Kettlebells: A total gym in the palm of your hand

Kettlebells are my favourite equipment to workout with. I have always had a soft spot for them since I spotted them in the gym for the first time in 2008 – they were actually secured by a chain, preventing people from using them outside sessions with an experienced personal trainer. As we know, forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest, so from that moment on, I wanted to get acquainted with kettlebells more closely!

Most recently, I have completed a Complete Kettlebell Trainer qualification through Future Fit, to top up my Level 3 Personal Trainer diploma and to take my relationship with the kettlebells I love so much to the next level. I will openly admit that I am on a mission to get everybody else fall in love with these clever weights.  I will not only be posting more kettlebell focussed free workouts here on the blog, but I am now also taking on a handful of clients to provide them with personalised kettlebell training programmes. (Please contact me through this website if you would like to find out more.)

I might be biased but I still feel that kettlebells are simply the best piece of equipment you can workout with or invest into, if you are thinking about building a home gym. Once seen as the preserve of Soviet weightlifters and Russian Special Forces, the kettlebell has gained popularity throughout the world in recent years. Kettlebell training is now used by a variety of different people including athletes, sports teams, mixed martial artists and fitness enthusiasts.

And there are even kettlebell competitions for hardcore fans!

I have highlighted 10 reasons below why you should consider adding some kettlebell training to your fitness routine:-

  1. They lead to increased recruitment of stabiliser muscles

Unlike a barbell or dumbbell, a kettlebell can be positioned directly over your centre of mass. What does this mean? When you are using a barbell or dumbbell, the weight is spread to either side but with a kettlebell (depending on which exercise you are performing), the weight ‘pulls’ at you. The result of this is increased recruitment of stabiliser muscles in your body as you are trying to withstand the pulling effect, whilst performing kettlebell exercises. Now that’s one heck of a way to carve a strong core without performing a single situp!

  1. Their unique design provides extra challenges over traditional weights

When you are using kettlebells, the gravitational pull is increased because the weight sits below the handle in the bell. This has the effect of ‘lengthening the lever’ which increases the difficulty of certain exercises. This is best to illustrate through the traditional pushup – when you do it on your toes rather than your knees, you are essentially increasing the lever from the knee joint to the ankle joint, which makes the exercise more challenging. In other words, the handle on the kettlebell has a similar effect to lengthening the lever and becomes another joint!

To give you another example for how kettlebells are different from traditional weights: the effects of gravity and momentum combined with lever length make the kettlebell swing a highly demanding and challenging exercise, regardless of your fitness levels. At the bottom of the kettlebell swing the equivalent force pulling on your body is estimated as between 4-7 times the weight of the kettlebell! So this means that if you are for example doing swings with an 8 kg kettlebell, you could be subject to 56 kg pulling force on your body with each kettlebell swing repetition! #Beastmode

The best things come in pairs. 

  1. You can kill two birds with one stone: kettlebells work both the muscular and cardiovascular systems at the same time

Several studies have proven that kettlebell training can improve cardio respiratory fitness, providing much higher-intensity workouts than standard weight training routines (depending on the exercises you perform and the format of your workout, of course). This gets your metabolism elevated quickly, so you burn tons of calories not only during, but also after your workout! How cool is that?

Depending on your fitness goals, kettlebell training can be tailored for specific improvements in strength, hypertrophy or endurance.

  1. Working with kettlebells can help you work on flexibility, balance and range of motion

Flexibility is one of the most important yet, most widely neglected aspects of strength. Not only does poor flexibility prevent you from moving and lifting to your true potential, it is also responsible for developing poor posture, injury, and even chronic joint pain!

The dynamic nature of kettlebell training promotes flexibility, as movement takes place through a greater range of motion.

  1. Kettlebell training can help you build a leaner physique

Although this effect is not unique to kettlebells, resistance training in general can lead to decreasing body fat % and increasing lean muscle mass.

  1. Kettlebells help train the posterior kinetic chain

A lot of kettlebell exercises target the posterior kinetic chain, such as explosive swings and snatches.

Your posterior kinetic chain includes the big muscle groups situated on the back side of your body, such as your hammies, glutes and erector spinae. These muscle groups are often neglected in favour of those ‘Instagram worthy’ muscles such as biceps and chest muscles, however, the posterior kinetic chain is absolutely essential to facilitate forward propulsion. This can be a game changer if you are a sprinter, runner, long jumper, martial artist, or football player for example.

  1. Kettlebells are perfect for functional and sports specific training

The involvement of several muscle groups in kettlebell lifts has direct relevance to sports- and everyday activities, which makes kettlebells the perfect functional training tool.

Many PTs, coaches and athletes are now integrating kettlebell training into their sessions to increase overall conditioning and performance. Kettlebells are extremely versatile training tools allowing for the design of specific training programmes for your chosen sport. For example, the two-arm kettlebell swing which is a high speed movement, performed at velocity, closely mimics the explosive power required in many sports such as sprinting, jumping, football etc.

  1. They’re fun and versatile to work with

I think all the above proves that if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, and you need to get in an efficient workout as quickly as possible, kettlebells can definitely give you that!

There are a wealth of offline resources and free online workouts focussing on kettlebells – here are a couple of my favourites that you should check out: Steve Cotter, Pavel Tsatsoluine, Kettlercise, MyOMyTV, HASFit, Zuzka Light.

Steve Cotter – the father of modern day kettlebell training. 

  1. They’re easy to transport and store

The traditional Russian kettlebells come in 16kg increments, however, the rise in popularity of kettlebell training has resulted in a wide range of kettlebell weights which are now available between 4 to 48kg. Kettlebells can fit into your car boot easily if you like training outdoors; and all you need to store them at home is a sturdy shelf or rack.

  1. They’re cost effective

Because with kettlebells you can hit so many birds with one stone, there is no need to cash out on gazillions of different weights or fixed machines.

There are many different types of kettlebells you can find, all of which come at a different cost of course – these include traditional Russian cast iron kettlebells, competition kettlebells, vinyl dipped kettlebells, even ones made of PVC (although I would not recommend this latter one). I could write a whole new post on how to choose kettlebells, however, generally speaking, the rule of the thumb is that the higher the quality (cast iron and steel) and the heavier the weight, the more it will cost you. I can recommend the following brands: Wolverson Fitness kettlebells, Fitness Mad kettlebells, Escape Fitness, Origin FitnessBodymax kettlebells via Powerhouse Fitness.

Delivery costs can be significant, so collecting the kettlebell from a supplier or buying ex-demo kettlebells are often the best options to save some money!

After all, I think we can rightly call kettlebells a ‘total gym in the palm of your hand’! I hope this article has persuaded you to try them or to use them more often in your workouts!

What’s your favourite piece of equipment to workout with?

3 Comments

  1. April 25, 2017 / 9:27 am

    I try and do a kettlebell workout every week and absolutely love the range of what you can do with them. This list is SO motivational to keep it up. I’m also pleased to read that they contribute towards a leaner physique – sometimes doing exercises raising them over the head I worry I’m going to bulk out my arms!

    • Timea
      April 25, 2017 / 10:14 am

      So glad you enjoyed reading the article! Kettlebells are by far the most versatile piece of equipment I’ve come across! I’m actually planning to buy some for my home workouts and online videos 🙂

  2. May 16, 2017 / 12:56 am

    No matter how many times I’m told that weights won’t make me bulk… I’m still guilty of worrying about weights making me bulky. Even thought I KNOW it’s not true. I’m working on changing my mindset on that. I didn’t know that about resistance training giving you a leaner physique, so I’m happy to hear that since I use kettlebells about twice a week.

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