What are Kettlebells and why should I use them?


If you are a regular follower of fitness trends, you are likely to have noticed a distinct shift towards popularising more “unconventional” training tools. The flag bearer for these old school training methods currently enjoying a revival has become the kettlebell.

So, what is a kettlebell and what impact can it have on the fitness of the everyday individual? Well, first of all, lets indulge in a little history lesson! Like several of the more user friendly “hardcore” training tools, the origins of the kettlebell are rooted deep in ancient times. Kettlebells are so old that no single nation can claim outright to be the origin of the device, but the most common assumptions are that it was a technique initially discovered in Scotland that eventually found its way to Russia and has been implemented by the Soviet military ever since.

Does all this mean that kettlebells are only for huge, snarling, bearded men? Quite the opposite in fact – kettlebells are so versatile and user friendly that they can be utilised by a trainee with no prior experience of gyms or anything fitness related, while they are also used by some of the best athletes in the world today.

There has been a shift in the fitness industry in recent times to transfer knowledge gained from methods used to train athletes to help train the general population more effectively. With my own clients, I have noticed huge benefits in introducing people who had never dug deeper into gym possibilities than sitting on a bike for half an hour, to techniques such as basic Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, more scientifically designed circuit training and of course, the use of old school training tools such as kettlebells.

Kettlebells vs Other Forms of Resistance Equipment

As with any training tool that becomes a trend, the trainee must realise that the current “flavour of the week” cannot suddenly replace every other tried and tested training method in existence. The same goes for kettlebells. They should be gradually introduced into a well-balanced exercise programme and should not replace, but supplement the use of barbells, dumbbells and other forms of resistance training.

Why is this? Kettlebells provide a very specific benefit not provided by barbells, but they will never replace the barbell when it comes to training for maximal strength as there is a ceiling on how much a kettlebell can weigh. The cannonball shaped head of the kettlebell is suspended below the handle, therefore increasing the pull away from the body meaning that the trainee is constantly having to stabilise the weight as it naturally fights gravity. This increased aspect of control when using kettlebells makes them unique among resistance training implements.

The Benefits of Kettlebell Training

So, what are the unique benefits of kettlebell training?

  1. Well, firstly, because of the ability to use kettlebells over a longer period of time during a workout (ie, from 30 seconds all the way up to 10 minutes), this will develop strength, endurance and flexibility at the same time.
  2. Kettlebell training focuses on multi muscle and multi joint movements. This allows you to strengthen your body as a whole as opposed to isolating certain “beach” muscle groups. Why do you think athletes and bodybuilders look nothing alike?!!
  3. You will strengthen your “posterior chain”, one of the most under used systems of our body. This chain is made up of your lower back, glutes and hamstrings and is the key to having good posture and being comfortable when sitting down. Kettlebell exercises are often very posterior chain dominant.
  4. Kettlebell training is simple and can be defined by four basic exercises: the swing, the clean, the snatch and the press. Learn these four exercises and implement them two to three times a week to help you stay lean, strong and functional.

Kettlebell training offers you something different, exciting and fun. It’s accessible, portable and hugely versatile. Kettlebells are widely available in stores and online – grab yourself one or two kettlebells and get started on exploring the vast possibilities of kettlebell training.

David Robertson

David Robertson is one of only a handful of Certified Kettlebell Teachers through the International Kettlebell & Fitness Federation, widely considered to be the global gold standard in kettlebell training.

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