Why I Use Kettlebells
“Don’t be number driven, be movement driven”
Kettlebell training forms a big part of my nourishing moves strength based programs.
A kettlebell may simply be a cannonball with a handle attached and seem nothing special. What is special is the way a kettlebell can be used.
Below are my top 5 reasons for introducing my clients to this ancient Russian tool. I also look at which kettlebells you should purchase and what weights are best to get started with your kettlebell training.
1. Kettlebell training develops skill
Despite the kettlebells simple appearance the associated training is far from mindless exercise. My kettlebell training program uses complex movement patterns and that’s why I always describe strength and fitness as a skill.
Research into the idea of neuro-plasticity has proven how important skillful movement is to our brains development and longevity. There is a good reason why the species in the animal kingdom who move the most often have the largest brains.
Scientists now believe that the reason the human brain is so large in comparison to other species is to allow the body to move in a wider range of skills with precision and grace. It’s our multi-talented bodies that have allowed us to thrive as a spices.
To say our current culture isn’t making the most of this evolutionary development is an understatement. Founder of natural movement system Erwan Le Corre sums up our current condition well by comparing our generation to our ancestors as Chihuahuas to wolves.
As I’m regularly introduced to new office bound clients I see part of the problem first hand. The majority of our society are now totally disconnected from their own bodies, lacking any co-ordination, skill or even regular basic movement. This makes the idea of any complex physical activity or sport seriously hazardous for the masses. Many are trapped in dysfunctional bodies and deprived from some of life’s greatest pleasures.
I’ve found the kettlebell to be the perfect tool to begin fixing this epidemic.
My kettlebell training methods insist that the body, mind and breath, work together to refine fundamental human movement patterns.
The benefits of developing new movement skills is also gaining more and more research supporting the idea that it can reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. That’s real mind-body exercise!
2. Kettlebell training will make you look and feel younger
As soon as we are sent to school our western culture demands that we sit for most of the day and wear over-engineered shoes. This causes havoc on all areas of the body.
I witness first hand with my clients, how tailored and specific kettlebell training with perfect form can go a long way to solving many of the common, shoulder, back, hip, and knee and ankle problems associated with our so called civilized world.
Learning how to perform kettlebell exercises will teach your body to move again with its natural grace and control, getting it to work as the fluid unit it was designed to be.
Dr Vladimir Janada has classified our skeletal muscles into two categories, Tonic and Phasic. He has noticed that due to our sedentary lifestyle and as we age our tonic muscles start to become short and tight where our phasic muscles are prone to weakness and inhibition.
Picture sitting in a chair. The tonic muscles are the ones at the front of the body, the phasic muscles at the rear.
Kettlebell training uses movements that are the complete opposite to the chair based posture we live in and thereby strengthening the weak muscles and opening the shorter tighter muscles.
The Kettlebell can be almost self-correcting as the offset “live” weight forces you to swing it ballistically using the hips while relaxing the arms, the way an athlete should move!
Another unique benefit of the kettlebells offset center of gravity is the special way that the shoulder is loaded in overhead lifts. This promotes mobility and stability which set up a perfect foundation for strength and resilience. You can see why I consider many kettlebell exercises as the antidote to sitting.
A strong, well aligned, body will stand better with less pain and there is nothing that makes us look younger faster than good posture. This is one of the many reasons I believe strength and mobility to be the fountain of youth.
I’ve had clients in their 80’s training effectively and safely with kettlebells making a serious difference to their quality of life. And more than likely longevity too.
3. Kettlebell training for improved body composition
When I was running 30-40 miles a week in preparation for the London Marathon my physique was in its worst state in a long time. This slow steady cardio increased my appetite so I ate more. Naturally my body made adaptions to perform better at my new sport, one being greater economy at burning the extra fuel I was eating. I found that long distance running turned me into a thrifty Toyota Prius in terms of fat burning efficiency, yet burnt away my upper body muscle and strength. It’s one of the reasons distance runners don’t have the most athletic looking physiques. Just check out your local running club to see what I mean.
As soon as I went back to kettlebell training I became, leaner and stronger again.
It’s hardly a secret nowadays that interval training with weights is a highly effective way improve body composition.
