Introducing the kettlebell
The kettlebell is an ancient training tool that has been around for centuries with origins in Eastern Europe and is still transforming physiques across the globe today.
There isn't anything magical or mystical about the kettlebell - it's simply a back to basics, intense training tool and when used correctly can be an awesome training aid to help you build the body you want and meet your strength and fitness goals.
There's no doubt that kettlebells are one of the most flexible and effective pieces of functional training equipment available and can be put to use whatever your fitness goals; to lose weight, build muscle, or develop strength; the humble kettlebell will help you achieve it.
The benefits of kettlebell training are scientifically proven and they offer a form of exercise suitable for both men and women of all ages and fitness levels.
What is kettlebell training?
Kettlebell training is a unique blend of strength and cardio based exercise with a primitive piece of equipment that looks like a cannonball with a handle attached. They can be used to build strength, endurance, agility and balance and are a great tool for fat loss.
Exercises come in the form of various kettlebell swings and lifts, and it's a very fluid and intense form of training. Due to the hybrid cardio and strength approach to fitness, kettlebells offer a highly effective and time efficient workout and is the perfect choice for the time-starved trainer.
The kettlebell can be lifted like ordinary weights for strength gains, but also swung about for an intense cardio workout, the kettlebell acting like a hinged extension of your body.
There’s something inherently appealing to most about kettlebell training – it’s a primal, raw way to train and for such a basic piece of equipment it is incredibly effective. It can help you build out a well rounded training regime as you combine weight training and cardiovascular exercise into one workout.
The highly efficient kettlebell workouts offer intense exercise in short duration, composed of bursts of explosive total-body movements. You will lift and swing the kettlebell to work joints, muscles, and the cardiovascular system. Exercises like kettlebell swings and snatches force the body to work as one integrated unit and burn away fat.
The benefits of kettlebell training
Kettlebells offer a well rounded fitness workout in a simple yet highly flexible package and can be used for;
- both cardio and strength training depending upon chosen exercises
- losing weight, toning up and to increase muscular definition
- a highly efficient form of training (quick workouts are possible in a small space with excellent results)
- unparalleled core conditioning exercises
- training the entire body with a choice of hundreds of kettlebell exercises
- scalable training suitable to people of all ages, abilities and gender
Buying a kettlebell opens up hundreds of exercises to train your entire body and meet fitness goals, whether it's weight loss, muscle mass or endurance.
Ballistic exercises like the kettlebell swing will challenge your cardiovascular systems as well as helping to build strength and definition, whereas compound lifts like the kettlebell squat or kettlebell rows or more like your traditional weight training exercises for building muscle and pure strength.
You’ll find example kettlebell exercises below to illustrate the variety of movements and for a full list of kettlebell exercises with videos demonstrations, pictures, tips and guides please see the Fitstream exercise directory.
Please note that when kettlebell training it's important that you adhere to proper form and correct technique. Unless you're an experienced lifter you may want to seek professional guidance or study appropriate training material.
Kettlebell buying guide
To begin kettlebell training all you need is a kettlebell and the space to safely swing it round, and you have the fundamental components for an incredible functional workout to train the entire body.
Buying a kettlebell
If you're looking to buy a kettlebell there are a few things to consider and some questions that you'll want answering; like how many, and which weight kettlebell is right for you?
Choosing Kettlebell weight
Kettlebells typically come in a variety of sizes, ranging from 4kg right up to the monster 64kg. Below is a guide to show which kettlebell weight should be most appropriate for you based on gender and strength levels.
|Stronger than average man
|Very strong man
Kettlebells for men
An average man should start training with a 16kg kettlebell. This might not seem very heavy but you'll be surprised at how difficult it actually is. Remember that you won't only be lifting the weight but swinging it!
A 16kg kettlebell should serve you for quite some time and will always be a staple weight to use for warm-ups, high rep sets or particularly challenging exercises, but once you've out-grown it for the more fundamental strength exercises the next weight progression is usually the 24kg kettlebell, followed by the 32kg kettlebell.
Kettlebells for women
An average woman should start with an 8kg kettlebell and particularly athletic women can begin with a 12kg kettlebell.
Some women work their way up to 16kg and a few stronger women will go heavier still.
Double kettlebell drills
Once you have worked up to the basic set of kettlebells, you can go on to buy matching pairs of each and begin double kettlebell training. Double drills are really effective but recommended when you're fully proficient with single kettlebell training and have the necessary coordination and strength to control the kettlebells fully.
A brief history of the kettlebell and its resurgence
Kettlebell training might seem like a new form of exercising but it actually has a very rich history and is an ancient training tool with origins in Russia. Kettlebells have been used for centuries in Eastern Europe by the military and athletes, and were the training tool of choice for strongmen in the early 1900’s. Russian strongmen were referred to as girevik, or kettlebell man and 'Girya' is Russian for kettlebell.
Physical strength is a trait that has always been admired in Russia, and kettlebells found popularity in social gatherings throughout small towns and villages where men would demonstrate their strength, endurance, and agility with kettlebells.
The photo below was taken of Arthur Saxon in the late 19th century and shows Arthur performing a bent press with an early plate-loading barbell with a kettlebell at his feet.
During the 1900’s kettlebells waned in popularity in the West, overshadowed by the hype and rise of the conventional gym. Whilst in Russia, kettlebell training thrived, eventually becoming a national sport.
Today, kettlebells are finding their rightful place back in mainstream fitness, used by athletes, emergency services professionals, the military, martial artists and all types of men and women pursuing fitness across the world. There are even active campaigns to enter the Kettlebell Sport into the Olympics.
The kettlebell owes this resurgence largely to the efforts of strength and flexibility coach Pavel Tsatsouline and World Champion kettlebell athlete Valery Federenko. Pavel, a native of Minsk, Russia is a kettlebell expert and has authored many books on the subject. He has trained the Soviet Special Forces, US Army, US Marines and US Secret Service amongst other professional institutions.
Kettlebell training is no fad, but it's also not a 'secret weapon' with 'magical' strength properties like many would have you believe.
However, kettlebells are a very basic training tool that can be used to build superb fitness, a defined, lean physique with high endurance and cardio capabilities.
The kettlebell is an excellent choice for time-starved trainees looking for maximum impact and results from their workouts. The mixed cardio-strength training approach makes it a very efficient training tool and there are few pieces of kit available that are so versatile, minimal and cost effective than the kettlebell.
Kettlebell training is being proven in gyms around the world, not only by athletes, but average men and women looking to get fit, lose weight, and build muscle and functional strength as efficiently and quickly as possible.