Two years ago, I had no idea what a Kettlebell was. Actually, I knew what one looked like, but they were always in some corner of the gym gathering dust, and I never gave them a second thought when working out. Fast forward to today and I've become a true convert. So what made me change? Well, first a little background. I'm a retired Marine and fitness has always played an important role in my life, so much so that I decided to become a personal trainer, a job I find extremely rewarding. Later I became certified as a CrossFit Level 1 coach and it was through CrossFit that I became interested in Kettlebells.
My first foray into the Kettlebell world was when I attended a workshop back in October 2008 hosted by my friend Mike Krivka RKC. Mike is an incredibly gifted instructor and it was through him that I discovered a passion for Kettlebells. Since that time, I have attended two more of Mike's Kettlebell workshops and I also became a CrossFit certified Kettlebell instructor. Okay, so what's so great about Kettlebells? Why not use dumbbells or barbells? All great questions.
Dumbbells or Barbells are excellent ways to gain strength and build lean muscle mass. However; Kettlebells offer much more in the way of versatility and variety. Mike explains it this way:
"The more I train with Russian Kettlebells (KB’s) the more I am convinced that they are truly the most efficient path to strength, power and super-human conditioning. I’ve spent the better part of my adult life either in the gym or in the dojo and I can tell you from hard-won experience that to excel in any sport you need to have superior strength, superior speed and superior conditioning to prevail. You can do all the biceps curls and calf raises you want and you’re still going to have one-tenth the strength that Kettlebells can provide."
A bold claim? Not hardly when you consider the fact many elite athletes are using Kettlebells in their strength and conditioning programs. The U.S. Secret Service incorporates Kettlebells into their fitness programs for both canditates and active officers. In fact, such luminaries as Lance Armstrong and even Rocky Balboa aka Sylvester Stallone use them.
Okay Tony but why Kettlebells? The answer to that lies in the shape of the bell. If your goal is to lift maximum weight, the heaviest kettlebell weighs around 48g (106lb). Even heavier kettlebells could be made, but it risks becoming too unwieldy, except for those athletes with massive frames. So for pure weight, a barbell lends itself to much heavier weight. Kettlebells on the other hand are ideally suited for repetitive ballistic movements, which promote both muscular strength and endurance. Steve Cotter, who heads the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation, and a world-renowned kettlebell authority makes the following observation:
"..On the other hand, if the goal is to lift a sub-maximal weight many times, for the purpose of training muscular and systemic endurance, a kettlebell offers unique qualities that will facilitate this goal. The shape and length of the handle and its placement behind the mass of the bell favors high repetition lifting, because the hand can move within the handle and allow a relaxed grip (in a way that dumbbells and cans of soup do not)."
It's the dynamic shape of the kettlebell, which make it such an efficient tool. In fact, many CrossFit Benchmark workouts involving Olympic lifts can be substituted with kettlebells. Here are a few:
- Clean 135 lbs or (2 - 53lb kettlebells)
- Ring Dips
- 21-15-9 reps, for time
- Thrusters 95 lbs or (2 - 36lb kettlebells)
- 21-15-9 reps, for time
- Snatch 135 lbs or (one arm Snatch - 72lb kettlebell)
- 30 reps each arm