When I first started using the War Machine/CrossCore180 about a year ago, I truly believed that pulleys were the future of suspension strap training, and that the TRX Suspension Trainer was completely screwed since I knew the people at TRX would never embrace pulley suspension systems because that would mean they’d have to give up on their patented design (that they’ve invested so much money and time into), and go whole-hog towards a unpatentable pulley system in which every Tom, Dick, and Harry can produce and sell the exact same design.
After about a year of using the War Machine and other pulley suspension systems, while also continuing to use traditional suspension straps, I no longer feel that pulley systems will ever gain any real traction as a must-have piece of exercise equipment, and if pulley trainers are even around in a few years, they’ll just be considered a fringe piece of equipment that allows you to perform a handful of fun and interesting exercises that complement an otherwise complete exercise program that uses more versatile and effective equipment.
The reason I originally felt that pulley trainers were going to become the de facto standard in suspension systems is that pulley trainers allow you to perform all of the same bilateral exercises that you can do on a traditional suspension systems (or so I thought), plus a bunch of unilateral and rotational exercises that are impossible to do on traditional suspension systems. My thinking at the time was why would anyone bother spending money on a traditional suspension system that only allows bilateral exercises (for the most part) when they can buy a pulley system that allows bilateral, unilateral, and rotational exercises.
Here’s what caused me to completely change my opinion on pulley suspension systems. The majority of the most effective suspension exercises are tried and true bilateral movements such as chest press, chest fly, inverted row, jackknives, pikes, hamstring curls, reverse fly, Y raise, etc. Yes, I’m leaving out some great unilateral suspension exercises like single leg squats, lunges, mountain climbers, hamstring runners, etc, but with the exception of single-leg squats and lunges, it’s safe to say that the majority of killer suspension exercises are bilateral. Performing those bilateral exercises on traditional suspension systems is awesome and the reason why suspended bodyweight training has been one of the most popular exercise trends over the past several years. Performing those awesome bilateral exercises on pulley trainers is a huge pain in the ass.
In other words, when I originally thought that pulley trainers would allow you to perform all of the same exercises that you can perform with traditional suspension systems, I was somewhat mistaken. I say “somewhat mistaken” because yes it’s technically possible to perform those bilateral exercises on pulley trainers, but the slip-n-slide pulley action makes it impossible to generate much force out of the movement since you’re required to focus so much on just balancing the pulley and preventing yourself from falling on your ass. Yes, performing those exercise on a pulley is tough, but force pretty much goes completely out the window and it just turns into a balancing act that might be somewhat useful for a circus performer.
So effective bilateral exercises are out of the question on pulley trainers, which leaves unilateral and rotational exercises as the only compelling reason to buy a pulley trainer. The problem I’ve found with those exercises is that there’s pretty much only four worth mentioning: single-arm presses, single-arm presses with rotation, single-arm rows, and single-arm rows with rotation. Cool exercises, but not exactly worthy of declaring pulley training a new category of exercise, and for most people, definitely not worthy of purchasing a dedicated piece of equipment for.
So if you’re in the market for a suspension system, and you’ve narrowed your search down to the TRX Suspension Trainer and the War Machine/CrossCore180, and you want some help deciding between the two, you should absolutely positively choose the TRX Suspension Trainer over the War Machine/CrossCore180. I actually can’t think of any reason at all for a first-time suspension system buyer to choose a pulley trainer over a traditional suspension system.
If you buy a TRX Suspension Trainer and later decide that you want to do some unilateral and rotational suspension exercises, and you don’t mind spending anywhere from $100 to $250 for a pulley trainer that will basically only allow you to perform four useful exercises, then at that point you can look into picking up a War Machine/CrossCore180, or one of the many other pulley trainers that are available. But if you’re just purchasing one suspension system, and you need to make a decision between the TRX Suspension Trainer and War Machine/CrossCore180, the answer is simple: choose the TRX Suspension Trainer.