If you’ve been thinking about starting or upgrading your home gym (whether that’s a corner of your bedroom, or a full two-car garage), this article will tell you exactly what you need to know about kettle bells, how many to get, where to buy them, and how to put them to good use. The design of the kettle offers three distinct advantages over it’s “bell” brothers, the dumbbell and barbell:
They sit flat on the floor (no rolling around) and the compact design means no wasted space. Likewise, dumbbells are a great training tool, but you’ll need a lot of them to get a decent full-body workout.
Armed with some savvy training knowledge (you will be by the end of this article), you’ll be able to get a great total-body workout with only 1-3 kettle bells, no matter your strength level. As a fitness coach, my goal is to get new clients feeling comfortable and confident while lifting weights and learning basic movement patterns.
Because the bell’s center of mass is directly under your grip, dead lifts fly up naturally without much cueing. But no matter your goal, or where you’re starting from, kettle bell training can transform your body and performance in ways you never thought possible.
Losing body fat and maintaining a lean physique comes down to controlling calories through nutrition and training. Kettle bell training offers many powerful ways to rev your metabolism and burn a mountain of calories in very little time.
The kettle bell swing is a hip hinge dominant movement, like a dead lift or box jump. This means each and every rep engages the posterior chain muscles of the hamstrings, glutes, back, and lats (plus lots of cores if you do them right).
When working all these large muscle groups dynamically at the same time, your heart rate jumps and you enjoy a calorie burn akin to a sprint (without the impact on the joints). Of course, any exercise can help you lose weight, but the kettle bell swing (and its big brother — the snatch) is a one-stop-shop for anyone looking for a simple and proven approach to cut body fat while building functional strength.
As mentioned above, kettle bells are a great way for beginners to learn the fine art of strength training. The foundational kettle bell lifts cover all the major movement patterns while developing athleticism and a strong mind-muscle connection.
Squats and swings build powerful and mobile hips — the keystone for every truly strong athlete. Row and press variations (especially bottoms-up) build resilient shoulders and a guaranteed ticket to the gun show.
This “what the hell” effect takes place when, after using kettle bells for a while, new reserves of strength and skill suddenly appear to demolish stubborn old personal records. For example, a long-distance trail runner might flounder after a couple laps in the pool… and a swimmer might find cycling tortuous.
Kettle bell training is optimal for a type of endurance called general physical preparedness (GPP). You won’t be the absolute best in any one field, but you’ll be in great shape and ready to handle a broad range of activities — from pickup basketball to packing a U-Haul.
Over the years, I’ve invested in nearly 30 kettle bells (a hodgepodge of different sizes, styles, and brands). Plus, a medium weight is ideal for kettle bell complexes — the stringing together of multiple lifts into a larger continuous set.
Kettles come much heavier than these (the 48 kg “Beast” is the cherry on top most collections), but we’re focusing on the sizes with the most value for beginners. Without the option of increasing weight in small steps, you are forced to make progress in various other ways with the same bell — volume (more reps), density (less rest), and variations (there are dozens of ways to perform a lift) are the big ones.
No matter your sex or fitness level, nearly every bell size has great value and there’s plenty of overlap in the recommendations anyway. These are your “bread ‘n butter” weights that will serve you well in both lower and upper body training for life.
Finally, the extra 12 kg will give you a great pair for double kettle bell workouts. We follow the same line of reasoning for the fellas, with an assumption of more general upper body strength.
We start with 12 kg as even the brawniest of dudes will get good use from one for mobility-oriented lifts like arm bars and windmills as well as advanced get-up and bottoms-up press work. From here, I like to recommend a pair of 20 kg (44 lb) kettle bells as this seems to be a sweet spot for double bell complexes.
The good news is there are plenty of trusted online sellers that offer quality kettle bells. Here’s my top-5 list of recommended kettle bell brands and merchants based on my own personal use (all links are affiliate):
Today, they have become a very popular and trusted part of many fitness regimes, with participants claiming that kettle bells improve endurance and strength, whilst at the same time, burning calories. They are advertised as offering a great way to stay in shape, whilst being fun at the same time, compared to ‘normal’ workouts.
People spend a lot of time using different forms of exercise to reach their goals, such as losing fat, building muscle or working to improve or maintain fitness levels. This was confirmed by a study directly comparing the two-handed kettle bell swing with modern intensity treadmill walking (Thomas et al. 2014).
