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The Magic of Kettlebells

Fitness • November 2, 2020

Kettlebells are popular with some of us, but many of us don’t know enough about them to have an opinion about them. Every gym has kettlebells nowadays, including commercial bodybuilding gyms in big-box stores. Fitness industry professionals have become accustomed to using kettlebells as a staple training tool.

Kettlebells are truly magical. Kettlebell workouts have been around for centuries, so their benefits will continue to be felt for centuries to come. Kettlebell exercises range from snatches and deadlifts to kettlebell swings and deadlifts, and the kettlebells can provide a full-body workout. 

What are Kettlebells? 

It might seem absurd, but it is vital to lay the groundwork. Kettlebells are typically cast or made of steel. An attached handle makes the kettlebell resemble a cannonball. Kettlebells resemble teapots without spouts visually. 

Kettlebells were first recognized 350 years ago by Russians as an entertaining toy and were later used for weightlifting. In addition, there is also evidence that such objects were developed by ancient Greeks in the fifth century. 

In any case, kettlebell exercises are extremely effective at burning calories and can be used to build upper and lower body endurance.

Due to their center of gravity, kettlebells often feel heavier than traditional dumbbells due to their structure. This makes kettlebells a good way to build strength and improve balance. A kettlebell workout can also aid in respiratory fitness since it activates muscles that are responsible for breathing. 

10 Key Benefits of Kettlebell Training 

Kettlebell training has many benefits. Still, need some convincing? Our head trainer, Eric “El Capitán” Salvador, compiled a list of 10 benefits of kettlebell training based on science, research, and his own personal experiences:

  1. Improves aerobic capacity. Kettlebells offer crazy calorie-burning potential when used correctly. Kettlebell HIIT training, as we offer at Fhitting Room, is great for losing fat and building muscle.
  2. Improves functional strength. Functional strength is strength that transfers to everyday life activities. Like squatting, jumping, pushing, and pulling. Kettlebell training allows you to train unilaterally as well as in different planes of motion. Unilateral training is important because it allows us to identify imbalances in our arms and legs. If your arms & legs are the branches of a tree, your core is the trunk. Having a powerful trunk is essential in allowing us to tackle everyday life activities.
  3. Versatile workouts. There are over 100 total body exercises you can do with a kettlebell. I’d say if there was one piece of equipment I could have during quarantine, it would have to be a kettlebell. The ability to train my strength, endurance, balance, & flexibility with just a kettlebell is all I need and that’s priceless.
  4. Enhances body awareness & coordination. Kettlebell movements require coordination as some movements are dynamic in nature. Kettlebell movements like swings, snatches, and figure 8s will require you to be aware of your body moving in space, otherwise known as proprioception.
  5. Low Impact, Huge Cardio benefits. Great alternative for conventional cardio like running or exercises that require a lot of jumping. If you want a high cardio intense workout try doing an EMOM of kettlebell snatches, kettlebell cleans or swings for 5 minutes. Pick a rep scheme that will allow you to complete all the reps under a minute with good form. The snatch is a very high skill movement and will have your heart rate through the roof. When I’m training I do 10 snatches on each arm with a 24g for 5 minutes. That’s 100 snatches! 
  6. Power Up. Kettlebells develop explosive hip power and speed as well as develop an overall stronger posterior chain. The most effective exercise for hip power is the swing. The hips play a major role in athletics. Hip strength is also important because it ensures trunk stability and helps prevent injuries. The swing is a great exercise to strengthen the legs without loading the knee. After my ACL surgery I rehabbed my knee by incorporating various swings to get my strength & power back in my leg. 
  7. Grip Strength. This is one of the most important factors when training with a kettlebell. Without grip strength it’s hard to do simple things like holding the kettlebell in the rack position. Having a strong grip will enable you to properly swing, snatch, and clean for longer periods of time. Not to mention a weak handshake is a pet peeve of mine. No one likes a weak handshake. Two of my favorite exercises for training my grip are the bottoms up press and the farmers carry. 
  8. Compact and Portable. Kettlebells don’t take up a lot of space, they last forever and are cost friendly. They are also great if you and your friends want to do a workout at the park or track because they are easy to transport. Believe me I know! 
  9. Improves Balance & Stabilization. If you only train with machines at a gym you’ll never get the benefits of training balance or any of those stabilizer muscles because machines train your body in a fixed path. Life is not a fixed path. When training with a kettlebell you need to control the movement path. While doing this you’ll be forced to fire those stabilizer muscles of the shoulder, hip, knee and ankle. Having strong stabilization muscles in all ranges is important for not just strength but for healthy, mobile joints that will remain injury free. 
  10. Perfect For All Ages. Kettlebells are beneficial for everyone young or old. They are compact, inexpensive, virtually indestructible and can be used anywhere. The unique nature of the kettlebell lifts provide a powerful training tool that can replace any machine at a gym. No other tool offers as many all-around benefits in such a tight package. You can supplement them into your current training plan or you can use them solely as your main training program. 

Muscles worked during a kettlebell swing

How to use Kettlebells

As with any exercise, proper form is important before you begin using kettlebells in your workouts. Here’s how you do it. 

First, choose the right kettlebell weight for your workout. Assess your fitness level and exercise routine first. Decide how many repetitions you intend to perform next.

Beginners would generally start at 9 pounds (4 kg), while experts might begin at 18 pounds (8 kg). Choose the level that suits you. Typically, men start at 13 pounds (6kg) and go up to 26 pounds (12kg). 

Injuries must be prevented. Starting with a strong foundation can prevent injuries and keep you safe. This involves placing your feet securely (shoulders apart) and distributing your weight evenly on your heels.

Starting with the most common exercise – the kettlebell swing – pick up the kettlebell off the ground, bending your knees slightly. 

Make sure your core and back aren’t weak. Slouching is a surefire way to cause injury and disaster. The biggest reason you should have a firm posture is that the kettlebell should be driven by your hips and legs, not your arms. 

Never swing it or put it directly above your head. With your arms straight out, swing the kettlebell so that it hits your head without going over your head, using the momentum from your lower body. 

Regain your starting position with your arms almost at ground level. The process can be repeated as many times as necessary, with the main takeaway being to establish a solid foundation and core. 

Bottom Line

Both personally and professionally, fitness plays a significant role. As we age, our ability to exercise can be limited by normal joint wear and tear. 

We asked Dr. Riley J. Williams III, Orthopedic Surgeon, Knee – Shoulder – Elbow Specialist, Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, New York, FHITTING ROOM Advisory Board Member, and frequent FHIXer what he loves most about kettlebells. 

“Fitness is a big part of both my professional and personal lives. As an Orthopedic Surgeon and Sports Medicine doctor, I am tasked with helping people with knee and shoulder problems keep active and moving. As we all age, normal joint wear and tear can limit what we do as part of our exercise routine. My personal discovery of functional fitness training was a revelation. High-Intensity Interval Training combined with dumbbell/kettlebell strength work has enabled me to stay active and vital. It is my belief that with proper instruction and technique, functional training is a “fitness hack” that can be utilized throughout their entire life.”

You won’t regret it. In addition to being extremely effective, kettlebell training is also incredibly accessible. All fitness levels can pick up a kettlebell and become kettlebell fans with the right coaching. 

Or, you could buy a bell RIGHT now. Shop Fhitting Room approved Perform Better kettlebells here.