Friday, May 29, 2009

TRX vs. Jungle Gym

I'm not an advocate of spending more money than absolutely necessary on fitness equipment or anything else. Other things being equal I'm always going to opt for the less expensive model. The problem is, other things are seldom equal, at least when it comes to fitness equipment. The pricier versions generally are sturdier, have greater functionality, and are more user-friendly. Then the question becomes: just how much are you willing to pay for that extra sturdiness, functionality and ease of use?

If, like me, you work in the fitness industry it often makes sense to pay top dollar for top-of-the-line equipment, at least if you're planning to use it with clients. My clientele is very diverse: I've worked with men and women as young as 18 and as old as 81, as short as 4'10" and as tall as 6'6", as light as 95 lbs and as heavy as 275, at all levels of physical conditioning and with all different kinds of goals, from enhanced athletic performance to simply being able to climb the stairs in their home without discomfort. For that reason I'm willing to pay more for equipment that's versatile enough that I can use it with clients of varying body types and fitness levels without compromising their safety and comfort.

If, however, I'm buying equipment for my own personal use, I don't necessarily need that same level of versatility since the only person whose safety and comfort I need to consider are my own. Sometimes that means I can get away with paying a little less. For instance, I would never pay extra for weights covered with vinyl or neoprene. They might feel a little better in my hands than unadorned iron, but not enough that I'm willing to shell out the extra bucks. Kettlebells, however, are a different story. A kettlebell that I'm buying for my own personal use doesn't have to be a pretty color (although just between you and me, I would totally pay extra for a kettlebell that was ballerina pink) but it's got to have a nice smooth handle with no nasty seam that's going to rip up my palms unnecessarily. Otherwise I'm not going to use it, and fitness equipment that doesn't get used is a waste of money at any price.

This is why I think that if you're at all interested in suspension training it makes sense to invest in a TRX Portable Gym instead of the far less expensive Jungle Gym from Lifeline. The straps on the TRX are much easier to adjust, making it possible to transition quickly from exercise to exercise for a more challenging and "metabolic" workout. (Note: I'm getting very sick of the word "metabolic." From now on I'm going to call this type of workout "Ed" in honor of my mother-in-law's significant other, who thinks Ed is a fine name for just about anything.) It also has a much more secure anchoring system that's compatible with doors, bars, sturdy tree branches, you name it. It's got nice padded handles instead of flimsy plastic things, and it's got separate foot cradles that do a superior job of holding your feet in position when you're doing suspended pikes, pushups, planks, hamstring curls and so forth. Frankly these exercises are hard enough on their own without the added frustration of your feet slipping out of place every other rep.

For a more in-depth comparison of the two systems, with video, check out this site:

(And while you're there, do a search for "Jillian Michaels" and "kettlebells" just in case you can't get enough of hearing people rag on Jillian for her completely irresponsible demo on "The Biggest Loser.")