What’s So Special About Kettlebells Anyway?
It was just a few short years ago that I discovered kettlebells after thirty years of weight training. Yes, thirty years of training and it was only a few years ago that I discovered kettlebells. Up until then, I really didn’t know what they were or how to use them. I’ve been a gym rat for all these years and have always been partial to dumbbells, barbells, and machines at the local gym.
When I finally decided to purchase my first 16kg kettlebell to see how this tool could possibly help me, I was blown away. I was even more blown away when I took my first workshop taught by a phenomenal, high level RKC Instructor (Andrea DuCane). This is when I found out what I had been doing for the last few months on my own was completely wrong. I was very humbled, to say the least.
Now, after numerous workshops, kettlebell certifications, and countless hours of practicing, teaching, and training, I know there is something very special about kettlebell training. You could say I’m on a mission to help other people learn about how to use it the right way to get the results I have.
Today, people ask me all the time, “Why kettlebells? Is this type of training really any different from a dumbbell or other gym exercises?” Every time I’m asked that question, I start to feel the passion build and I have to contain myself. Kettlebell training is radically different from any other form of training I’ve personally experienced in my thirty years of weight training.
Kettlebells are kaizen. Kaizen is Japanese for continuous and never-ending improvement. There’s really something “magical” about kettlebells when you learn how to perform the key exercises correctly. It’s a very different type of training from other modalities.
The kettlebell swing is a perfect example of the uniqueness of kettlebell training. Why? As Tracy Reifkind, RKC and author of the great book The Swing puts it, it’s a two-for-one exercise. It combines the benefits of resistance training and cardiovascular conditioning in one very powerful exercise. There isn’t an exercise that addresses so many things at once as does the kettlebell swing.
The magic of the kettlebell appears to have something to do with the cannonball shape and the offset handle, which allow you to manipulate the kettlebell much differently than you could with a dumbbell, barbell, or any other training device. The shape and the handle allow you to perform ballistics and grinds. Ballistics are fast, explosive movements, while grinds are slow and deliberate. This allows for a different type of training experience for faster results.
While there are many great things about kettlebell training, one of the biggest benefits is that all of the exercises are essentially total body exercises. This means you get total body strengthening and conditioning with one single tool. Virtually every fitness goal you want could be accomplished with a kettlebell, but don’t mistake me saying that this is the only thing you should do. It’s a tool, just like a barbell is a tool, and other training methods certainly have utility and benefits, as well.
What I have found is that the kettlebell has become central to my training programs. While I still use bodyweight exercises and barbell programs, kettlebells are an essential part of my training and what I teach today because they offer better results in less time. The time efficiency of training is another huge advantage of kettlebell training, as you can get amazing workouts in a very short time period.
What about the “movement advantage?” The movement advantage is learning to move better through the use of kettlebells. This is something I feel very strong about as a former physical therapist, because kettlebells actually teach you to move in a way that is better, stronger, and safer. Unfortunately, many of us today lose some of our basic movements as a result of sedentary occupations and lifestyles. When you don’t use it, you lose it. That’s exactly what happens when we don’t move with full range of motion or become habituated to certain postures (like sitting all day at a computer).
Kettlebells help us to reclaim our true movement and flexibility again. The Turkish get up is a great example of an exercise that teaches us to move better. I’ve had many clients say how well they move and function again, after learning how to perform this exercise correctly. It’s a very powerful, dynamic, and fundamental exercise, like the kettlebell swing.
If you learn the proper way to use a kettlebell, I can guarantee you’ll discover for yourself, what’s so special about kettlebells. The best way to get started is to find a certified instructor and get qualified instruction from the beginning, if you can. This will ensure you get started off the right way and get results, faster and more safely than trying to figure it out on your own. For total body strengthening and conditioning, kettlebells are definitely a very special fitness and performance training tool to incorporate into your program.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.