Whilst the movements involved in kettle bell training act as a cardio exercise, the fact that a weight is being lifted at the same time, also works your muscles. Studies have found that this form of exercise improves power, endurance (Pinocchio, 2010) and maximum strength (Lake and Lauder, 2012).
Another advantage of working and strengthening your muscles is that it increases your metabolism, meaning you can burn fat all day after your workout. This combination of cardio and strength training, allows you to get the best of both worlds and reap the benefits that both offer in one challenging kettle bell workout.
Another specific benefit of kettle bell movements is that these can work all of your major muscle groups at once and can achieve remarkable results in less time. The high number of calories that can be burned with this training is accredited to it being a total body movement exercise (Forward, 2010).
In this way, it is hailed as being superior to other kinds of weight training, due to forcing your body to work as a unit with every swing or lift. As kettle bell training involves a lot of movement, it is important to perform the exercises correctly, ensuring your back is straight, shoulders are relaxed and head is in a neutral position.
This is a remarkable advantage of kettle bell training, as having a strong core is important in everyday life, particularly for balance and posture. Osteoarthritis is the most common kind of arthritis, which is caused by the breakdown of cartilage that the body eventually cannot repair, often in older age.
A study found that joints subjected to heavy impact are relatively free of osteoarthritis in older age (Verkhoshansky and Sight, 1998). Thus, the ballistic exercises using a kettle bell, such as the swing, snatch, jerk and clean, appear to be highly beneficial and strength your joints, promoting protection against osteoarthritis in older age.
Making lifestyle changes, such as incorporating regular exercise into your routine along with a healthy diet, can keep your heart and arteries in good condition and reduce blood pressure and its associated risks. Studies have found that kettle bell training can be a good form of exercise, which can lower blood pressure (Jay, 2009).
With it being both a cardio and strength workout, it can assist in the control of and help to prevent high blood pressure, and therefore reduce the dangers to your health. Whilst it does promote a healthy lifestyle, if you do have high blood pressure, always ask for advice from your doctor first before you start any new physical regime.
There has been an increase in the number of adults developing Type 2 Diabetes, due to living an unhealthy lifestyle and being overweight. Whilst there is no cure for Type 2 Diabetes, blood glucose levels can be managed to minimize the risk of health problems that can develop.
In particular, a recent study found that kettle bell training could improve glucose clearance in young, sedentary males (Greenwald, 2014). In conclusion, training with kettle bells is advantageous not only in meeting individual fitness goals but also in protecting against medical conditions.
These kettle bells come in different weights and you can make use of these equipments as you do lunges, shoulder presses, and lifts. The kettle bell workouts get your heart pumping and are quite beneficial in burning calories, offering body flexibility and many other things.
Kettle bell exercises mostly targets areas like the core, arms, glutes, legs, and back. These kettle bells come in weights that range from 5-100 pounds and you can purchase them from sporting goods stores or from online retailers.
There is a short review of research on kettle bell exercises that teaches about some workouts and its benefits. Kettle bell exercises stimulate an incredible amount of abdominal contraction because of their explosive conditioning movements.
The abdominal contraction along with coordinated breathing offers quite a high level of conditioning that actually has made kettle bells popular among athletes and fighters. In one study there was absolutely clear evidence of some effective positive changes in cardiovascular health from kettle bell exercises.
Since there are several kettle bell exercises which we do with our arms in an overhead position, the muscles that are responsible for assisting our breathing process are pretty engaged in the muscular activity; thus not allowing them to assist in the process of respiratory. This in turn forces the muscles that are most responsible for the breathing process to play an even higher role in the cardiovascular health.
They also enable you for increasing your strength and building up speed and also your endurance levels simultaneously. The first thing that must be kept in mind is that your entire back and abs remain absolutely straight.
Most physical therapists value these exercises because they teach us to move in a better, stronger, and a safer way. Kettle bell exercises help you build powerful forearms and also improves your grip.
Moreover, such exercises also allow you to devote your attention towards your skill, strategy, rest and recovery. However, to do the intense, highly grip-based and cardio-driven exercises associated with kettle bells, I recommend some weightlifting accessories.
The main reason I would think about purchasing these, or similar accessories, is to maintain form and safety. Then, once you are familiar with the mechanics of the kettle bell and feel comfortable gripping them, you can really amp up the workouts.
This is important, especially in relation to this article, because cardio and strength training are what promote weight loss. We will be discussing why kettle bells are optimal for weight loss, as well as some preferred exercises.
