Do you want to combine a cardio and weight training session into one and get a unique workout session?
Then kettlebell exercises can provide you with just that.
Kettlebell training is getting popular around the world. Many gyms have added kettlebells in their facilities, but most people are unaware of the importance of kettlebell training.
Kettlebells are not another fitness fad on the rise. Kettlebells have a legacy of over three hundred years.
A kettlebell is called ‘girya’ in Russian. The word Girya means traditional Russian weight made of cast iron. It is an integral part of Russian military training.
Adding kettlebell exercises to your workout regime can offer you many benefits.
Let us start with the basics.
What is a kettlebell?
The shape of a kettlebell is like a cannonball with a flat bottom and a curved handle on top. It’s a unique tool with tremendous benefits. Kettlebell is like a hand-held gym giving you overall fitness.
How is a kettlebell different from a dumbbell and a barbell?
Unlike dumbbells and barbells, kettlebells have an offset centre of load (load is away from the grip handle). This unique design allows the kettlebell to perform a fast swinging movement in a ballistic manner.
The ballistic movement of the kettlebell requires the body to work constantly on acceleration and deceleration to control and stabilize the weight. This type of movement can help you train your cardiorespiratory, strength and flexibility simultaneously.
Types of Kettlebells
There are two main types of kettlebells.
The shape and size of the bell vary according to the weight.
For example, compared to a 40kg kettlebell, a 4kg kettlebell will have a slimmer handle.
They are cheaper compared to competition kettlebells as it is relatively easy to make. They are made of solid iron and are virtually indestructible, which can last for a lifetime.
Competition kettlebell (steel kettlebell)
The competition kettlebell is made of steel (thus more expensive) and is hollow. The dimension of the kettlebell does not change regardless of the weight. Competition kettlebells have a universal design and measurement.
The standard design of a competition kettlebell is
Height— 228 millimetres (8.5 in.)
Diameter— 210 millimetres (8.25 in.)
Handle diameter— 35 millimetres (1.4 in.)
Thus an 8kg kettlebell will have the same shape as a 32kg kettlebell. This similarity in shape is possible because of its hollow design, which you can fill with the desired weight.
Since the shape remains the same, colour coding is used to differentiate kettlebells of different weights.
8 kg / 17.6 lbs – Pink
12 kg / 26.4 lbs – Blue
16 kg / 35.2 lbs – Yellow
20 kg / 44.0 lbs – Purple
24 kg / 52.8 lbs – Green
28 kg / 61.6 lbs – Orange
32 kg / 70.4 lbs – Red
36 kg / 79.2 lbs – Grey
40 kg / 88.0 lbs – White
44 kg / 96.8 lbs – Silver
48 kg / 105.6 lbs – Gold
Now let’s look at why this exceptional piece of training equipment should be a part of your exercise routine.
7 reasons to start doing kettlebell exercises
“Lifting kettlebell is liberating and as aggressive as medieval swordplay. Russian Kettlebell is the Harley-Davidson of weights.” – Pavel
1. Kettlebell is a great tool to develop optimal fitness
Lifting heavy weights but being unable to do any rigorous endurance activity without bringing your heart to your mouth is a sure sign of poor fitness level. Also, having high endurance but mediocre strength levels will not qualify as a fit person.
Strength and endurance are two essential aspects of fitness. Train both components if you want to develop an optimal fitness level.
A kettlebell is an exceptional tool that offers the advantage of training both strength and endurance simultaneously.
2. Kettlebell trains the complete posterior chain
“There may be no single exercise that lifts and tones the rear end more than a kettlebell swing (and snatch).” – Steve Cotter
Kettlebell exercises, like swing and snatch, activate all the posterior muscles, which include the back muscles, lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves. Having strong posterior muscles will help you jump higher, run faster, and kick harder. It also targets your core muscles.
Along with the major muscles of the backside, the kettlebell also targets and strengthens the deep stabilizing and supporting muscles, tendons and ligaments. Strong stabilizers give more protection from injuries and provide better mobility and functional strength.
3. It builds powerful forearms and grip strength
“The best grip exercises are always going to be pulling at heavyweights ballistically.” – Dr Fred Hatfield
A firm grip represents power and strength. That is why it is always advised to have a firm handshake because it shows your confidence and dominance.
For lifting heavy objects, having a steely forearm and powerful grip becomes crucial.
Ballistic kettlebell movements force your forearms to grow stronger and forge a steel grip.
Kettlebells can make your grip and forearms as strong as a professional mountain climber. So either climb a mountain or grip the kettlebell.
4. Kettlebell improves joint strength and stability
Many kettlebell exercises are dynamic and require a lot of muscle control to do it in proper form. During the movement, the weight of the kettlebell is continuously exerting a load on the muscles and joints. This load is good for the joints and the body.
