It is entirely possible that you haven’t heard about kettlebell training yet. However, I’m guessing that’s unlikely since even the latest Rocky, at an age when most men think that lifting their TV remote is hard work, was seen hoisting them in his latest exploits. The cast of “300″ also swung them about as a major part of their training regime and kettlebells are increasingly being used by athletes, film stars and the military. So what are they, why the upsurge in popularity, and most important of all, what can they do for you? Well, here are six reasons why you should train with kettlebells and four drills on training with kettlebells. These aren’t the only reasons and exercises possible but they’ll get you started!
A brief history of kettlebells:
There’s a lot of argument about the origins of kettlebells, with the Russians and Scots both laying quite vocal claim to developing them. The most plausible reason for their existance was that they were used as a form of certified weight on scales around 150 years ago for measuring grain and other agriculture foods in markets. It is thought that a test of ones strength in those days was based on how heavy one of the kettlebells you could lift over head. As famous lifters of the time moved into using dumbells for developing muscle as well as testing strength, the explosive power benefits of Kettlebells got left behind. Mankind has always been fascinated by tests of strength and training with weights in some way, shape or form has always fascinated men ever since we stood upright. What can be said, especially in recent times, is that the Russians have taken kettlebell training and developed it into a highly technical and extremely demanding sport (more on that later)
1. You’ll get a full body workout.
The kettlebell basics focus around three core lifts - the swing, snatch and clean and jerk. What links all these drills together is that they force the body to work as an integral unit. Power is generated from the legs, driven through the hips and expressed through the arms. Every single muscle is brought into play and every single muscle is worked hard.
2. Train your other half.
That is, the other half of your muscles. Traditional gym weight training routines concentrate on slow, controlled lifts. Missing are exercises that specifically work explosive movements. Muscle fibres can be divided into two types, slow twitch and fast twitch. Slow twitch muscle contracts at a slower rate and you can probably guess how fast twitch fibres contract. Again, the core kettlebell drills focus on fast, explosive movements which focus on training your fast twitch muscle fibres.
3. Work those hips!
Your hips and legs are some of the strongest muscles in the body. Okay, they aren’t the most useful for posing on the beach but for almost all sports, powerful hips will always be vital. Kettlebell ballistic drills work the glutes, hip flexors, abdominal region and erector spinae hard and will convey greatly improved athletic performance.
4. Get a grip.
Grip strength can be divided into sub categories, namely, crushing grip, pinch grip, thick bar grip, leverage and bending. We’ll cover these in depth at a later date; for now, in this article, we’ll go over how kettlebells can be used to develop grip strength. A well designed kettlebell will have a thick handle and ballistic pulling of heavy weights is a great way of developing grip strength. Why? Picture a 32kg weight held overhead. Imagine it in freefall and only your grip is stopping it from forming a big crater in the garden. Now imagine that same weight being explosively pulled upwards to get it overhead again. That should give you an indication on the grip demands of kettlebell training!
5. Unparalleled conditioning.
Kettlebell Sport training develops strength, endurance and cardiovascular capacity equally and to extreme levels. Unlike standard gym routines with a prescribed breakdown in number of sets and reps, kettlebell sport specifies a fixed training period where the only two goals are to reach the end of the period and to beat your PB. There is constant time under tension as the kettlebell cannot be released. Even “resting” with the racked kettlebell requires exertion and one of the major benefits is training your work capacity in spite of ever increasing fatigue.
There is something primal about kettlebell training. Anything involving heavy weights instinctively sharpens the senses, gets the blood flowing and adrenaline pumping. Its quite possible this is down to some evolutionary instinct warning you that dropping said weight onto your head or some other, more sensitive, region of the body causes a great deal of pain but I personally believe it comes from strength exerted and power generated. And you don’t get that sensation in your typical workout. Find one that’s hard, makes you work, makes you sweat, makes your curse in seven different languages, but also makes you feel like a much better person by the end of it!