Like most other people who’ve visited a commercial gym in the past couple of years, I’ve seen those bright yellow TRX suspension trainer setups, like this:
Initially, I wondered if they were simply the latest fitness gimmick, or whether there was something to them. I played around with them a bit, but never committed enough time or effort to actually try a full with them back then. I wish I had, because I’m now a suspension trainer believer, and I’m hooked on my WOSS Titan Suspension Trainer setup.
How I Came to Suspension Training
I’ve exercised regularly for many years, with the primary goals of increasing “functional” strength and endurance for martial arts and obstacle course races. I use the Seattle Tough Mudder as my annual fitness litmus test, which always helps me identify the focus of the next year’s training to improve at that event. For the most part, I’ve focused on a combination of boring old cardio (treadmill and elliptical) and strength training with both free weights and a Vectra 4800 home-gym setup.
Three years ago, to help prepare for my 2nd Tough Mudder, I bought a joist-mounted pull-up bar from Amazon. That was $40 very well spent. In preparation for my 3rd Tough Mudder, I purchased a poly/dac climbing rope (also on Amazon) and hung it from the ceiling. Again, another $40 well spent. My training partner and I both noted a huge increase in grip strength and overall upper body strength as a result of training with the rope, especially when we added 40lb weight vests to our workouts. That paid off big time for both of us on our most recent Tough Mudder event.
And while it felt like our road work was paying off with the running portions of the Mudder, and our strength training was helping us hit new PRs on traditional isolation exercises such as bench press, curls, squats, and dead-lifts, we both shamefully admitted that our core weakness was, well, our core. Neither of us were spending enough time on flexibility and balance, or strengthening our abs and lower back… all of which often get neglected at one point or another by a large number of exercise enthusiasts. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand the importance of core work, it was that it’s traditionally so boring, and generally left until the last part of the workout when most of us are tired and just want to finish the workout and get on with our day.
Checking out TRX Suspension Training
To help solve my “core” problem, I thought back to when I’d first seen the yellow TRX suspension straps. Once of the “core” concepts of suspension training is that it claims to turn every strength exercise into a core exercise as well, so figured I’d look into how much getting a basic setup would cost.
Those TRX suspension bands (or straps, or whatever) are expensive!
How expensive? The basic TRX Training “Home Kit” sells for $180 on Amazon. The upgraded TRX Suspension Trainer Basic Kit with a Door Anchor goes for $190. And the TRX PRO Suspension Training Kit clocks in at $210.
Two hundred bucks for some nylon straps, buckles, and clips?!
To be fair, those prices probably have a lot to do with the fact that TRX was “first in, best dressed” in the suspension trainer space. Their origin story states that Randy Hetrick, while serving as a Navy SEAL, used a jujitsu belt and some parachute webbing to develop the first version of the TRX Suspension Trainer to help keep his SEAL team “mission ready” while they were deployed. So when you’re the first to market in a new segment, you get to dictate the prices.
WOSS Suspension Trainers
While TRX has enjoyed a virtual monopoly in the suspension trainer space for a while, and their current prices reflect that, they’re no longer alone. After some research, I went with WOSS Enterprises. They have excellent reviews on Amazon, and every review I’ve found by anyone who’s used both the WOSS and TRX systems claims that the WOSS is every bit as good… if not perhaps better… at a fraction of the cost of a comparable TRX kit.
For example, you can pick up WOSS’ basic offering, the WOSS Military Trainer, for under $28. It has 1″ wide straps and foam handles like the TRX kits, and features a 3 foot long anchor strap with a built-in door anchor.
The next level up is the WOSS AttacK kit, at just under $40. It’s similar to the Military Trainer and comes with the same mounting options, but features upgraded 1.5″ wraps and the rubber-sleeve grips with a solid core. In my opinion, both upgrades are well worth the $12 price difference.
I “splurged” and went with the $60 WOSS Titan Kit, which features the wider straps and better grips that come in the AttacK kit, in addition every possible mounting option you might need for attaching the kit to ceiling or wall hooks, interior doors, or even tree branches:
And even though it’s considered part of WOSS’ premium line, the Titan it was still less than one third the price of TRX’s basic kit.
WOSS kits come in a variety of colors, including basic black, brown, gunmetal grey, olive drab green, hot orange, neon green, and pink.
In a move that feels like it’s aimed at decreasing “likelihood of confusion” if TRX ever tries to “go legal,” WOSS systems are not available in yellow. 🙂 I was half-joking when I made the crack about the WOSS suspension trainers not coming in yellow, but was politely informed by a recent email from Wolfgang @ WOSS that you can actually get any of the WOSS 1.5″ wide kits (including the AttacK and Titan) in yellow if you wish. They just haven’t been advertising them yet!