This load dramatically improves the strength of tendons and ligaments in a relatively safe manner, thus improving the mobility and stability of the joints. A more stable joint will be less prone to joint problems.
5. Kettlebell helps you burn more calories
Kettlebell workouts can be intense. They can give you a crazy calorie-burning session. American Council on Exercise conducted a study on the effectiveness of kettlebell exercises. They found that one minute of kettlebell workout can burn up to 20 calories. So a twenty-minute kettlebell workout will burn upwards of 400 calories.
Moreover, high-intensity kettlebell workouts will give you an after-burn effect. Scientifically it is known as EPOC – Excess Post Oxygen Consumption. That means you will not only be burning calories during the exercise but also after the workout.
6. It gives a full-body workout
One of the prime benefits of kettlebell exercises is that they provide a full-body workout. Many kettlebell exercises are compound exercises. These compound exercises involve multiple muscle groups and multiple joints simultaneously.
Targeting several muscle groups together will also help you develop better balance and coordination of the body. It will also give better training sessions in a shorter duration.
7. Kettlebells are cost-effective and space-saver.
Kettlebells can be a great home workout tool that will help train for strength, stability, endurance and joint mobility.
You don’t need a lot of space or elaborate gym equipment like a power cage or squat rack to get a good workout at home. All you need is one or two kettlebells to get a full-body workout. Also, they will cost you a fraction of what you will spend on various gym equipment.
Another advantage of kettlebells is that they need little storage space. You can push it under a table or a bed after you finish your workout. Since they are compact, you can carry them anywhere.
Now that we have discussed the reasons why you should be doing kettlebell exercises let’s see –
How to perform two fundamental kettlebell exercises
There are hundreds of exercises that you perform using kettlebells. However, to get the maximum benefit out of a kettlebell training session, there are two foundational exercises that you should master first.
These two exercises are:
1. Kettlebell Swing
2. Kettlebell Clean
Mastering the fundamental movements of kettlebell
Kettlebell Swing will be the foundation for many of the kettlebell exercises. It will teach you all the fundamentals involved in handling the kettlebell. You will learn how to grip the kettlebell and how the kettlebell feels under momentum.
Mastering swing will enable you to understand the basic principle and the unique aspect of kettlebell training.
How to do kettlebell swings
Warning –The first time you swing a kettlebell for more than a minute or two, your lower back will get sore. But after a couple of practice sessions, your lower back will get adapted to it.
- Stand in front of a kettlebell with the feet shoulder-width apart.
- Sit back in a half-squat position with your hips pushing back and move your right arm forward to hold the handle of the kettlebell. Keep your back neutral.
- Hold the handle of the kettlebell with your fingers in a hook grip.
Note – Do not hold it with a full palm wrapped around the handle like you grip a dumbbell. Griping like this will make the movement of the kettlebell difficult. And it will tire your forearms sooner.
- As you grip the kettlebell, pull it towards you and let it swing between the legs.
- The kettlebell will come to a stop behind you when your right arm comes in complete contact with the upper body.
- Without stopping, push it forward with your hips and let it swing in front of you like a pendulum.
- How high the kettlebell will go depends on how hard you can push through your hips. It may reach around your chest or abdomen height.
- Use your hips to create the movement and not your arms and shoulder.
- Keep a rhythmic movement throughout.
Key points to remember
- Always remember to use your hips to push the kettlebell forward, not your shoulder.
- Swing is a full-body movement, not just hand movement.
- Keep your spine neutral when swinging the kettlebell.
- Do not squat when the kettlebell is coming down. Focus on pushing your hips back. The kettlebell should not go below the knees.
How to do kettlebell clean
Kettlebell clean will be the next step after learning the swing. This movement introduces you to the technique of holding the kettlebell in the rack position. Kettlebell clean will be a bit more complex than the swing and will take some practice to master.
- The clean will start the same way as the swing.
- Start with a shoulder-width stance and the kettlebell in front of you.
- Now swing it between your legs.
- Then, as the kettlebell swings forward, pull it upwards with a tug using your trapezius (like when you do shrugs).
- The upper arm will not lose contact with the body (Imagine, you are holding something under your armpit).
- As the kettlebell moves upwards, open your palm and insert your hand inside the handle.
- Now, from this top position, drop back the kettlebell by pushing it through your shoulder and sliding the hand out, making the hook grip and swinging it backwards.
The best aspect of kettlebell exercises is that they are highly effective and versatile. We can design kettlebell workouts to train various facets of fitness. Be it circuit training, mobility training, TABATA, HIIT or any other form: the kettlebell can be a perfect fit.