Invented by the Russians way back in the 18th century, kettlebells have a handle that is attached to a bulbous weight and like dumbbells you can get them in a range of differing weights. They worked their way through the military forces in Russia and then the US forces in the far more recent 20th century. Kettlebells have only been fairly recently introduced to public gyms who have now made us all aware of this training technique.
How do Kettlebells work?
Kettlebells can be used in a fairly similar way to their dumbbell counterparts, but because they can swing there is a danger that they can bump into your forearms. I say ‘bump’ but if you have a 20kg kettle bell that bump can really smart, so it is a good idea to have some forearm protectors. Where Kettlebells come into their own and stand out from the crowd of exercise equipment is their ability to be used in ballistic movements.
Ballistic movements are full body movements that bring your core into every main Kettlebell exercise. So rather than just lying there on a bench pressing the weight up and down you will recruit more muscles in an exercise that will be more functional. It will also teach your muscles to work together as a team. It is this team work that is essential for core work and in turn core work is essential for a stronger, fitter, healthier and less injury-prone body.
A fantastic video from Underground Wellness to give you a better idea about Kettlebells. You will see that one false move and these guys could be in a lot of pain, so always remember technique.
Are there downsides to Kettlebells?
When used properly the Kettlebell is a good addition to your workout. The word ‘addition’ is important here as I have used this term when discussing other gym equipment like the Fit Ball (Swiss Ball.) Just focusing on Kettlebell exercises will not have the ’6 minute abs’ effect on your body. Variety is the key: don’t just focus on one form of exercise. Do not drop everything else to just concentrate on the Kettlebells, incorporate them into your routine by swapping some of your dumbbell exercises for Kettlebell exercises.
If you learn the Kettlebell exercises you will realise that there are not many exercises that you can perform with them that you cannot replicate with the dumbbell. Yes, the Kettlebell is much better for these ballistic movements will be more comfortable for some of the exercises, but if you are thinking of replacing your dumbbell set with a full set of Kettlebells – don’t, save your money instead.
Just because Kettlebell exercises are functional and therefore train your core muscles, this does not necessarily mean that you will train your core muscles correctly. We have to be taught to use our core muscles correctly before any exercise can actually benefit them. The problem is that our main core muscle, the transverse abdominals (a belt-like muscle that reaches around from our ribs and pelvis all the way round to our spine) is weak for the majority of people and virtually useless. So when you try and perform these Kettlebell exercises it is very unlikely that you will activate your transverse abdominals and in fact it is our lower back muscle, which we have relied on for too long, that will perform most of the hard work. So to get maximum benefit from Kettlebell training please get some instruction on how to correctly activate your core from a fitness professional like a Pilates tutor.
For me Kettlebells are proof that sometimes the old ways are the best. They are a fantastic addition to your training routine. So why not try and give them a go, swap one of your bench exercises for a Kettlebell exercise.
If you have high blood pressure, suffer from any joint, bone or muscle health issues then please do not use Kettlebells without seeking the advice of a professional and speaking with your doctor to make sure that your body can take it.
Good luck in your training!