My Experience with the WOSS Titan
After just a short time with my WOSS Titan, I’m very impressed. The entire kit came in a mesh bag, which is small enough to toss in a backpack or suitcase and take pretty much anywhere.
Taking the kit out of the bag, the WOSS kit screams “quality.” It’s made in the USA, and includes a number of touches that don’t even appear in the massively more expensive TRX kits. For example, where the TRX uses a plastic overhead main buckle, the WOSS uses steel.
The TRX handles are soft foam, while the WOSS AttacK and Titan feature textured rubber sleeve solid-core handles, which are much longer lasting and far easier to clean (I wipe down my exercise equipment with Clorox disinfecting wipes when I’m done).
The WOSS foot straps are also wide enough to make getting your feet in relatively easy, for performing ridiculous feats like this:
All the small details on the WOSS all feel like overkill… and that’s a good thing. I can’t imagine anyone would open their WOSS kit and be disappointed with the contents. I was frankly surprised at the obvious attention to detail and quality, especially given the massive price difference vs. the TRX suspension trainers. I got much more than I expected for the money.
Installation of the WOSS Titan was a breeze. Illustrated instructions were included (in perfect English!), but I didn’t need them. I used the provided steel carabiner to hook the main overhead loop/buckle to the eye-bolt secured to my gym ceiling (the one I’d installed for my climbing rope), then connected the handles to the hefty adjustable cam-buckles… and that was it. I was good to go!
Installation is and easy enough that you could take your WOSS kit to any gym and quickly attach it to any pull-up bar. But you should probably prepare yourself for others to ask questions about it.
The wide WOSS straps inspire confidence, and had no problem taking my full body weight. Here’s a photo of a pretty big dude using the WOSS system from their website:
Adjusting the WOSS’ strap height takes seconds, and the straps glide easily through the cam buckles:
The WOSS kit also included a second sheet of paper with a number of illustrated sample exercises, so I decided to give them all a try. After what I had initially planned would be a simple “let’s just try out all the moves” session, I was surprisingly fatigued. Later that evening, I was surprisingly sore. I’ve been working out consistently, 5-6 days per week, for many years, so it usually takes something extraordinary to make me sore. In this case, I think it was the fact that suspension trainers make you rely on your smaller “balancing muscles,” forcing them to work a lot harder than they’re probably used to… and that’s what I was feeling. It felt great. It felt like opportunity for improvement, which is what any fitness endeavor should be about.
On Day 2, I decided to really push myself to see how hard of a workout the WOSS Titan could provide. I started with 30 minutes of cardio on the elliptical wearing my 40lb vest, and spent that time watching suspension trainer videos on YouTube (there are a number of good ones… and a few crazy ones).
Armed with ideas, inspired by the enthusiasm of the YouTubers, and powered by the fruit punch Cellucor C4 pre-workout drink I had chugged 15 minutes earlier… which was just starting to make my face tingle, I jumped off the elliptical, doffed my vest, and spent some quality time with my WOSS Titan suspension trainer. At one point, I “invented” my own exercise variation, where I do a push-up holding an inverted Bosu ball while my feet are suspended in the loops, then bring my legs forward in a weird kind of crunch.
After 30-ish minutes of this, I was ready to puke. I was super tired. And later that evening, the soreness I experienced was, shall we say, “exceptional.” It was a four Aleve eve.
I now use the WOSS Titan at least every other day (I still use traditional weights on the “off” days), and I’m finally starting to feel a bit more accustomed to suspension workouts. But I’d be lying if I said they were easier yet. One of the virtues of suspension training is that as you get acclimated to a certain movement, you can lower the straps to make the exercise harder by adding more body weight to the motion. If I ever get to the point where even the fully-lowered position gets too easy, I can throw on my weight vest and adjust the weight in 4lb increments until it’s a challenge again. And if that ever gets too easy (though I’m not anticipating that will happen any time soon… if ever), I just discovered that WOSS also offers a kit called the WOSS Hurricane, which uses a pulley to make balancing even harder than with their standard systems. So my long-term goal is now to one day “graduate” to the WOSS Hurricane. The WOSS Titan, however, still feels like plenty of challenge for the foreseeable future.
Is Suspension Training for You?
So is suspension training for you? Only you can answer that. But what I will say is that it suspension training seems adaptable to anyone’s size, shape, and fitness level… and as long as you warm up properly and begin at a difficulty level that’s appropriate for you (insert standard disclaimer about checking with your doctor before starting any workout routine, blah, blah, etc.) I don’t see why it’s not at least something to try out.
At under $60, the WOSS Titan is a perfect way to add a commercial-grade suspension trainer to your fitness bag of tricks (it literally comes in a bag) without breaking the bank. And with Amazon’s return policy, there’s no risk to trying it out.
I highly recommend giving the WOSS Titan a try, and let me know in the comments what you think!