Kettlebells, ropes, suspension training – worth the hype?

Are kettlebells, ropes and TRX suspension really going to help you achieve your strength and fitness goals any faster than a run and a set of dumbbells?

Kettlebells work – and they can re-invigorate your interest in fitness.

We give you the real rundown.


Kettlebell training definitely offers strength and power results, if not always equal to traditional weight lifting. What they do offer is a different stimulation and training effect, particularly for long term exercisers who may be getting bored with – or their bodies used to, traditional equipment.

Full body movements and kettlebell circuits also elicit an effective cardio workout according to research by Falatic and colleagues (2015). However, many workout enthusiasts, let alone exercise newbies, would probably be unable to sustain the length of time needed performing kettlebell snatches or swings to achieve a satisfactory cardiovascular response. Running and cycling may be a better option for those who wish to focus on heart and lung health. That’s not to say there wouldn’t be benefit to adding some simple kettlebell moves to the program.


Many outdoor trainers and studios are now including rope or ‘undulation training’. Claims that it offers a low-impact, aerobic and anaerobic workout, that conditions the upper body and core have recently been substantiated by a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2013).

A 10 minute interval session elicited exercise heart rates and calorie expenditure high enough to meet the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for ‘vigorous-intensity’ cardiorespiratory fitness. There are also no documented injuries, although this may be due to the infancy of rope training. The researchers did note that different lengths and diameters of rope may be more appropriate to clients of different body sizes and strengths.

Suspension training

Strength benefits are possible with suspension training, but are not as easily gained as with machines, barbells and dumbbells. However, several studies in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (2015) show that using a suspension tool to perform exercises such as push ups, plank and inverted rows, leads to a greater recruitment of the muscles of the trunk and torso than the more traditional form of these exercises.

The instability of TRX, offers yet another way to train the core and recent research even suggests it may help people with back pain by causing a thicker contraction of the transversus abdominis muscle. Suspension training circuits can also offer a moderate to high intensity cardiovascular workout depending on the difficulty of the exercises chosen and the work to rest ratio and to date there are no reported negative training effects.

By Rachel Livingstone Personal Trainer & Owner of The Health Hub


Rachel Livingstone

Rachel is a PT and Maternal Health specialist who found the gym at 14 through her weight lifting dad and never looked back. Originally from the UK she finally settled her wanderlusting feet on the shores of Sydney and can often be found on the back of a paddleboard exploring Rose Bay and the beautiful harbour.

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