Monkii Bars: The Suspension Training Equipment You Can Take Anywhere.
Kickstarter has long since been my go-to site for feel-good procrastination. I’ve spent hours scrolling through products, longboard braking systems, hats made of Peruvian alpaca wool, and specialist rulers to name but a few. I have a special type of awe set aside for people who have taking their skill and decided to get support for it through the general public. Anyway, I stumbled across Monkii Bars’ Kickstarter Campaign back in 2014 and had to have them. Finally I got a pair a few days before leaving for LeftRight Repeat 2015, thinking, hey, why not get a workout in on rest days? (As if walking 900km of mountain terrain wasn’t enough!) So what are they?
Monkii Bars are a portable suspension training system. For those unfamiliar with the idea, suspension training is a bit like gymnastic rings for the more feint of hearted to workout with. It is based on using your bodyweight as your enemy and engaging your core for balance, while you do pull ups, push ups, planks, dips etc. TRX have absolutely owned the market since the product came to mass fruition some years ago. The TRX was marketed as a home workout device but grew so much in popularity that many gyms now have at least one of them. However small and compact they are, you wouldn’t want to stick them in a weekend camping pack and disappear off into the woods with them. This is where Monkii Bars come in. Allowing you to bring adventure into every part of your life, including the gym.
These two wooden handles look like they’ve fallen straight off of the tree, but pulling out the rubber plugs at either end of the bar reveals a thin but ridiculously durable suspension line with an adjuster. Chuck this adjuster over a tree, thread the other end of the line through it and secure WHAM you have a gym! Okay it’s not quite as simple as I make it sound, it’s a bit fiddly to get right first time, and even after a few weeks of using it it can take 5 minutes to set up. But if I were to say you have the world’s biggest gym, available 24/7 wherever you may be, would you argue about the 5 minute set up time?
Once up the bars can be adjusted right down to the ground (for pushup-based exercises), up above head height (pull up based exercises) and anywhere in between (for anything you can think of really, we found dips great but very difficult to get used to). I’ve also seen videos of people doing lat pull downs with logs tied to the other end of the line slung over a football goal! Basically it’s a super flexible piece of kit.
So how did I fair with them? Well first off I used them in quite demanding circumstances: a 6 week trek across the Pyrenees, climbing 49,000m over 900km. In hindsight I should’ve been more careful on the weight I packed anyway, so these, although portable and lightweight, weighing in just over a kilo (CHECK) were a bit heavy. I decided to take them because my hockey season started pretty much the week after I got back, so I had to keep my upper body in check as it wouldn’t get much work during the hike. Craig and I loved getting the bars out on suspension bridges, above rivers, and in the middle of towns and just messing around while also getting a workout out of them, it was great to feel like while on a trek that could easily run your body into the ground, we were still able to keep our whole bodies fit and healthy. The line also proved useful as a washing line too, and to help hold up broken tents (read Fi’s review of her tent when it’s published!), so all round a super useful tool to have with you, and definitely worth the extra weight.
Apart from hopefully a little lighter there is not much I would change about the Monkii Bars design. They’re super super sturdy and the line is so durable, despite the fact that it doesn’t look it, and they’re such a great concept. Possibly my only qualm would be although the glossy wood finish is beautiful, it doesn’t work well with sweaty palms, so unless you have chalk to hand (not entirely unbelievable, these are great training for rock climbing) it can get pretty slippy. Maybe just etching a grip into the handle would be a good compromise. Craig and I also found that if you’re suspending each bar from a different anchor point, they can often be awkwardly far away, but we twisted the line together just above us to bring them in, which worked fine.
I still use the Monkii Bars often, although not now that I can’t feel my fingers for cold, good old Scottish Winter. So stay on the look out for my outdoor fitness plan in the coming (warmer) months to get you outside, adventuring and working out at the same time.