Strongly rumoured to have originated in Russia in the 1700s where (according to http://www.endofthreefitness.com) farmers used a similar implement to weigh seed crops, the Kettlebell graduated to being a handy tool for exercise in between the normal farming activities.
It’s essentially a ball with a handle like a kettle and it can be held by the handle, the ‘horns’ (the sides of the handle) or by the ball (or ‘bell’) itself. Although the usual way to hold the Kettlebell is by the handle, various grips can be used in different exercises. For example, if you want to hold it while doing squats, you may find it better to hold the ‘horns’. On the other hand, you could hold the ball/bell when doing rows because this adds to the exercise by demanding a tighter grasp to prevent the Kettlebell slipping through your fingers.
I recommend the Kettlebell as part of conditioning and strengthening routines because it helps with building strength and muscle mass, cardiovascular health and aerobic fitness. One Kettlebell is sufficient to give you a good workout so you don’t need two.
If you’re thinking of buying a Kettlebell then most trainers recommend new users start with a 12kg and 16kg for men and an 8kg and 12kg for women. For more experienced weight training users these could move up to 16kg and 24kg for men and a 12kg and 16kg for women.
Yes, but what does a Kettlebell actually do that’s so good for me?
The key feature of the Kettlebell is that the weight is off-set, unlike the dumbbell, whose load is evenly distributed through the length of the handle. This means that the Kettlebell is more difficult to control because it centre of gravity is few inches from where you are gripping the handle.
Which in turn means that you are having to be much more careful about how you do the exercise (i.e. your form and technique) and you will be using more muscles than you would doing the same exercise with dumbbells.
As a result, the kettlebell compels proper execution of the exercise. As an example, if you do a squat holding a Kettlebell in front of you makes you sit back into your heels more on the way down which improves your squat pattern.
The off-set nature of the weight in a Kettlebell also forces you to focus on your core to avoid risking damage to your lower back or even to stabilise your body when swinging the weight.
Most kettlebell exercises impact the entire body, and many require lifting the weight from the floor to over your head which works muscles across the body involving a wide range of movement which can create significant
My research has led me to the following conclusion about the efficacy of exercising with Kettlebells.
a. They are great for conditioning the body because they can be used for flexibility, endurance, strength and balance training.
b. Because they require you to contract your core they really help with core strength. And not just by working the core in one direction or plane.
c. Working with a Kettlebell will improve your stabiliser muscles and your balance.
d. In using a Kettlebell in exercising means you will need to be aware of the proximity of people and objects in the space around you so you will develop a sense of where your body is in that space. This also helps coordination (mind – muscle).
e. Do you know what ‘EPOC’ is? Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption is when you burn calories at a higher rate AFTER your workout. And this is a proven benefit of an intense session with a Kettlebell. So it is very effective at burning calories leading to loss of fat.
f. Fast-acting cardio training is another major benefit when using Kettlebells. According to research you can get the same cardio benefits, such as burning fat, increasing metabolism, and improving cardiovascular health, as running or cycling in half the time.
g. The way Kettlebells compel you to move through different planes of movement helps your flexibility and joint strength and stability, thereby improving range of motion.
h. Swinging a Kettlebell produces power and speed from your hips and this also improves stability and helps prevent injuries.
i. Kettlebell training will result in lean muscle.
j. Kettlebells are great for high intensity but short workouts and they put much less pressure on the spine.
k. Using Kettlebells in a structured fitness programme they will improve your posture because the exercises for which they were designed will engage the major muscles of your hips, core, shoulders, and neck.
l. Consistent use of a Kettlebell is known to improve the strength of your grip. And the stronger your grip, the stronger you are.
Some of my favourite Kettlebell Exercises
As I hinted above, a Kettlebell can be used in a lot of exercises. And here are just a few that I use with clients and myself. If you have never picked up a Kettlebell before, or have any lower back issues, don’t use without proper instruction!
Single and double leg deadlifts
Clean and press
‘Round the worlds’
Lunge and twists
Tricep over heads
and if they’re feeling brave…Turkish Get ups!
The gym has a great variety of Kettlebells, and for home training – I carry around my 8 and 12 for you! 😉
All You Need to Know About Getting Started with Kettlebells | Breaking Muscle UK