In my experience, it’s the kettlebell which is particularly well suited to the task. The classic foundation kettlebell exercise, the kettlebell swing is actually a little interval session within itself. As you fire the kettlebell forward you do the work. As you let the kettlebell float back down, you rest. This allows you to keep working for longer, keeping the heart rate up high and putting the kettlebell in the unique world of strength and cardio training.
4. Kettlebell training develops useful strength
If you are strengthening your body by using machines and benches it will likely be pushing or pulling in 2 dimensions with minimal joint action. When you then need to call on this strength in the real world you become like a cannon firing from a rowing boat. Too much power with no stability or support. Daily lifting and carrying tasks will also cause joint and muscle problems in this weak structure.
Kettlebell training uses large, whole body, natural movements. This creates a strong, resilient support structure for your body to work from. It fills in the gaps of strength that exercise machines leave.
This usable strength will also improve sporting performance. I’ve had clients who quickly notice their golf drive and tennis game improves by using kettlebells. Explosive kettlebell exercises are also the perfect complement for contact sports and sprinting.
Importantly, my Kettlebell training program focuses on developing strength without gaining bulky muscles. I’ve found that bulky muscles really restrict the bodies movement which end up causing pain. I believe that bulky muscles have little use in everyday life unless you are specifically after that look.
5. Kettlebells are a gym in your hand
In my opinion, if you want all round fitness the kettlebell can replace barbells, dumbbells, belts, thick bars, leaver bars, medicine balls, grip devices and cardio equipment. You can buy a good kettlebell from £30 and it will last a lifetime and take up very little space.
Kettlebells are best taken outside to train in the fresh air.
Why anyone would go to the effort of battling through rush hour traffic to get to an air conditioned fitness factory and run on a treadmill while watching a flat screen is beyond me. Buy a kettlebell, get a Strong First SFG trainer to show how to use it correctly and you’ll save hundreds of pounds and time over the years.
If you are prepared to train hard with attention to detail you will move and feel better. Develop usable robust strength, build a lean toned body and improve posture, all with this ancient Russian tool.
What Kettlebell Should I Buy?
Traditionally Kettlebells come in increments of 4kgs often starting at 4kg and working through the increments to 8kg, 12kg, 16kg, 20kg, 24kg, 28kg, 32kg. The traditional measurement of a kettlebell is called a pood. 1 pood weighs 16kgs with 2 pood weighing 32kgs and a half pood 8kgs.
Some companies make larger kettlebells and ones with 2kg increments but that is really for a different purpose than the methods used in my Nourishing Moves training plans.
People are initially shocked by the seemingly large weight increments with kettlebells. When using single arm exercise a 4kg jump up can seem a lot.
Russian sports scientists have found it more effective for strength gains to have the sudden shock of a 4kg weight increase than the slow and gentle increases in load seen with traditional western strength training. Those Russian scientists are a lot smarter than me and from my experience they seem to be absolutely right!
I recommend that ladies begin kettlebell training with an 8kg or ½ pood.
Strong gents shouldn’t start any heavier than 1 pood or 16kg.
There are two styles of kettlebell to choose from, the traditional cast iron kettlebell and the kettlebell sport version.
The main difference is that cast iron kettlebells get larger as the weight increases. The kettlebell sport style are all the same size and color coded to make the weight easily visible. The reason that kettlebell sport kettlebells are a set standard size is to enable the trainee to use the same technique no matter what weight they use. Using a larger kettlebell makes a subtle difference to where it sits on the arm and how it feels when you swing it.
For my Nourishing Moves Kettlebell programs I would highly recommend the cast iron black series kettlebells sold by Wolversonfitness.co.uk.
I recommend the black series kettlebell mainly for its proportions which make it very comfortable when held in a rack position on the arm. Many other brands have handles which are either too tall or short making the kettlebell uncomfortable when it comes into contact with the forearm. The Black Series Kettlebell handles are not too thick which allows a strong grip. The handle also offers a perfect combination of grip without being too rough and causing calluses.
Any other kettlebells such as plastic, rubber, chrome handles, rubber bases, novelty shapes, filled with water or decorated with celebrity signatures are best left on the supermarket shelf.
If you are new to kettlebells and would like to get started from the beginning, building a strong foundation with clear instruction you can download my Strong For Life Program
If you are more experienced with kettlebells take a look at my kettlebell workouts video blog for some challenges and inspiration.
You can also click the links to my Kettlebell exercise tutorial videos below.