Kettlebell Benefits

Kettlebell Benefits

It seems like every day there’s an ad for some new magical weight loss pill, diet, or workout program.  The truth is there is no quick fix to losing weight.  You need to eat a healthy diet and workout on a regular basis.

If you’ve been doing that and aren’t seeing the results you hoped for or if you’ve hit a plateau, it might be time to add some kettlebell strength training to your routine.

Benefits of Strength Training

Most people know that cardiovascular workouts burn calories and are a great way to lose weight.  What they often forget is that strength training should also be a part of their exercise program.

Regular weight training not only builds muscles, but also offers a myriad of other benefits such as better sleep, less stress, and more energy.

Lifting weights can improve your overall health by:

  • Increasing your good cholesterol (HDL – High Density Lipoprotein) and decreasing your bad cholesterol (LDL – Low Density Lipoprotein)
  • Reducing the risk of diabetes and insulin dependency
  • Lowering risks of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure
  • Lowering risk of breast cancer by reducing high estrogen levels linked to the disease
  • Decreasing your risk of osteoporosis by improving bone density
  • Reducing symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle
  • Improving the body’s ability to fight colds, illness, and infections
  • Reducing stress and anxiety

As far as body specific benefits, you will see improvements in your strength, flexibility, body mass and posture.  The increased muscle strength, power, and size will make everyday tasks like lifting and carrying heavy objects easier.

Because weight training works the muscles through a full range of motion, strengthening your ligaments and tendons, you will also find you have increased flexibility, which will reduce your chances of injury.

Most importantly, as you build muscle mass, your metabolism increases and you’ll burn more calories throughout the day which will help shed those unwanted pounds.

What are Kettlebells

There is some debate whether the kettlebell originated in Russia or Greece.  The earliest description of a weight resembling a kettlebell dates back to Greek sporting competitions more than 2,000 years ago.

More commonly it is believed that the modern kettlebell originated in Russian markets approximately 350 years ago as a handled counterweight used to weigh out dry goods on market scales. Russian warriors found an alternate use for the weights and were said to use kettlebells in strength competitions against neighboring villages.

More recently, in 1948, kettlebell lifting became Russia’s national sport, eventually becoming known as girevoy sport. Kettlebells were brought to United States gyms in the 1920’s by the East Prussian bodybuilder, Sigmund Klein.

A kettlebell, sometimes called a bell or referred to by the initials KB, is a type of weight made of cast-iron or cast steel with a round flat base and an arched handle.  It resembles a cannonball with a handle or a kettle without a spout (lending to the name kettlebell).

These weights are used to perform powerful exercises that combine cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility training.

The primary difference between an ordinary dumbbell and a kettlebell is that the latter’s center of mass extends beyond the handle. Because of their shape, kettlebells are more versatile and can be swung, thrown, pressed, and held in a variety of exercises.

Their versatility makes them highly efficient for creating a single program that will help you to lose weight, tone your body, increase muscular strength, and improve cardiovascular fitness.

In recent years, the use of kettlebells in Western gyms has returned to popularity and personal trainers are using them more frequently for training clients. Trainers in particular like kettlebells because they are portable and allow them to share a full body workout with their clients without requiring extensive equipment.  A kettlebell workout can be performed at a gym, in a studio, at home, and even outside for some fresh air.

Why Use Kettlebells

Kettlebell routines allow you to get a cardio and strength workout done at the same time while being gentle on the body.

Many kettlebell exercises involve swinging the weights in different positions, quickly elevating your heart rate to the same level as a traditional cardio workout.  Because you are lifting weights at the same time, you burn more calories than you would if you were just doing cardio.

The added bonus of a kettlebell routine is that one exercise flows into the next, similar to yoga.  These fluid transitions are easier on the joints and pose less risk of injury than some forms of aerobic exercise and strength training.

The size and shape of kettlebells make them a versatile tool that can be incorporated into a variety of exercise programs from high-intensity interval training (HITT) to traditional aerobic workouts.  Be creative and use them to add variety to almost any workout routine.

