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TRX Suspension Trainer vs. Pull-up Bars

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The TRX Force Kit: the ultimate outdoor workout station?

The TRX Force Kit: the ultimate outdoor workout station?

I admit it: I am a grown kid, and I love new gadgets and toys as much as anyone—specifically as they relate to fitness and home gym equipment.

One of my favorite toys is the TRX suspension trainer, closely followed by the Jungle Gym XT.

However, I also love doing workouts outdoors where there is a good set of pull-up bars or at the playground when my kids are running around.

The options for pull-ups, dips, push-ups, and just monkeying around are so fun and effective that it led me to ask the question: Do you really need to bring a portable gym if you have a good outdoor gym?

TRX Suspension Training Equipment vs. Pull-up Bars

Let’s do a comparison.

First, what I mean by portable gym is a TRX home suspension trainer or a set of resistance cables that attach to a sturdy anchor point.

It could also mean a kettlebell or Clubbell, but those are topics for a different article.

Suspension training allows a person to clip their carabineer on a bar, wrap their strap/s around an overhead support, and start exercising.

TRX Suspension training for working that core strength

TRX Suspension training for working that core strength

Now, that is a short list of TRX upper body exercises, but it works for our comparison.

Next, we have the well-equipped playground or outdoor workout station.

This means there is a place to perform pull-ups and dips, and the pull-up bar is also high enough to hang from for abdominal/core exercises. Yes, the monkey bars are a great choice!

On the bars our short list consists of:

  • Pull-ups using over or underhand grip
  • Body rows
  • Hanging leg or knee raises
  • Dips
  • L-holds
  • Leg flutters
  • Depth pushups
  • Triceps extensions and body rows (from under the dip bars)
  • Hanging sit-ups and hyperextensions
Fully equipped outdoor gym!

Fully equipped outdoor gym!

So, Let's Compare!

To compare these two options, I've chosen a handful of exercises we would want to be able to perform on both.

 TRXPull-up/Dip Bars

Pullups

You can do them if you have a high anchor point. Allows you to move hands for variations.

Built for these! Great for a stable pulling surface and a thicker bar in some cases. Only two positions-underhand or overhand

Dips

You can do them, but this is an advanced exercise requiring a lot of stabilizing.

Dips were created on bars. You can't add instability, but you can add weight.

Pushing Exercises

Multiple choices, multiple angles. You can even do a full range of angles into handstand pushups.

Push-ups on dip bars. Muscle ups.

Core Exercises

With a high attachment point, you can do everything you can with pull-up/dip bars and more. TRX has a lot of choices here. Too many to mention. And every exercise activates the core on some level.

There are also lots of options. From hanging leg raises to plank variations to knee raises. However, you don't get the instability you do with suspension training.

If you ever watched BarStarzz videos on YouTube, you know that you can get pretty creative with just some pull-up and dip bars.

But you can also see that the options for beginners and even intermediates are a bit limited. That doesn't mean you can't make progress, but it does mean your routine might get a little stale.

If you are strong enough to do proper pull-ups, the body row of the TRX may not provide enough resistance even when the body is horizontal.

It does come in handy when you need a way to adjust resistance, though. It’s hard to make adjustments to a cold steel bar.

It also makes sense to have your suspension trainer for some circuit training and descending sets.

So for pulling exercises, the TRX suspension trainer or similar, gives you more versatility, allowing you to scale the difficulty level or take it easy for a 'light' day.

The same is true for core exercises. Not that the basics on the bars aren't effective—far from it. But suspension training, like gymnastics rings, adds instability, making the muscles work harder.

Core exercises are difficult when your legs are suspended. The TRX, or Jungle Gym, is all about the core. The variety is endless.

On the bars, the number of core exercises is fewer, but they sure are fun!

When was the last time you hung from the monkey bars by your feet and did sit-ups?

Hanging from a bar, one can also do hanging leg raises, knee raises, twisting versions of these, leg flutters, and if you are strong enough, a full lever!

My guess is that most people are not strong enough to do a lever, let alone a proper straight leg raise for reps while hanging from a bar. Again, suspension training wins out for scalability.

Hanging is fun and builds strength and muscular endurance!

Hanging is fun and builds strength and muscular endurance!

The Final Verdict

Well, there seems to be only one conclusion to draw here.

While either one of these methods, TRX suspension training or outdoor pull-up/dip stations, do okay by themselves, the best solution is to have both!

Start off with the suspension trainer and get warmed up, then move to the bars, then back to the trainer to finish it off.

Ahhhh, exercising outdoors and having fun—who needs a gym?

The most important thing is to get out there and move. Movement creates energy.

The more you move, the more alive you feel!

— Tony Robbins

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.