The kettlebell is a versatile training tool that has been used since the turn of the century to develop full body conditioning and fitness. Originating in Russia, this weight resembles a cannon ball with a handle.
Kettlebells are the ideal tool for training total body fitness and functional strength. Workouts are time efficient, training strength, cardiovascular capacity and flexibility simultaneously. Unlike typical strength training circuits and stationary exercise machines, the asymmetrical construction of the kettlebell requires core engagement throughout every repetition. Training the body as a unit, instead of isolated muscle groups will enhance an athlete’s range of motion through forward, backward and lateral pathways. Exercises like the kettlebell swing develop explosive hip drive and improve lower body strength, allowing an athlete to train harder, longer.
KETTLEBELL TRAINING FOR THE HYBRID ATHLETE
It is possible to use the kettlebell for a number of applications within sport and fitness. Kettlebell as sport prepares an individual to compete in kettlebell lifting competitions. Other groups elect to focus on “hardcore” or “elite” training methods and workouts specific to military and athletic endeavors. Others include the kettlebell into a circuit style routine that is focused on weight loss or muscular development. Additionally, the kettlebell can be used to assist in the development of strength, endurance, and flexibility for sport specific applications such as Olympic weight training.
SELECT A WEIGHT
Based on fitness level and exercise experience a male can look to begin with a 15-25 pound kettlebell while 10-20 pounds will be a great starting point for females. If you are new to kettlebell exercise or exercising in general, error on the side of caution with a smaller weight. Using a lighter weight with proper form is more important the amount of weight used.
Before engaging in kettlebell exercise it is important to learn proper exercise position. This position is characterized as feet shoulder width apart, chest up, shoulders back and down, core flexed, back arched (not rounded) with a slight knee bend, and weight distributed to the heels of your feet.
It is important to note that athletic position and the bodyweight squat will translate into the movement of the kettlebell swing. Keep in mind the hips, not the arms or upper body, are used to propel the kettlebell through the swing. Power is created by the large muscles of the lower body including the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core.
The basic grip uses two hands to grasp the handle with the palms down and thumbs hooked around the handle and over the fingers. This grip can be used with one hand for single arm movements. Next, to execute a hook grip, the thumbs go through the handle with palms/hands wrapped around the ball of the weight. Finally, the punch through grip is used for presses and overhead movements, where the fingers go through the handle to grasp the weight and the ball of the weight rests on the back of the wrist.
Exercise preparation should be dynamic in nature. Instead of standing still or stretching to touch your toes, you should actively prepare your muscles for exercise by transitioning from a resting to working heart rate. Think of a dynamic warm-up as stretching through movement. Try jogging in place, agility work like high-knees, leg swings and lunges, or body weight exercises such as squats or push-ups.
Start your kettlebell training with the exercise position and kettlebell swing. Again, remember to use the hips, not the arms or upper body, to propel the kettlebell through the swing. Power is created by driving through the heels, using the large muscles of the lower body including the quads, glutes, hamstrings and core.
UNILATERAL TRAINING AND STRENGTHENING
Kettlebell workouts improve balance, unilateral strength, and muscular recruitment patterns. Moreover, it is possible to obtain these benefits with minimal pounding on fatigued connective tissue or ailing tendons. The unbalanced quality of the kettlebell will also necessitate the absorption and redirection of force. Implementing single limb movements like the one-arm thruster and a pistol or split squat will help to improve muscular imbalances and deficiencies.
If you are unfamiliar with or recovering from an injury that prevents you from executing exercises that require a barbell, the kettlebell is the perfect substitute. Consider a kettlebell front squat or goblet squat in place of a barbell front squat while training form, core strength and wrist/lat flexibility required as part of the barbell front squat.
Kettlebell Training Do’s and Don’ts
DO TRAIN TOTAL BODY MOVEMENTS,
DO NOT TRAIN ISOLATED MUSCLE GROUPS
Exercises like the kettlebell swing recruit multiple muscle groups, increase the heart rate and teach the body to work as one unit, not isolated muscles. Instead of training isolated movements or single muscle groups, like biceps curls, you should be performing compound, total body movements.
DO — — USE THE LEGS, HIPS AND CORE,
DO NOT ROUND THE BACK AND PULL WITH THE ARMS
The key to kettlebell exercise is learning and executing explosive hip drive. The hips, legs and core are used to move the kettlebell not the arms or upper body. Fight the urge to bend at the waist, round your back and pull with their arms in an attempt to move the weight. Instead, beginning with the feet shoulder width apart and the knees slightly bent, grasp the kettlebell with long arms. Keeping your chest up and core engaged as you sit back as if you were sitting into a chair. Pressing off of the heels, drive from the hips while rising out of the squatted position. Thanks to the momentum and energy created by your legs, your arms will only be needed to finish the full motion of a swing.
DO PRACTICE GOOD FORM,
DO NOT — — USE KETTLEBELLS BECA– — USE YOU THINK THEY LOOK COOL
If you are using kettlebells because you think it looks really sweet, you are probably using incorrect form. Instead of approaching kettlebell training as an entertainment spectacle or taking on a “hardcore” form of kettlebell training, stick to functional movement completed with proper form. When done correctly, kettlebell training will improve strength and overall fitness for individuals of all ages and fitness levels.