Kettlebells are a great way to improve your functional strength.  This develops the muscles we need to get through our daily activities like climbing stairs, bending down to pick something up, and even standing for extended periods of time.  When you swing a kettlebell, you are building muscles and improving joint mobility, coordination, and balance.

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Performance Based Workout

A key principle of kettlebell training is that the body needs to be trained as a solitary unit, incorporating multiple muscle groups into each exercise. This helps to build a solid foundation of strength that will reduce muscle imbalances and weaknesses.

The design of the kettlebell, with its weight situated below the handle, makes it more difficult to control than a dumbbell.  This design allows for ballistic, swing, and release moves that build core, upper body, and lower body strength at the same time.

In order to perform the exercises with proper form, you will find you need to engage your core and focus your mind.  Even your grip strength is improved with kettlebells to account for the awkward placement of the weight.

Performance based workouts are based on increasing the amount of weight lifted, increasing repetitions, or both.  It is about setting specific tangible goals that can be recorded.   Forest Vance has created a performance based kettlebell workout system that will help you lose weight in a fun and enjoyable way.  Kettlebell Challenge Workouts training program is the perfect toolkit to take your fitness to the next level in just 20 minutes a day.

Benefits of Kettlebells

If you are looking to add some variety to your exercise program, kettlebells are the way to go.  Their adaptability makes them perfect for working multiple muscle groups individually or at the same time.  Typically, you only need a few different weighted kettlebells to do a complete workout that will improve your strength, endurance, and aerobic capacity.

Kettlebell exercises involve whole body movements which arebetter than weight machines that isolate muscles.  These whole body movements build strength in the tendons and ligaments, making the joints tougher and less susceptible to injury.

Another benefit of the kettlebell workout is that it saves time. Because it incorporates strength training and cardiovascular training in one workout, you will develop a sculpted and toned physique in half the time.

These weights are small and portable and because you only need a minimum of one kettlebell to get a complete workout, they are perfect for people with limited space.  There’s no need for a rack of bulky weights and large cardio machines if you’re working out with kettlebells.

Basic Principles of using Kettlebells

Before beginning a kettlebell program, you should understand some basic principles.  In order to get a balanced workout, don’t focus only a particular muscle group.  Make sure to incorporate exercises that work both the upper and lower body, using a weight that feels challenging.

Once you have found an appropriate weight, build upon the number of repetitions to increase your endurance.  After you reach your goal for repetitions, increase the weight, lower the number of reps and work towards your next endurance goal.

As you continue to train and see improvements, it’s easy to continually raise your goals and increase your workout time.   Remember that your workouts should be fun and if you over train, you risk injury which could set you back in your training.

Types of Kettlebells

There are many types of kettlebells which can be divided into kettlebells basic categories: standard, competition, stackable, and other.

Standard kettlebells are made of cast iron or cast steel and are the typical kettlebells you see people using. Their size will vary, with the ball and handle getting larger as the weight increases. The handle is curved slightly, while the bottom is flat.  Standard kettlebells are sometimes covered with a vinyl or rubber coating to help protect your floor.

The disadvantage of this type of kettlebell is that as you increase your weight, you need to re-learn proper form since the size and shape changes. Standard kettlebells cost an average of $2 per pound or less and are recommended for beginners.

Competition kettlebells, sometimes called pro-grades, are hollow, steel bells. Their size and shape is standard regardless of their weight.  Pro-grades also follow a standard color coding system that corresponds to their weight.

The handlesits high above the bell which is bigger than a standard kettlebell.Because of their uniformity, they are used in competitions. The cost typically runs from $2.10 to $3.20 per pound.

Stackables, also known as kettlestacks or kettleblocks, are a good option for those with limited space who want a variety of weights. Stackables are comprised of weighted plates that can be added or removed to adjust the weight of the kettlebell.

These are best for swings and standard exercises, but are not recommended for racked or overhead work.  These are the most expensive and can cost upwards of $200 for 40 pounds.

