So you saw that funny looking weight at the gym that looks like a big, round padlock and seems impossibly heavy, and you thought to yourself, “I’ll bet I could work out with that! But what is it?” Well, that crazy weight is called a Kettlebell, and it really is a terrific piece of equipment for getting a fully functional, full body workout.
Some Fun Facts About Kettlebells
- Even though it’s shaped like a ball, it’s not a kettleBALL, it’s a kettleBELL.
- Kettlebells, as we know them today, came from Russian, Ukraine, and Belarus, but there are similar tools found back as far as the 5th century B.C.
- In Russia, they are called “girya”, but the English started calling them “kettlebells” because of the resemblance to a kettle without a spout.
- Traditionally, kettlebells are measured in POOD (a Russian unit of weight), which is approximately 16 kg or 35 pounds.
- Kettlebells are usually made of cast-iron or cast steel.
- Nowadays, you can find kettlebells in all sorts of weights, and made of different materials, making them much more accessible to the average gymgoer.
More Facts About Kettlebells
1. They Are Not Dumbells
If you’ve been working out for a while, you’ve probably started to think that any weight is just a weight, and can be trained in your usual manner. Machines with plates, cable machines and free weights all operate more or less the same way, but not kettlebells. The exercises are unlike anything you’ve ever done with a machine or a dumbbell.
2. They Are Very Functional
Kettlebells are extremely functional, due to most of the exercises being performed in a standing position. While lots of free weight or weight machine exercises are performed from a seated or supine (lying on your back) position, kettlebell exercises are mostly standing, which means you are always working on core stability and balance – both very functional skills.
3. Mainly For Rear Chain Exercises
They are rarely used for upper body exercises, though there is some upper body strength to be developed from using one. Most kettlebell exercises develop power, strength, and stamina in the rear chain (hamstrings and gluteals, primarily, with assistance from the abdominals and obliques), even though you are holding the kettlebell in your hand. Your arms, shoulders, upper and mid-back muscles will still develop strength with consistent practice, but probably not the same way as your butt and legs will.
4. Kettlebell Exercises Are Fast-Paced
Kettlebell exercises are explosive and momentum-based, not slow-moving like traditional weight training with dumbbells or barbells. Kettlebell exercises like the Swing, the Snatch, the High Pull, and others get their power from “snapping” the hips with a contraction from the gluteals. This “snap” moves the weight quickly, which means part of the workout is simply controlling the speeding weight. Very few kettlebell exercises are meant to be done slowly.
5. Requires Far More Reps
Kettlebell exercises are also meant to be performed at high volume. Because of the dynamic and momentum-based nature of kettlebell exercises, you can perform far more repetitions to get the most benefit. This high volume of work also means that you are getting a terrific cardiovascular workout at the same time.
6. The Grip Is Part Of The Workout
Kettlebells are big and unwieldy – and that’s part of what gives you such a great workout with one! The grip is difficult and requires practice to master, making it very functional and essential for good form.
7. Good For Your Core Stabilizers
Controlling a weight that is farther away from your body and swinging freely is excellent core training. Most traditional gym weights keep your center of gravity close to the body, but kettlebells are a weight that is extended from the body, which makes them much harder to control and, thus, terrific work for your core stabilizers. All kettlebell exercises recruit your abdominal, obliques, and gluteals for maximum power.
8. Not For Beginners
Kettlebells are fun, but they’re not for complete beginners. As you’ve probably noticed, kettlebell workouts are very different from standard bodybuilding workouts, and as such, require some training and knowledge of exercise to perform your best. Your best bet, as you develop your skills and fitness, is to start with small, controlled bodyweight movements (planks, squats, pushups, etc.), then progress to dumbbells or barbells to challenge your strength, and after you have gained experience, you’ll be fine to progress to kettlebell workouts.