Kettlebells are a hugely dynamic piece of equipment that may be used in a variety of ways, which support the development of a range of different outcomes. Kettlebell exercises involve explosive, total body movements that combine strength training, cardiovascular fitness and flexibility while strengthening the core and improving flexibility. They are often referred to as one of the top 10 tools for physical strength and endurance training.
Lifting with kettlebells.
The kettlebell has an odd appearance, often being described as a cannonball with a suitcase handle. They come in a range of different weights/sizes and depending on your strength and experience it is advised to start light until proper technique has been mastered. For Women weights usually start around – 8kg (18lb), 12kg (26lb), 16kg (35lb),
For Men kettlebell starting weights are around 16kg (35lb), 20kg (44lb), 24kg (53lb).
The majority of kettlebell exercises are variations of the classic Olympic lifts; however, Kettlebell ballistic lifts are (arguably) easier to master compared to their Olympic counterparts. Thankfully the unique shape and weight distribution also makes it easier on the wrists and shoulders when performing moves such as cleans and overhead presses. That same shape and weight distribution also allows for some very unique exercises (for example the kettlebell windmill, kettlebell swing and Turkish get up).
So why would you consider using kettlebells if you are already happy with your training? What would be the benefits of using them say if you already undertake regular resistance training? Is there any point in training with them if your cardio already involves long distance running or if you partake in intense sports training such as football or martial arts? This post will highlight some of the advantages of including them in regular workouts.
14 Reasons to consider Kettlebell training.
1.Develop Muscular Strength, Power and Endurance
Kettlebell training can be specifically utilised to target muscular strength, power or endurance gains. For power training aimed at improving athletic function, dynamic, high-speed kettlebell exercises can be utilised. For example, the kettlebell swing is an incredible exercise for building the posterior chain and helping improve ability in activities such as sprinting, jumps, and martial arts.
For endurance training, kettlebells are ideal for using lesser loads to undertake sub-maximal contractions for longer periods of time (higher reps and sets with less weight and rest periods). This type of training will allow improve your muscular endurance, especially in areas such as the major leg muscles (glutes, hams, quads, hip muscles) as well as the muscles of the back and forearms.
One of the shortfalls of the kettlebell is perhaps in regard tostrength building compared to regular resistance training. Barbells can easily be adjusted to stack up heavier loads, whereas if you are limited to one or two kettlebells then the comparative strength building gains between the two falls easily in favour of the barbell. That said, I know many strength trainers who advocate the use of kettlebell training for fat loss and conditioning gains. Additionally, for the average person who does not lift heavy on a regular basis, strength training with heavier kettlebells may be a good starting place in resistance training. In this regard, strength training would involve lower reps with heavier weighted kettlebells.
Cardiovascular fitness is another component of fitness that sees the benefits of kettlebell training; however, this is dependent on the intensity of the exercises. For cardio adaptations to take place high intensity type training (increased intensity/lowered rest periods) is required. By continuously stressing the cardiovascular and respiratory systems over several sessions will stimulate these systems to adapt and be more efficient.
If you doubt the cardiovascular benefits of using kettlebells, then feel free to undertake 200 kettlebell swings with minimal rest (break them down into swings of 25-40 with 15-30seconds rest periods). After the exercise see if you can manage to get a full sentence out through struggling to breathe (as the oxygen debt demands payback!) Incredible cardio workouts can be gained from using ballistic full body kettlebell moves such as the swing, the kettlebell snatch or clean and press.
3.Improved motor skills, coordination balance and agility.
The flexibility, agility and coordination required to undertake the majority of kettlebell moves requires a great deal of time and practice. Indeed, most exercises require the body to move in multi-planar directions whilst maintaining balance, which challenges the body’s strength, timing and neuromuscular co-ordination and proprioception. Kettlebells are also extremely versatile in that they allow you can chain moves together into ‘kettlebell flows’. A flow is basically three or more kettlebell exercises, performed one after another in a continuous fluid sequence. Kettlebell flows require a great deal of flexibility, concentration and coordination.
4.Multi planar form of training.
Whilst mentioning multi-planar directions, it should be noted that much of resistance training is undertaken with trunk flexion and extension and in the sagittal plane. Human movement patterns however are much more complex (we move in three planes sagittal, coronal and transverse). Using kettlebells allows transitioning from a variety of different movements seamlessly including movements that take you out of the sagittal plane. This type of training allows us to hit muscle groups in ways that convention resistance training struggles to.
5.Core strength and stability.
Regular kettlebell training will result in great improvements overall to core strength and stability. The majority of the exercise rely on the core to power the movement or to assist with balance and stability. The odd centre of gravity of the kettlebell and often explosive movements rely heavily on stabilising core muscle groups to keep the weight under control. This means you are continuously engaging your core (even when you think you aren’t!)
A strong core is considered the foundation for everyday movement in life and optimal performance in sports and exercise. With kettlebell training, regardless of what muscle group you are targeting, you are effectively getting a core workout thrown in for good measure.