Some less common kettle bells include kettlebell sandbags, sandbells, waterbells, and medballs with handles. These bells are typically filled with sand or water for weight.  Their shapes vary and they have limited uses, but they are good tools to add variety to your workout.

If your budget is tight, it is possible to use household objects, such as a milk jug or laundry container filled with sand.  If this is uncomfortable there are instructions online that show you how to build your own kettlebell style weight using galvanized pipes and a weight plate.

How to Choose a Weight

Russian kettlebells are traditionally measured in weight by pood, which is equivalent to approximately 16 kilograms or 35 pounds.  When selecting the weight to use, keep in mind that the power for the exercise comes mainly from your lower body and your core.

Even if you are doing a move that targets your upper body, your entire body will be engaged.  Because you can lift more with your legs than you can with your arms, you should select a weight that is heavier than you would use for traditional weight lifting.

In general, it is recommended that women begin with an 8 kg (18 pound) kettlebell.  This weight should not feel light and it may even feel a bit heavy at first. The difference here compared to a standard dumbbell is that the weight will be distributed among multiple muscle groups.

For men, they should start with a 16 kg (35 pound) kettlebell.  This is considerably less than what most men are used to lifting.  Take into consideration that a kettlebell workout will be using new muscles at a high intensity so you shouldn’t start with a weight that is too heavy.

Whether you are a man or woman, it is important to select a weight that is heavy enough to challenge your muscles, but light enough to allow you to maintain proper form.

If you are lifting without proper form you will not be able to progress to heavier weights and more advanced exercises and you will not reap the full benefits of your kettlebell training.The proper kettlebell weight should be just enough to force you to use proper technique.

When starting out with kettlebells, you can get by with just one weight.  As you go further with your training you will want to add a second heavier weighted kettlebell.  The lighter one is for overhead work.  The heavier one is for swings, squats and deadlifts.  As you progress, you may choose to do double kettlebell exercises, in which case you will need two bellsof each weight for a total of four weights.

Kettlebell Workouts

While kettlebells have gotten more popular in the recent years, it still may be hard to find a trainer to help you with your workout.  You can easily find videos and articles online with a variety of workouts for you to try. If you’re more ambitious you may even want to design your own workout.

The key to a good kettlebell workout is balance.  Not every exercise in your workout needs to involve kettlebells.

For your core and upper body, you should incorporate a good mix of bodyweight exercises like push-ups, and burpees balanced with swinging exercises using the kettlebells.

For your lower body try focusing on heavy or multiple squats, balanced with deadlifts or hamstring work. It’s ok to focus on a particular muscle group during a session, but make sure to include a good mix throughout the week.

In order to make sure you are getting the cardio benefits of your kettlebell workout, be sure to design your program to include bouts of high intensity followed by brief rest.

A good structure for your workout would include a circuit comprised of 5 to 6 different exercise.  Complete each exercise for 30 seconds, followed by 15 seconds of rest.  Once you complete the circuit, rest for one to two minutes and complete the circuit again, for a total of two to three rounds.

If you are serious about your kettlebell workoutbut don’t have the time to design your own program, the Ultimate Kettlebell Challenge Workout is an excellent option.This program will help you get started with kettlebell training by teaching you how to perform a variety of exercises safely and effectively.

It includes 41 kettlebell exercises, 33 kettlebell challenge workouts, and an eight-week training plan.  The program comes with videos and illustrated guides providing detailed instruction, coaching, cues, technique corrections, and drills.

Give Kettlebells a Try

Kettlebells are more than just a workout fad. They have been around for many years and are here to stay because of the tremendous benefits they have to offer.

If you are looking for a way to take your fitness to the next level, kettlebells will increase your strength, power and endurance while building your cardiovascular fitness.

All this can be obtained without fancy, expensive equipment, using a minimum of one kettlebell. The best part is that this is done all in one workout, so it saves time eliminating the need to do a cardio workout and additional strength training.

Our Top Pick For Kettlebell Exercises

Everything you need to know about using kettlebells effectively, in one place!

Learn More