Photo: MostFit

The MostFit might be the cheapest home gym you’ll ever find, and it’s all because of two words: Suspension training. The term refers to using the body’s weight and a rope or strap (looped around a bar or anchored to a door frame) to provide an amazingly effective workout. For a long time, that market has been cornered by the TRX, a black and yellow nylon strap that you’ve probably seen hanging from pull-up bars in your local gym. But there’s a new product on the scene that’s cheaper and simpler than any other suspension strap out there — all you need is 30 bucks and a door.

What’s the Deal?

This ain’t a complicated piece of equipment. The MostFit is an eight-foot-long strip of canvas with a handle and a stirrup at either end, and a little plastic sleeve in the middle which functions as a door anchor.

That simplicity belies the product’s awesomeness: The MostFit opens up a mind-boggling range of exercises that enhance just about every aspect of bodyweight workouts, primarily because it’s such an unstable piece of equipment. (Don’t worry, that’s a good thing — it means balance and stability become an integral part of each exercise.) Think planks are a good core exercise? Try them when your hands and arms are supported not by the floor, but by handles that are suspended in mid-air. In this position, keeping the body straight suddenly takes a lot more effort (and works many more muscles).

But fancy planks are just the warm-up. The MostFit can be used for chest flies, single-leg squats, surprisingly difficult bodyweight rows, and a ginormous amount of other exercises.

Why It Matters

According to its creator, Andrew Gavigan, one of the big benefits of using the MostFit is that it allows for so many closed chain exercises, during which the hands (for arm movements) or feet (for leg movements) remain in a fixed position while the body moves through space. For example, pull-ups and squats are closed chain exercises, but lat pull-downs and leg extensions aren’t. Closed chain movements are a little easier on the joints, tend to work more muscles, and are better at improving functional strength— that’s why they’re favored by a lot of athletes, particularly gymnastsThe effect of open and closed kinetic chain exercises on dynamic balance ability of normal healthy adults. Kwon YJ, Park SJ, et al. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 2013 Jun;25(6):671-4.The effects of closed and open kinetic chain exercises on lower limb muscle activity and balance in stroke survivors. Lee NK, Kwon JW, et al. NeuroRehabilitation. 2013;33(1):177-83.Correlation between trochlear groove depth and patellar position during open and closed kinetic chain exercises in subjects with anterior knee pain. Felicio LR, Saad MC, et al. Journal of Applied Biomechanics. 2012 Jul;28(3):335-42.Isokinetic Scapular Muscle Performance in Young Elite Gymnasts. Cools AM, Geerooms E, et al. Journal of Athletic Training, 2007 Oct-Dec;42(4):458-63..

The biggest difference between the MostFit and its nearest competitor, TRX (aside from the MostFit being notably cheaper), is that the straps on the TRX are adjustable in length. But this isn’t much of an issue — The MostFit is versatile enough that anyone can get a lot of use out of it, and the price difference more than makes up for a couple of lost exercises. For example, tricep dips might be easier to set up on the adjustable TRX, but Gavigan maintains the MostFit can easily be shortened by simply wrapping it around a bar.

The Verdict

The MostFit isn’t quite for beginners. The workouts require balance and stability, and those new to exercise should build up their coordination and core strength with bodyweight workouts until they feel comfortable on the straps.

That said, this is an awesome product (serious face). We tested it out and found it to be one of the simplest and most useful pieces of home exercise equipment on the market; it’s particularly useful for anyone looking to improve functional strength or just add some variety to their home workouts. It requires no batteries, is reasonably priced (especially as exercise equipment goes), and makes bodyweight exercise more challenging than ever.

Are you a fan of suspension training or eager to try it out? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet the author @ncjms.