What appears to be a giant mushroom of iron, the LibertyBell, is a training tool with novel design and “old school” strength training application. At first glance, even the most experienced trainers and athletes will wonder, “What’s it for?” LibertyBells aren’t short of versatility, however, so any bewilderment about what to use them for can be answered with a long list of movements.
The LibertyBells I tested were 24lbs each. Their upside-down mushroom appearance can also be likened to a bell, thus the obvious connection to the name. This grip intensive tool is essentially an iron bowl with much of the weight distributed in the lip of the bowl. Welded firmly in the center of the bowl is a stem of seamless iron that extends up through the open face of the bowl, which aesthetically represents the clapper portion of a church bell and functions as the handle.
The creator of LibertyBell is on to something, in my opinion, with the position that “old-fashioned” strength building has validity in regards to both performance and value in the market place. A phrase the folks at LibertyBell have been throwing around really sat well with me: “If you can’t grip it, you can’t lift it.” I think the LibertyBell can stand up as a respectable training tool because it demands grip strength without taking the roll of a grip-strength-only tool. The hang power clean, for example, also develops/requires grip strength, but has much larger training application than say a Captains of Crush gripper. As such, there’s an authentic feel to strength training with LibertyBell that I respect.
Athletes or trainers who take the plunge with a LibertyBell or two can expect to add many options to their training sessions. LibertyBells can be used in a variety of ways including swinging (like a kettlebell), pressing (bench or standing), Olympic lift variations, and even overhead squats. A surprising find for me was the LibertyBell’s ability to recruit, and in my case, expose strength in the thumb.
Some may wonder what the difference is, and if one is already doing the same movements with other implements then why not just continue to perform them with their usual tool (i.e. barbell, kettlebell, dumbbell, etc)? To answer this the people behind the LibertyBell have done some homework with relevant coaches and researchers to study LibertyBells in action. One study of thirteen athletes from Southeastern Louisiana University contrasting training sessions with LibertyBells and kettlebells yielded positive results. The study found that training with LibertyBells showed increased heart rates as compared to kettlebells, and that the perception of exertion was higher. I’d encourage folks not to overlook the power of perception that this study shed light on. Mental adaptions in training, especially in athletes, have great value.
Another difference maker lies in the shape and structure of LibertyBells. The users ability to reach in and grab the LibertyBell’s knob-like handle allows for a freer, more natural arm position from the hand to the shoulder. The obvious hand positioning restriction on a barbell in an overhead lift, for example, makes working around injuries or immobility more difficult. The same is true of the displacement of a kettlebell in the hand. In contrast, the radial dispersion of weight combined with the freedom of the knob grip in a LibertyBell is a brilliant escape from the aforementioned restrictions.
Positioned as a tool to further expand the variation of fundamental lifts and strength training, the LibertyBell is both authentic and effective. Its novelty is a hurdle, however. In my opinion, given the perspective of it’s creators and practical application, it doesn’t enter the category of being a fitness “gimmick,” but I do think there are a few things that might stand in the way of adoption from athletes and trainers. Without the extensive wealth of (common) knowledge surrounding barbell, kettlebell, and dumbbell training, unfortunately many prospective users won’t ever get past the original question, “What’s it for?” These simple issues are nothing time and education can’t remedy, of course.
I personally am glad I got past the initial bewilderment of what to do with my first LibertyBell and had the resources to take on a few training sessions with them. They will surprise you in a refreshing way once you can get down to work with them.
LibertyBells are available online at bluechipfitness.com for $75.00