Kettlebells-Not Just A Fad
Make no mistake about it, kettlebell training is not just another passing fad. The benefits of kettlebell training are undeniable and have continually provided results for first time gym-goers to extreme body builders. Kettlebells were practically unheard of in mainstream fitness until recently. Now, kettlebells have become a workout staple at most gyms and training centers worldwide. However, is all the hype and notoriety that surrounds kettlebells worth it?
Functional Fitness Training– Kettlebell exercises generally require full body movements and engaging multiple muscle groups versus isolating specific muscles. Kettlebell’s require an element of balance and overall athleticism to accurately perform many of the exercises. One expert suggests the benefits stem from, “the body learning to work as one synergistic unit linked strongly together.” I couldn’t agree more.
Combining Anaerobic And Aerobic Systems-Many kettlebell classes and workouts combine strength movements that are usually done in some sort of circuit fashion so you are building muscle and aerobic capacity simultaneously. The effects of burning a high amount of calories and building muscle endurance in a short time period is one of the most popular aspects of kettlebells.
The Lean Factor– Kettlebells can be used for a variety of fitness goals, but most advantages are seen in building lean muscle while increasing functional capabilities. This has a huge appeal on women and men interested in building strength and lean muscles while not necessarily promoting sheer muscle mass.
Explosive Power– Athletes can specifically benefit from the ballistic movements (fast twitch) used with kettlebells. Multi-joint exercises, such as snatches or kettlebell swings creates ballistic shock and teaches muscles how to absorb shock efficiently, which is critical for contact sports.
The Group Dynamic-Ketllebells are often used in a group or class setting which is an appealing factor. These group dynamics often have a positive influence on people’s work ethic, willingness, and overall attitude towards lifting weights.
Using Stabilizer Muscles– The off-centered weight of a kettlebell will force you to use more stabilizer muscles which will benefit your overall strength. These often neglected muscles create deficiencies in larger muscle groups and make you more prone to injury and imbalance.
Injury- Kettlebell exercises often require muscle endurance in combination with great form when performing exercises. Because muscle fatigue can lead to a breakdown in correct form, people can be more prone to injury especially in their backs and shoulders. Ensuring you maintain good form will help prevent injury associated with some kettlebell exercises.
Tough On Your Hands– Kettlebell movements can be tough on your grip, hands, and fingers. When you start adding volume and more difficult exercises into the equation, callous and skin tearing can result. However, this negative can also be turned into a benefit for those looking to improve grip strength, which is essential in many sports.
Steep Learning Curve– Many of the kettlebell exercises are tough, full body movements that can take a while to master. Dialing in the correct form is essential before you start adding weight and more intense workouts. Some people don’t have the patience for the learning curve required to really master kettlebell exercises.
Best Kettlebell Exercises
One Arm Kettlebell Swing
- Begin holding a light-medium kettlebell in the right hand, feet about hip-distance apart.
- Begin a warm up swing to get used to the movement, squatting as you take the weight down and back between the legs and thrusting the hips up as you lightly swing the weight to about hip level. Take the left arm out to the side for balance.
- Once you get comfortable with the movement, swing the weight to shoulder level, always using the hip-thrust movement to get the weight up.
- To work the shoulders and add variation, rotate the thumb down as you bring the weight back and rotate the thumb up as you swing the weight to shoulder level.
- At the top of the movement, the kettlebell should feel weightless. Use your hips and legs to move the weight, rather than your arms.
- Lie down holding a medium kettlebell in the left hand, arm extended straight over the shoulder with the elbow locked.
- Keeping the arm extended and looking up at the weight, raise up onto the right elbow as you bend the left knee.
- Continue pushing up onto the right hand while crossing the right foot under the right leg.
- Push up until you’re resting on the right knee and left foot(in a modified lunge), arm still extended straight up over the shoulder.
- Continue until you’re in a standing position, with the arm overhead.
- Lower back down the same way, arm extended, until you’re lying all the way on the floor
- Hold a medium-heavy kettlebell in your hand, feet hip-width apart, with the arm straight.
- Lower into a squat with the torso upright and the abs braced.
- Thrust the hips up as you come up, pulling the kettlebell straight up.
- Rotate the elbow down as you pull the kettlebell up, catching it at shoulder height.
- Absorb the weight of the kettlebell and the movement by squatting slightly, keeping the wrist neutral.
One Arm Kettlebell Snatch
- Begin the one-arm snatch with the kettlebell in front of you and your feet spread shoulder width apart.
- Keep your back straight, bend at the knees, squat down and grip the handle of the kettlebell.
- Look straight ahead and lift the kettlebell using your hips and thighs, swinging the weight back through your legs to gain momentum for the exercise.
- Immediately, reverse the direction and forcefully drive the kettlebell swing forward, arcing up towards your shoulder, and your body extending into full standing position.
- As the kettlebell rises to the shoulders and begins to slow in speed, bend slightly at the knees and stand up straight while punching the kettlebell straight overhead. Return the kettlebell back to the starting position.
- This is one repetition. Complete the set and switch arms holding the kettlebell
Kettlebell Squat To High Pull
- Hold a medium kettlebell in both hands, feet hip-width apart.
- Squat down, keeping the arms straight, the torso upright and the abs braced.
- Thrust the hips up as you stand while drawing the kettlebell up and bringing the elbows up and above the shoulders.
- Keep the weight close to the body and use the power of your hips to pull the weight up, rather than your arms.
I think kettlebells can become a great supplement to anyone’s workout. Whether you are trying to better your muscle endurance, build your anaerobic/aerobic capacity, increase total body/functional synergy, kettlebells can provide numerous benefits to a wide variety of demographics. Using one day a week to complete a kettlebell circuit or substituting some standard barbell or dumbell lifts with some of the kettlebell exercises above can help upgrade your workout and provide visible results.
Thanks for reading, from Norway,