Throughout the years there have been a number of exercise fads that people have tried. Lets see there’s been Tae Bo, Curves Health Clubs, The Atkins Diet, Spinning and probably hundreds more! Now it seems as though everyone is really interested in training with kettlebells. But is this really a fad? We are going to take a look at the history of kettle bell workouts and some of the benefits you could receive from incorporating them into your regular workouts.
When I started working at WAC I had no idea what a kettlebell was. Then I started personal training and found out very fast what they were and the great workout you get with getting them! First let’s back up just a bit and find out exactly what a kettlebell is. A kettlebell is a cast iron weight looking somewhat like a cannonball with a handle, used to perform ballistic exercises that combine cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training. (see the picture below)
The kettlebell seems to have originated in Russia in the late 1600s and was used as a scale weight or a counter-weight in Russian markets. The people would then make a game of throwing them around and which is how kettlebell workouts came to be. Russian gymnasts and the Russian military used kettlebells in exercise routines and many Russian Olympians site the use of kettlebell workouts as the reason for their success. The Russians were not only known for their strength but also for their endurance which they attributed to their extensive use of the kettlebell. The unusual weights were introduced into the United States by Pavel Tsatsouline, a one-time physical fitness trainer for both the United States and Soviet Union forces.
So really they aren’t a fad right? They have been used for hundreds of years and I think a fad only lasts a few months or a couple years.
Enough off the history lesson, let’s get to the good stuff! These are some of the benefits you could expect from incorporating kettlebells into your workouts. They are numerous, depending on your goals. But generally speaking, kettlebell users notice an increase in the following six areas:
· Increased stamina. Many kettlebell users experience an increase in endurance when doing activities like sports. There have even been reports of kettlebell users who have run marathons without training for marathons but by only using kettlebells!
· Increased overall daily energy and increased youthful vigor. Feeling good is very important to having a productive life. Kettlebell users from all over the world report having increased energy and even feel like they can reverse the hands of time, often fixing injuries that have nagged them for years. This allows them to participate in activities they had stopped doing because of the injuries.
· A decrease in body fat. Kettlebell exercises can be very demanding from an energy standpoint. Some exercises like the swing and the snatch burn up to twice as many calories per minute than traditional aerobic activities like spinning and newer activities such as kickboxing. One of the side effects of this is that kettlebell training forces your body to burn calories – the “afterburn effect,” long after your exercise session is over.
· The development of lean, hard, “bulk-free” muscles. Let’s face it the only people who really want big muscles are bodybuilders and teenage boys. The rest of us will settle for some nice definition in our muscles without stretching out our clothes. Exercising with kettlebells has produced the following noticeable effects – those who are overweight, lean out; those who are skinny, put on just the right amount of muscle in the right places.
· Increased flexibility without spending time stretching. One of the wonderful “side effects” of using kettlebells is what appears to be automatic increases in flexibility. That’s because this style of workout strengthens weak muscle groups while simultaneously loosening (and strengthening) tight muscle groups, restoring the body’s default settings for flexibility, alignment, and muscle harmony.
Here are some other things kettlebells will do for you:
1.Kettlebell lifts require use of muscles throughout your body to work together – When you train using muscles groups throughout your body to work together, you train your body to work as one unit. With full body exercises, you gain explosiveness, power, coordination, balance, control, agility, flexibility, and rhythm. This is especially important if you are an athlete or want to be in great overall shape. Isolated muscle lifts such as the bicep curl or leg extension won’t provide this, they simply improve strength.
2.The odd shape of kettlebells along with the large handle builds forearm and grip strength – The thick handle and low hanging weight really works your forearm as you squeeze your grip to keep the kettlebell in your hand. With almost every lift you build forearm strength and endurance. Using kettlebells opposed to dumbbells, you stimulate many more stabilizer muscles in your joints in order to keep the weight under control. The odd shape makes kettlebell lifts harder over dumbbell lifts.
3.Kettlebell lifting provides a great cardio workout building muscle endurance – People who lift using muscle isolation exercises need to supplement their routines with a cardiovascular program. This is especially important for athletes, those looking to lose weight, and those who want to look good. This means you have to go for a jog on the treadmill or perform some other cardio routine you dread. With ballistic kettlebell exercises like the snatch, clean, press, and swing, an additional cardio program is unnecessary. Increase repetitions and work at a steady pace when kettlebell lifting for a strength and conditioning program in one. Another advantage with kettlebell workouts are the variety of lifts you can perform ensures your kettlebell cardio routine never gets old.
4.Versatility –There are 100s of challenging kettlebell exercises to perform and you can easily add levels of difficulty performing the same lifts using the same weight kettlebell. For example, if you have worked up to a level that you can easily press your kettlebell overhead in a standard military press style you can modify the exercise to make it harder. Instead try by performing a bottoms-up kettlebell press, a waiter’s press, or a kettlebell clean and press. You can even learn to juggle kettlebells which really increases your coordination and body rhythm, (with my luck I’d end up dropping one on my foot!)
5.Kettlebells eliminate weaknesses in muscle groups throughout your body – Most people that lift weights have a favorite muscle group like biceps, triceps, or chest that they tend to workout the most. This leads to muscles groups in your body that are seldom used during lifting. With full body kettlebell exercises, you tend to workout your major muscle groups more often because muscles throughout your body are engaged during exercise. Kettlebell exercises require the use of muscles throughout your body allowing you to pinpoint your weak areas. By mastering specific lifts you will improve strength in those weak muscle groups and stabilizer muscles while increasing muscular endurance. Once the weak parts of your body are strengthened, the lift becomes easier. To increase the difficulty of each lift, perform a harder variation of the exercise, move up in kettlebell weight, or use two kettlebells (one in each hand).
6.Portability – There is nothing more boring to me than staring at a wall while exercising, which is why I talk the entire time I’m working out (I think my trainer wants to kill me sometimes for my excessive chatter!) With kettlebells, you can workout almost anywhere. For a change of pace, take them to the beach, the local park, your backyard, your driveway, or anywhere you have room outside. You can even take them to your work for a little workout on your break.
See there are a lot of benefits to using these oddly shaped weights! The only thing that you need to keep in mind is that you need to learn to correctly do these movements and exercises that involve kettlebells. Even though there are a ton of benefits to using kettlebells, like other ways of working out, you can get injured so I suggest getting with a personal trainer to do a kettlebell workout! You definitely won’t regret it!