Why Kettlebells?

My love for Kettlebell training was born many years ago when I was re-habbing myself from a ripped disc in my lower back and last week, after 4 months of training, I passed the Strength Matters Kettlebell Certification .

It’s a cert where not only your strength is assessed but also your technique and ability to instruct. I feel honoured to have passed and be a part of the Strength Matters community, which is a group of Fitness professionals who are interested in giving high quality training to themselves and their clients.

I’m always asked “Why Kettlebells?” and “What do Kettlebells do?”.

Mark Reifkind’s answer is spot on:

Why a Kettlebell? To bring out the athlete inside.

Kettlebell training is not new and it’s not a fad. It’s been around for at least 300 years, it gained popularity in the Russian Military for being the most efficient way to get troops into fighting shape fast.

Kettlebell training is grouped into two basic types: ballistics and grinds. Ballistic Kettlebell training revolves swinging the weights (ballistics) as well as lifting the bells in traditional manner (grinds)

When you swing the Kettlebell every part of the body is involved in each and every rep. Your body is always doing something, either producing force (swinging it up), reducing force (as it swings between your legs) or reversing the load (as one goes from the backswing to the next rep) this leads to very high workloads with much lower perception of effort. Add in the acceleration forces (3-5 times the weight of the bell) and even the average person can do extraordinary workloads in a very short order!

Swinging the bells let you work your cardiovascular system and muscular systems at the same time and can burn upwards of 20 calories per minute, even with very light bells – a very efficient way to get into shape very quickly.

Add in the high tension lifts such as the overhead press, the get up, and the squat and one has more than a complete exercise programme, they have a seriously state-of-the-art training programme that will actually deliver the results it promises.

The essence of “functional” training is that it has a solid carryover to the real world. The body is indeed a linked, interconnected system and needs to be trained as such for maximum benefit. The Kettelbell and the methods of swinging and lifting bells maximizes this functionality. Even picking the bells of the floor using the correct form will carry over to everyday life and make one stronger and more resilient in record time.

Plus, by sheer necessity, Kettlebell training will help bring out the athlete inside you – even if you never played sport. Compelling in a way a tread mill or plate loaded machine can never be, Kettlebell swinging and lifting requires balance, coordination, core control, hand eye coordination and teaches the trainee to move as an athlete, hips first.

For the most people, work capacity is perhaps the most important factor in their “fitness” life. The ability to perform the activities of your day and have a reserve at the end is vital. Nothing will improve your work capacity faster or more safely than Kettlebell training. The combination of ballistic and grind lifts, done in many different ways will increase muscle tone and strength, cardiovascular ability and stabilize and strengthen the legs, hips, lower back, abs and shoulders in the quickest time possible – 20-30 minute workouts 2-3 times a week.

That’s not much. However Kettelbell training is not easy. Simple – yes, easy-no.

Still, growing up and growing old is not for sissies and Kettlebell training will give you another component that’s essential for life as well as fitness: toughness – both a physical and a mental toughness, just by showing up and getting to know your Kettlebell.

Even if all you do is pick it up and carry it, it will make you stronger, tougher and more resilient. Do you need proof? Ask the military, law enforcement, martial artists and athletes around the world who have put the Kettlebell square in the centre of their training.

Yet for all it’s usefulness for the athletic elite, the Kettlebells basic moves, particularly the swing and the get up, are truly “the people’s exercises”. Practicing swings and get ups on a consistent basis will yield results that the average person just couldn’t get from virtually any other kind of training. The reason for this is due to the fact that there is no impact and the training has core, stability and balance training built into its foundation. This also means that it is some of the safest strength training a person can do.

Of course, you should get basic instruction from a certified trainer, but that goes without saying as one enters any new physical venture. Kettlebell training is not without it’s risk, but neither is being alive. Again, growing old is not for sissies.

Strength is the “master quality”. From strength all other fitness aspects are derived. Think about it. If a person doesn’t have the strength to oppose the small force of gravity enough to stand up straight throughout the day, how important is their aerobic capacity?

Kettlebell strength is unique because kettlebell training builds useable strength, basic strength, functional, real world strength. After you have that, everything else is easier.


Thanks to Mark Reifkind and Strength Matters.

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