I’ve been committed to getting in better shape this year. We ended up canceling our gym membership at the start of the summer, and I switched to bodyweight workouts for strength training. There are a few ways to take bodyweight training up a notch, including suspension straps, and Lifeline Fitness sent me their Jungle Gym XT straps to test!
Suspension straps are basically strong webbed straps with an anchor on one end and handles on the other that are adjustable to different heights for various workouts. There are a few different variations of them, though probably the most famous is the TRX. Jungle Gym XT is different in a few key ways than the TRX, and I think those differences lend itself better to home use. One, the TRX uses one attachment point, so both straps are connected at the top. This makes it easier to mount, but you can’t separate the straps as far for things like dips or push-ups. Jungle Gym XT uses two separate straps, so you can space them as far or close as you wish, giving you more opportunities to increase the challenge or scope of a workout. Second, the TRX has a soft strap for the foot cradle (to hook your feet for things like elevated push-ups, planks, and various core movements). On the Jungle Gym, the cradle is hard plastic, which makes it much, much easier to slide your feet in and out. It’s been a while since I used a TRX, but I definitely remember feeling wobbly when my feet were hooked in; I feel very secure in the Jungle Gym. Whether that’s more of a reflection of design or the fact that my core strength is better, it’s still a notable difference. Finally, price. A home TRX system is $199.50. A Jungle Gym XT is $99.99. That’s a huge difference!
Still, there’s plenty of people who would cringe at spending $99.99 on straps…so is it worth the cost? In my opinion, if you’re looking to do bodyweight work, it’s absolutely worthwhile to have suspension straps. I’ve been following the You Are Your Own Gym beginner program, and when I started incorporating the straps I felt it made a huge difference for me. (I do plan to review YAYOG at the end of this first beginner cycle. Spoiler alert: PAIN. SWEAT. Results!) Some of the movements prescribed by the program involve pulling exercises like wrapping a towel around a doorknob for vertical rows, or using a towel for bicep curls, or the dining room table for horizontal rows. All of these can easily be replaced by suspension straps, and you get the added bonus of trying to stabilize with the straps in addition to the actual exercise. I’ve improved my floor push-ups immensely by doing some of the easier variations with the Jungle Gym in place of using a chair at knee height, for example. The first time I tried that, I almost fell straight forwards, because I didn’t anticipate how hard it would be to hold my body steady AND push up while keeping the straps taut!
Hooking up the straps is ridiculously easy. Each strap has a hefty anchor on the end, made of a hard rubber. You just pop the anchor side over a door, pull the door shut, and you’re good to go. Important note: You need to make sure you secure it so the straps are set up on the opposite side of how the door swings. This way, the anchor is using the door and the doorframe for support, and there’s no risk the door will spontaneously pop open when you put pressure on it. It also means pulling and bending won’t break your door. I did run into a minor issue with the straps and doors, but it’s one that’s somewhat specific to my house. See, I live in an older house, one that was built in 1921. Some of our doors aren’t fitted terribly well to the doorframes, and we have narrow hallways. So I can’t use my bedroom door, or my son’s bedroom door, because both these doors are not very stable. I do have the perfect door with our downstairs bathroom, but the hallway is so narrow I would have to also open the opposite door to the basement to get clearance, and I don’t trust my own strength well enough to have my head dangling over the basement stairs as I do rows. Luckily, our pantry door is sturdy, closes securely, and swings INTO the pantry, so it’s the perfect spot. I just have to make sure I’m not trying to work out while everyone is making breakfast! So be aware of where you want to set up a Jungle Gym system, and make sure you have room to accommodate horizontal exercises!
You can hook up the Jungle Gym with more than just a door as well. It comes with an adaptor to hook the straps up to a sturdy rafter, or to hang them from monkey bars at a playground. Lifeline Fitness also sells wall mounts, so if you want to keep the straps quasi-permanently in place as part of a dedicated home gym area, that’s an option too. They are easy to wrap up for storage, though my one quibble is that for $99, it would be nice if a storage bag was included. I found a small canvas tote bag works perfectly, and it makes them quite portable. There’s no reason I couldn’t take these with me on any trip, and they’re small enough when the straps are rolled up that they don’t take up very much room (I would say they take up less room in a bag than a pair of sneakers would, for example). In addition to the adaptor strap, Lifeline includes a poster-size workout chart, with suggested routines ranging from beginner to expert, and they also have a number of demonstrations on their YouTube page. As I said, I am following a separate plan, but the photos and instructions were a helpful reference as I adopted a few movements to include the straps.
Overall, I can’t say enough good things about the Jungle Gym XT. If you have a home gym setup, or you travel often and want a workout you can do anywhere, these are a worthy addition to your inventory. Whether you use them as a primary workout tool or to augment other routines, having suspension straps adds a new wrinkle of difficulty and a world of new exercises, and the Jungle Gym XT manages to do all that without breaking your wallet in the process! You can get yours from Amazon [affiliate link].
Source: Manufacturer provided review sample.
What I Like: Very sturdy design; easy to secure the straps to a door; foot cradle is very stable; handles are comfortable to hold; straps adjust easily and stay in place when adjusted; very affordable.
What Needs Improvement: Needs a dedicated carrying case to be truly portable right out of the box.