If the term is new to you, you may be wondering, “What are kettlebells”, and “What are kettlebells good for?” If you already know this, you may want to know how to use a kettlebell and the primary benefits of doing so.
One of the first fitness tools invented, kettlebells have been around for hundreds of years, but not many people knew about them. However, their popularity has surged in recent years and they are now available at sporting goods stores, and most gyms have kettlebell classes.
In this article, we will look at everything you may want to know about kettlebells. First, I will answer the questions, what are kettlebells, and what are kettlebells good for.
I will include a brief history of the kettlebell, information on the benefits of kettlebell training, and the disadvantages of kettlebell training. We will also look at how to use kettlebells, how to choose the best kettlebell weight, and more.
What are Kettlebells?
Kettlebells are free weights that range from 2 pounds up to 106 pounds or more. They resemble a flat-bottomed cannonball with a handle attached to the top, and they are typically made of cast iron, steel, or concrete. Some are encased in vinyl or rubber. This makes them softer on the hands and helps to protect your floor from becoming marked during workouts.
What are Kettlebells Good For?
Kettlebells are good for total-body strength training and muscle toning. They also provide cardiovascular conditioning.
To find out about the specific benefits of kettlebell training and the disadvantages, keep reading.
A Brief History of the Kettlebell
The history of the kettlebell dates back centuries to a time when they were used by farmers, strongmen, bodybuilders, and athletes, for work and training purposes and in competitions.
The Russian Police Force and the Military also used kettlebells in their training programs. They were relatively unknown in the West until Russian fitness instructor Pavel Tsatsouline introduced them to America in 2001. Capturing the attention of people in the fitness field, over time their popularity spread to various other Western countries.
There are now an estimated 100,000 kettlebell users, and this figure is rising. Many fans claim that kettlebell exercises have enabled them to lose weight and inches faster than any other form of exercise they’ve tried.
Next, we will look at the primary benefits of kettlebell training.
10 Minute Beginner Total Body Kettlebell Workout
Benefits of Kettlebell Training
Wondering about the benefits of kettlebell training compared with using traditional hand weights? While hand weights offer an excellent workout, kettlebell training benefits surpass them in some respects.
Following are the primary benefits of Kettlebell training.
- Suitable for all
By using correct form and a kettlebell of the appropriate weight, people of any age or fitness level can safely experience the benefits of using kettlebells.
Kettlebell workouts place less stress on the joints than exercising with traditional hand weights does.
- Time efficient
Kettlebell workouts are ideal for busy people because each session delivers both aerobic and anaerobic benefits. A complete body workout will take just twenty to thirty minutes.
Kettlebells take up very little room during workouts, and they don’t require much space to store. An area of around 6 feet by 6 feet will be sufficient for workouts. Between sessions, your kettlebell can be stored in a closet or under a bed.
NB Some kettlebell workout exercises involve swinging the bell overhead. Your ceiling will need to be high enough to accommodate this movement.
- Delivers multiple fitness benefits
People who regularly exercise with kettlebells will tone and define all of their major muscle groups and enhance their cardiovascular fitness. At the same time, they will also improve their balance and posture and increase their core strength and stability.
- Burns lots of calories
Kettlebell workouts burn far more calories than traditional weight exercises. Put in the effort, and it’s possible to burn an incredible 20 calories per minute. That’s 1,200 calories for every hour you work out, so it’s easy to see why more and more people are jumping on the kettlebell exercise bandwagon to lose weight and lower their body fat.
* The exact number of calories you burn will depend on several factors. These include your weight, the intensity you work at and the length of your workout.
- Builds lean muscle
If you favor a lean muscled look over bulk, you will love what regular kettlebell workouts can do for your physique.
- Improves balance
Most traditional weight workouts target one muscle group at a time. Conversely, the act of controlling a kettlebell’s offset center of gravity means the body must exert effort to maintain balance. Undertake this type of workout regularly, and you will significantly improve your balance.
Next, we will look at the disadvantages of kettlebell training.
Disadvantages of Kettlebell Training
While kettlebell training has many positives, it does have some drawbacks, which we will look at below.
- Injury risk
One of the main disadvantages of kettlebell training is the high potential for injury.
If you use incorrect form when doing kettlebell workouts, the risk of injuring your back or joints than it is when doing dumbbell or barbell workouts. This is because with kettlebell training the bell is in almost constant motion around your body.
Light kettlebells are comparable in price to regular hand weights. However, their price tends to increase as the weight does. This means that as you progress with your training and become stronger, you will need to buy a new kettlebell. This can become expensive, however; it won’t be an issue if you want to experience kettlebell training benefits without taking it to the extreme.
- Learning Curve
Another of the disadvantages of kettlebell training is the learning curve. Mastering the correct form can take longer than when working with other hand weights.
How to Use Kettlebells
When exercising with kettlebells, maintaining correct form takes coordination and kinesthetic (body) awareness. Kinesthetic awareness will be new to most people, and it can take practice to master.
Kettlebell workouts usually involve holding the bell in both hands. The bell is swung during workouts, not lifted as dumbbells are. This produces a smooth action that engages multiple joint and muscle groups simultaneously.
Once perfected, the movement will come naturally without you having to think about it. Done the wrong way, you could drop the weight on your feet, bump and bruise your calves or even injure your joints, neck, back or spine. For this reason, it is a good idea to get some lessons from a certified kettlebell trainer before starting. Alternatively, get a quality instructional kettlebell DVD.
Next, we will look at how to choose the best kettlebell weight.
What Weight Should a Newbie Use?
To get the most from your sessions and to avoid injury, it’s important to choose the right kettlebell weight. This will depend on your fitness level and the exercises you will be doing. With kettlebells being swung, not lifted, you should be able to start with a more substantial weight than you probably anticipate. Don’t go too heavy, though, as doing so could result in injury.
The usual recommended starting weight for adult males ranges from 25 to 35 pounds. The recommended weight for adult females is usually in the 12 to 26-pound range.
Some kettlebell exercises entail swinging the bell overhead. If you don’t have a great deal of upper body strength, use a light weight. When you are stronger, progress to a heavier weight.
If you are unsure of the best kettlebell weight to choose, go lighter rather than heavier. Too light a weight can, however, adversely affect form. It will also make for less effective muscle toning.
Final Thoughts on Kettlebells and Their Training Benefits
If you lead a busy life, you’re tired of working out for hours every week, or you’re just looking for a new exercise program, give kettlebells a try!
A highly beneficial form of exercise, done regularly using correct form, kettlebell training promotes weight loss, boosts cardiovascular fitness, tones and strengthens the muscles, and much more.
To get underway, it’s advisable to take some classes with a qualified kettlebell trainer. Being a specialized field, the cost will usually be higher than hiring a regular fitness coach. If it’s not within your budget, buy a kettlebell and a good beginner’s kettlebell workout DVD. My mom started out with the Kathy Smith Kettlebell Solution, (Click the previous link to read a review.) She was pleased with it and the results she got, and she still uses it to this day, though with heavier kettlebells.