Recently I have noticed a resurgence of kettlebells in the world of fitness, and as a result I have been getting more questions regarding their origin and utility.
So, “What is the deal with kettlebells, and should I be using them?”
Just for the record, training with kettlebells is not a new idea, just newly popular. Kettlebells as we know them today have existed for around 350 years. Originally they were used as handled counterweights for use in public markets, later were put to use for entertainment, and eventually for they made their way to the weight room.
Fun facts: In 1948, modern kettlebell lifting became the Soviet Union’s national sport. In the 1970’s kettlebell lifting became part of the United All State Sport Association of the USSR, and in 1985 national rules, regulations & weight categories were finalized, and the first National Championship took place in Lipetsk, Russia. To this day, the Russian Military requires its recruits to train with kettlebells. Additionally, the US Government and law enforcement personnel have been using kettlebells for physical training for decades.
Put simply, a kettlebell is just a dumbbell with the weight in the middle and below the handle instead of on the ends. Most exercises that I see the average exercise enthusiast attempting with a kettlebell can be easily performed with a dumbbell, including power exercises like the snatch, hang clean, and push jerk. That said, kettlebells are unique in that their center of mass extends beyond your hand, unlike the dumbbell, which does facilitate ballistic and swinging movements.
Kettlebells are most effective when used for power (e.g. clean, snatch, jerk) and deceleration (e.g. the kettlebell swing) training. If you are wondering whether or not kettlebells are for you, you need to first answer the question “am I interested in power training”. Power training is best for those individuals looking to increase their quickness, jump higher, or generally become more explosive. If you are trying to improve your first step on the squash court, or get closer to the rim in basketball, power training is for you. If your primary goal is to look better or improve your cardiovascular endurance, kettlebells may not be the best answer for you. And always remember that power training can be dangerous if you have not built up an adequate level of muscular strength with less demanding exercises. If you have an injury, particularly in the hip or low back, or a weak core, power training can be a very dangerous activity. Please, if you are recently returning to the gym, start with resistance training exercises that are less ballistic in nature. You will be better off in the long run.
All in all, if used correctly, kettlebells can be easily and safely incorporated into your workout routine. As with all trending fitness modalities, take their rise in popularity with a grain of salt and do not throw out your traditional exercise routine for an exclusive “ultimate kettlebell bonanza”. If you are interested in using kettlebells, try incorporating an exercise or two into your existing routine. Forgo joining a kettlebell-only gym, or suffering through an hour of kettlebell-only training.
For more information on how to utilize kettlebells safely please contact Fitness Director Jacob Galloway.