX Home Gym ($273.90): TRX is one of the first quality commercial suspension trainers. I've used their classic model for a long time and tried various copycats (I own one). The basic kit comes with a mesh carry bag, a beginner's workout guide to get started, and special attachments that let you set it up at home or outdoors (which we'll discuss later on).
- monkii bars 2 Adventure Kit ($US189 ($251)): monkii bars is a fairly new name. They take the great things about TRX and add a modern twist that appeals to the adventure-seeking, on-the-go crowd. TRX is already fairly portable, but the monkii bars 2 comes in a leaner, nicer-looking package. Full disclosure, monkii bars sent me the original monkii bars ($US149 ($198)) and a version of the monkii bars 2 (which will ship in spring 2017) for the purposes of this showdown. Both monkii bars and monkii bars 2 can be set up at home or outside, but the former requires that you buy the special attachment for indoor use; whereas monkii bars 2 has everything you need to get started with indoor or outdoor workouts. You can also choose between Ultralight Kit ($US149 ($198)) and Tactical Kit ($US219 ($291)) bundles, but the showdown will be based on the Adventure Kit.
Both are viable, awesome portable gyms, so to compare the two, I looked at their design, material quality, ease of setup, versatility, and portability.
monkii bars 2 Is More Travel-Friendly
As someone who travels frequently and considers daily workouts of some form as important as breathing, I take convenience and portability of my fitness gear very seriously. TRX has always felt pretty light, weighing no more than 1.3kg. The classic kit comes with a mesh bag that you can use to neatly transport your TRX and pack in your luggage without taking much space.
But when the TRX is not comfortably cozied up in its travel bag, it's basically a coiled-up hot mess, kind of like how earbuds get after just 20 seconds in your pocket. Contrast this with the monkii bars 2 Adventure Kit, which is all arranged in a really slick-looking bag that folds out like so:
The sleekness of monkii bars 2 makes me want to take it everywhere with me. You just roll the pack like a burrito, clasp it shut, shove it into your pack, and run wild. And when it's workout time, it's all ready for you to unpack. What's more, the monkii bars 2 Adventure Kit weighs less than the TRX -- just under 700g. If you want to pack extra light, the original monkii bars or monkii bars 2 Ultralight Kit is extra compact and weighs even less.
TRX Takes Less Time to Set Up and Use
Getting a workout with suspension trainers is easy...once you set them up. You can set them up at home or outside for some fun in the sun, but depending on where you want to work out, the setup process can be a little different. For indoor use, you use a special attachment called a door anchor, which you place on top of a door frame and hook your suspension trainers to. When you're outdoors, there's another attachment that you can toss over pull-up bars or wrap around vertical posts, and then attach your trainers.
I mention all this because setup is where the TRX and monkii bars 2 diverge a lot. The TRX straps and handles come as one whole piece. You just find somewhere -- a door, a pull-up bar, a high beam, and so on -- to secure the anchor, hook up your TRX trainers, and you're ready to rock. With the monkii bars 2, however, there's a little more work.
The monkii bars 2 handles are a completely separate unit so there's extra assembly required. In the Adventure Kit, the bag itself is the door anchor, making it less likely to chip or damage your door, and the straps that attach to your handles are also a part of the bag. That means you lay the bag halfway over a door frame, close the door, unfurl the pair of straps, and hook up your handles before you use it.
No doubt, the whole package of monkii bars 2 looks fly, but that cool factor is why it takes a tad longer to set up, and then break down and pack up again. It helps to take the time to neatly wrap up the straps to fit them snugly back in the pack and close it properly. That time was initially a bit of a turn-off. I'm used to very little setup for the TRX other than establishing the anchor, and when I'm done, I just shove the TRX back into its bag, tangled mess be damned!
Further, monkii bars 2's straps for outdoors use are designed to be thrown over tree branches and other horizontal bars. They're not easy to set up on, say, street lamps, which is a huge drawback for me.
Whether you can tolerate the extra assembly and clean-up time depends on how often you have to set up and then pack up your suspension trainers in the first place. Since I work out 5-6 times a week, all of that time added up and started to wear on me. Chalk it up to my impatience, sure, but I can also predict myself wiggling out of a workout because it's an extra step before I can start.
TRX Is Great for Beginners While monkii bars 2 Is More Versatile
The TRX's easy, breezy setup and arsenal of bodyweight exercises are geared toward beginners. You grab onto the straps, lean your weight into them, and depending on what you want to do, push, pull, squat, lunge, or twist. You can get an awesome workout if you're already super fit, too.
The monkii bars 2, meanwhile, can do what the TRX does and then some, as long as you have some imagination. Since the straps move independently, you can set them up at different heights for more challenging upper body exercises, like pull-ups, dips, or muscle-ups. In essence, they give you the functionality of muscle rings and the versatility of suspension trainers in one package. That means more bodyweight and gymnastic type movements. I already mentioned the door anchor, but monkii bars 2 also comes with much longer straps that I can easily toss over a high-hanging tree branch or goal post and set up pull-up bars. According to the website, the straps are designed to hold up to 113kg.
TRX Is Great for At-Home Workouts, monkii bars 2 Are Great for Advanced Workouts on the Road
As much as I've been faithful to my suspension trainers for years now, I'm a big fan of the monkii bars 2 for their design and versatility (my own pull-up bars, you say?) and might start using them as my main suspension trainers. That said, TRX trainers last a very long time, and you can feel confident that the straps can hold your weight. I admit there were times that I worried the monkii bars 2's thinner straps would snap from the tension and I'd fall hard on my face.
At such similar price points, though, it comes down to how you use your suspension trainers. The monkii bars 2 is designed for someone who's always on the move and works out on the road. But if you just want a no-hassle, simple bodyweight workout system at home while still having the option to take it elsewhere, TRX is a solid choice.