kettlebell exercise workout fitness

Kettlebell training is an incredibly popular way to get fit. It can be incorporated into many workouts and adds a different dimension to your training. We look at kettlebells more closely and explain how they can help you achieve your goals.

What is a Kettlebell?

A traditional kettlebell is a cast iron weight, it’s spherical in shape with a flat base and handle at the top. Kettlebells come in different weight variations and are often used in pairs. Kettlebells are originally Russian and They can used as an alternative to dumbbells in movements like presses and step ups, and can also be used in their own right in exercises such as the kettlebell swing. They are the perfect addition to a circuit routine and due to their unique shape, they will work your muscles in a different way to dumbbells and a barbell, meaning you get more out of your workout.

Why are they named Kettlebells?

Kettlebells originated in Russia and were originally used to weigh crops in the 18th century. They were then used for more recreational use in the 19th century as circus strongmen became a popular attraction. Russian kettlebells are traditionally measured in 'poods', a term still used in CrossFit training, and translates to roughly 16kg. So 1 pood is 16kg, 2 poods is 32kg and so on. The English term 'kettle bell' dates to the 20th century as competitive strongman competitions began to gain popularity. 

The history of Kettlebells

Kettlebells, or 'Girya' as the Russians refer to them, were originally used as measuring tools, most typically on marketplace scales as counter-weights. 

In 1981, the first official Kettlebell Commission was formed in Russia with the sole mission of enforcing mandatory kettlebell exercise and conditioning for the population. They understood that this singular instrument could keep people fit, increase productivity, and decrease healthcare costs. Kettlebells became the conditioning tool of choice for the Russian Special Forces, the “Spetznaz”, creating soldiers who possessed incredible explosive power and endurance. Now many professional athletes and recreational gym-goers use the bells in their training programs for the same results.

kettlebell training

Kettlebell Anatomy

Kettlebell Anatomy

By their nature, typical kettlebell exercises build strength and endurance, particularly in the lower back, legs, and shoulders, and increase grip strength. The basic movements, such as the swing, snatch, and the clean and jerk, engage the entire body at once, and in a way that mimics real world activities to develop functional strength.

Benefits of kettlebell training

  1. The American Council on Exercise has found that the average kettlebell workout results in significant calorie burn – 300 calories in 15 minutes.
  2. Serious cardio without the boredom of steady state cardio.
  3. Builds functional strength without the monotony of isolated reps.
  4. Improves flexibility.
  5. Workouts can be varied so they’re never boring.
  6. Kettlebells are an easily portable device.
  7. Safe for anyone to try, at all levels of fitness.
  8. Combines cardio and strength training, by keeping heart rate elevated.
  9. The workouts can be short and still very effective.
  10. Kettlebells can be the solution to trying to squeeze cardio, strength AND flexibility training in an already overbooked schedule.
  11. No need for gym memberships, use kettlebells at home, outside, wherever you can carry them.
  12. Very different from dumbbells and barbells. Anyone who has picked up a kettlebell has felt the difference. The off centered weight of a kettlebell requires stabiliser muscles and works the targeted muscles through a wider range of motion.a
  13. Kettlebell training consists of whole-body movement exercises. It’s well-known that compound, whole body movements  are the best for burning calories and increasing muscle mass.
  14. Kettlebells focus on movement not muscles, combining strength, function, cardio and mobility.
  15. The moves are easy to learn. Movements are simple and you can start using them right away.
  16. Kettlebell training is great for raising your heart rate for HIIT.
  17. Kettlebells strengthen your joints with ballistic non impact movement.
  18. Develop functional strength. Kettlebell training uses fundamental movement patterns making everyday activities easier and injury less likely.
  19. Builds mobility
  20. Prevent injury by developing mobility, stability, and strength.
  21. Kettlebells require you to engage the core in almost every lift.
  22. More coordination. The brain knows movements and not “muscles” you become more coordinated with kettlebell use.

kettlebell swings exercises

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