6.Functional movement patterns.
Functional movement patterns are movements that are performed on a regular daily basis and are fundamental to us living an optimum life. For instance, movement such as the squat, hip hinge, pull press movements and trunk rotation. Kettlebell training inherently replicates these everyday movements in exercises such as the hip hinge (hip flexion and extension) during the kettlebell swing. Furthermore, the addition of the kettlebell weight challenges the muscle groups involved in these movements and overtime (once adaptations have taken place) enhance our ability at undertaking these essential everyday movement patterns. Never again will you have problems with suitcases or shopping bags!!
7.Calorie Burn Potential.
If you are looking at fat and weight loss, then kettlebell training may be what you are looking for. Kettlebells are known to burn through the calories even with shorter duration workouts. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin‚ La Crosse, evaluated the energy output of a typical kettlebell session. They found that their test subjects burned about 20 calories a minute, or 400 in a 20-minute session using kettlebell exercises. This is effectively the same energy expenditure as running a 6-minute mile!
Kettlebell exercises are also an easy inclusion to use for HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) circuit workouts. These types of workouts can easily be accomplished with the inclusion of exercises such as swinging a moderately heavy to heavy kettlebell for 20 to 30 reps.
8.Developing grip strength using kettlebells.
Training with kettlebells will improve your grip strength (a vastly underestimated aspect of health) this will in turn improve everyday activities such as holding suitcases, opening bottles etc. The use of kettlebells to improve forearm and wrist strength may also reduce the likelihood of severe conditions of these areas (such as tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome).
9.Train Multiple Fitness Components at once.
Kettlebells support other forms of training be they barbell lifts (they target and strengthen muscle groups from different angles); cardiovascular training (try 300 kettlebell swings and tell me your heart isn’t racing!) and flexibility (using weight during movement will strengthen your core and the supporting muscles of joints involved).
10.Improved performance in sports.
Kettlebell training benefits can be used to improve performance in a number of sports from football to MMA. Training can be adapted to use specific movement patterns used by athletes in a particular sport, improving neuromuscular coordination and proprioception.
11.Improved posture and alignment.
Poor posture and prolonged sitting are the primary causes of overuse injuries, spinal degeneration and neck problems. These postural conditions impact greatly on our daily lives causing pain and discomfort, difficulty getting comfortable (particularly when trying to sleep at night). What is more they can become progressively worse unless treated as other muscle groups begin to overcompensate and have knock on effects.
Kettlebell exercises offer a great solution to correcting postural imbalances. Many kettlebell exercises work the posterior chain muscles (especially the kettlebell swing).
Since the posterior chain is responsible for straightening up the body (extensors) and counteracting all of the forward bending (common today due to sitting and slouching) the result can only be improved posture.
12.Minimal Joint Loading.
The dynamic movements of kettlebell training do not place as great a deal of stress through the joints as barbell exercises. Since the weight of the kettlebell is comparatively lighter and movements more ballistic than barbell moves, the load stress is more manageable and less taxing on the joints. Once kettlebell technique has been mastered then you can undertake a high number of exercises without joint pain.
13.Minimal Equipment Required.
A single kettlebell is often the only equipment needed for an entire workout, making it a very efficient piece of training equipment. Selecting the correct weight is important however, so it may pay to experiment at your local gym/fitness store before you buy (if they ever open again! :( )
It is essentially the case of finding the correct weight, as in one that enables you to undertake a range of different exercises. Bear in mind as mentioned above, the kettlebell is more of a muscular endurance tool than a muscular strength building tool. So, you may want to select a weight that challenges you but which you will be able to utilise for different kettlebell exercises as opposed to bigger compound moves. Alternatively, if it is more of the heavier compound moves you are interested in then the heavier weight may be what you are after. It often pays to have two or more kettlebells for this reason, choose wisely. The good news is kettlebells aren’t too expensive (depending on the make and brand) so you won’t go bankrupt buying some.
14.Fun way to workout.
Traditional workout routines can get old and stale real fast! The dynamic moves, flexibility and equilibrium required from using kettlebells can make training a whole lot more interesting. These can be regressed or adapted as per the user’s skill level (see kettlebell juggling for extreme level!!). Kettlebell exercises are a worthy addition to any training regime, enabling you to create varied and interesting workouts involving a range of different types of exercise.
Kettlebell training is an effective way to improve cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance, mobility, flexibility and weight loss.
For people trying to improve sporting performance using kettlebells can aid in teaching the effective use of the hips and core which in turn can impact greatly on power and speed outputin competition. Kettlebell training is effective for resistance training and can be used to supplement and enhance barbell or dumbbell workouts.
Finally, they are relatively inexpensive, small enough to be portable, and easy to store away.
Effective kettlebell training can undoubtedly improve your life and improve many aspects of your life. Give kettlebells a try and see if they are a good fit for you and your goals.
This article was written by Martin Gallagher owner of the super soldier project.