“What is that weird looking thing with a handle on it… You want me to do WHAT with it?” That was probably your first reaction to seeing a kettlebell, but once you get used to them you see how versatile and useful they are. They can be used during workouts, warmups, mid-line focus, heck even during mobility! It’s not hard to see why we use them often.
Before we go into depth on why we like kettlbells, a little background. Kettlebells are flat-bottom cast iron balls with handles. They were first used as a unit of measurement on market and farming scales and later in the Russian military for strength and conditioning work. They are often measured in “pood” (no laughing!). One pood is about 16 kilograms or 35 pounds. Kettlebells are unique from other free weights like dumbbells and barbells because their center of mass is away from the handle. This means kettlebell movements often require more coordination as well as recruitment of your stabilizer and primary muscles simultaneously. This is especially true for the kettlebell swing, which is the foundation of kettlebell training.
Kettlebell training isn’t limited to swings though. They are excellent for Olympic Lifting skill transfer exercises like cleans, jerks, and snatches as well as strength movements like farmers walks, presses, thrusters, and rows.
Here are ten benefits of kettlebell training:
- Enhances athleticism due to required coordination and balance
- Increases mental focus and physical stamina
- Improves proprioceptive breathing development
- Multi-joint total body conditioning compared to isolation exercises
- Total recruitment of posterior chain (calves, hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors)
- Increases core stability and muscular endurance
- Develops body awareness and hip flexion/extension
- Improves grip strength
- Teaches you how to control weight eccentrically
- They are fun to use!
Although you can do much more than swings with them ,here are five basic checkpoints for in a kettlebell swing:
- Feet – shoulder-width apart and pointing no more than 10-15 degrees out
- Knees – tracking over toes, NOT caving inwards or driving way out
- Hips – level with your lumbar spine and neutral
- Shoulders – shoulderblades back and down (yes, I’m a broken record but there’s a reason!)
- Head – neutral position with chin tucked in
There aren’t many better tools that develop strength, teach you how to control your body through a large range of motion, build coordination, require mental focus, and are just plain fun to use!