Have you ever seen those big metal bells either sitting in the corner of a gym collecting dust? Or maybe you’ve seen someone with about 3 to 5 pieces of gym equipment with those bells right beside them? Or hey even an almost empty rack where those bells should be? Well regardless chances are you have and those things are called kettlebells. Sure, they look kind of strange but I can say from personal experience that they are super useful, can be a lot of fun to use and are a great way to get that ‘’kick’’ into your workout.
Funny enough they started out as farming equipment in Russia in the 1700s and as many strange looking objects do they ended up as fitness equipment used by well, most places in the modern world today. Kettlebells are useful in a really convenient and fun way, you can get a great multi joint workout while improving many aspects of your fitness like your grip strength with the thicker handles, working the often neglected backside muscles like your hamstring muscles, and can help decrease the amount of time working out since many of the exercises you would be doing require multiple muscles to complete. One great thing about having this fitness tool work the backside muscles is that they are often neglected as many people in the gym tend to focus on the ‘’mirror muscles’’ or if your like many and you work in an office then those muscles aren’t always in the greatest condition and using kettlebell exercises can be a good way to improve your posture.
Now when you were a kid I almost guarantee that at one point your parents told you to sit up straight, they knew it was good for you even if they didn’t know why all the time. I was a sloucher as a kid and my parents told me to sit up straight, as I got older though it made more sense why they did that. They wanted me to avoid developing spinal and muscular issues which unfortunately a lot of us still end up developing. A study out of Scandinavia regarding the use of kettlebells to improve neck, shoulder and back pain was done and used 17 women and 3 men all being around 44. All of them had some kind of neck, back or shoulder pain or some mix of the three and after 3 sessions per week for 8 weeks doing kettlebell swings, deadlifts and one handed swings found that doing those exercises helped reduce their respective pain.
Now granted that session per time lasted around 35 to 45 minutes per time but that’s still a lot better than spending a massive amount of time in the gym. Which for many white color workers out there or anyone who works a full time job that’s a great way to motivate yourself to get some exercise. With kettlebells providing many exercises that work more than one muscle group at once you can get a great workout while still saving time per day which is invaluable for many. With the thicker handles as well it can have an effect on grip strength which can go a long way towards getting stronger and injury prevention as we all get older.
I know I’ve been extolling the virtues of kettlebell training but you can pair them with other exercises as well for increased effectiveness. Then again it all depends on what you want to do, maybe you want to increase your muscular power in your shoulders? Try super setting (When you do an exercise with little to no rest back to back with another one) a standing kettlebell overhead press with a medicine ball frontal throw. That is just one example of many I could give for pairing kettlebell exercises with some other exercise tool for a good workout. You don’t have to exclusively use kettlebells (although you technically can if you are creative enough) for when you are making a workout program or following through with one.
Despite the fact I have been praising the use of kettlebells there does carry a risk of injury as with any exercise equipment. One good example would be if you are using too much weight during any exercise involving your lower back being put into play or anything explosive involving your shoulder joints. Another good example is if you use improper stances while doing any exercises. Even if you’re only using a moderate weight shifting your weight and posture to certain positions can put more force than necessary increasing your risk of injury.
Overall what I’m trying to get at is that kettlebells are a unique, useful, and fun fitness tool to use. You can use it for so many different things and no matter what your fitness level if you’re a beginner looking for something to do or an elite athlete getting ready for another competition, you can get a lot of good use out of kettlebells. Just remember like any other fitness modality there does carry some risk of injury if the equipment isn’t used properly. Though don’t be afraid to give them a try and if you have any questions feel free to ask any fitness professional, we are more than happy to help out. Most of all have fun with it!
Jay, K., Frisch, D., Hansen, K., Zebis, M., Andersen, C., Mortensen, O., & Andersen, L. (210). Kettlebell training for musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health: A randomized control trial. Scandanavian Journal of Work Environment and Health, 37(3), 196-203.
Clark, M., Lucett, S., & Sutton, B. (Eds.). (2012). NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training (4th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.