It’s very important to always remember that cardio is a huge pillar to the house of weight loss. Most weightlifting movements do not implement a high amount of cardio, unless they are HIIT routines or focusing on CrossFit training.
When adding in that cardio aspect to kettle bell exercises, like swings, jump squats, etc., you’ll experience faster results. In fact, intense lifting puts you into a longer residual fat burning zone.
Now, imagine combining the longevity of fat burning from weights with the intensity of a cardiovascular workout. The beauty of kettle bells is that they are more versatile for HIIT exercises when compared to something like dumbbells.
With their strength building aspect, you will be hitting all the proper channels that lead to further weight loss. The focus needed, the grip strength, the core balance and even hip drive will ensure you see success.
The swinging movement, along with the squat and explosiveness, lead to the foundation of kettle bell exercises. First thing is first: choose a kettle bell that is manageable and won’t pull you off balance.
After choosing the best kettle bell weight for you, give it a gentle swing between your legs as you drop into a squat. If the kettle bell you’ve chosen seems to be fine, then start rapping out the swings.
Make sure to go strong and controlled, getting deep into the squat and swinging the kettle bell to the same spot for each rep. Adding just this one adjustment to your kettle bell swing will amplify the explosive nature of the workout almost by tenfold.
The dumbbell jump squats will be so much more explosive and tiring (due to the cardio-centric nature) that you’ll burn fat quicker. Dark Iron Fitness has one of the best weightlifting belts available, and it’s worth investing in, as you’ll only ever need to buy it once.
Hold two kettle bells up by your shoulders with your hands up, and proceed to perform the jump squats. If you perform any of these, you’ll feel the burn, the sweat and the weight begin to slowly melt off with time.
Give them a try and continuously work them into your weightlifting routines or even just as supplemental workouts on cardio days. A lot of people are looking for quick results, clear-cut answers and a strict guide to lose excess weight.
You need to find what works for you, stick to it and let the journey become a large part of your happiness and success. Don’t fall for the tricks of someone selling you one specific exercise routine or “10 minutes or less” workouts as the end all be all.
If you hold a lot of weight in your stomach, it’ll most likely be the last place that fat leaves your body. Tour any modern gym and you're bound to stumble upon a section littered with kettle bells.
It is unclear as to when kettle bells officially became a recognized tool for strength and conditioning, however it's estimated their history dates back over 300 years. Known as a “girl” in Russia, kettle bells were originally used to help balance scales while weighing crops.
The man most notable for Westernizing the kettle bell is Pavel Tsatsouline, chairman of Strongest Inc. and former PT drill instructor for Smetana. Tsatsouline's authored several books that outline simple but effective kettle bell training programs.
Entire workouts can be executed with nothing more than a single kettle bell, whether the aim is strength, hypertrophy, power or endurance. A kettle bell is relatively small (though I dare not say it's “light,” as that all depends on the weight you select) and relatively affordable in comparison to most other gym equipment.
Compared to training with machines or even dumbbells, the kettle bell provides variability and offsets the load so that no one rep is ever truly the same. Kettle bell exercises can at times be the biggest bang for your fitness buck, targeting numerous muscle groups and moving you through multiple planes of motion.
As Tsatouline writes in his book Simple & Sinister, “the kettle bell is an ancient Russian weapon against weakness.” Every piece of equipment brings something unique to the table, and every person is different, so it's foolish to speak in definitive.
Barbells make it easy for a newbie to load a movement heavier than they can handle in a fixed position. A perfect example is that of a Barbell Bench Press, where the hands are pronated and the shoulders are inherently placed in an internally rotated position.
Kettle bells are a great option to keep an individual's load lower while growing their movement competency. It targets the posterior chain and teaches individuals how to hip hinge properly with some force.
This exercise involves holding the kettle bell with both hands (although single-arm and double-bell variations do exist) and using the hip hinge to forcefully drive it out in front of yourself. Your gripping muscles may eventually burn if the set is long or enough or the weight's heavy enough, but your arms and shoulders should essentially contribute no power to the movement.
Once the Kettle bell Swing is mastered, it is an excellent addition to any program or a convenient stand-alone option for a conditioning day. Its goal is simple: Stand from a supine position while keeping a weight over your head.
However, that simple act requires a lot of technique, shoulder stability, core strength, hip mobility and focus to execute effectively. There are also many scenarios where replacing a classic barbell or dumbbell exercise with a kettle bell version can make sense.
It might seem like an insignificant swap, but kettle bells naturally lead to better scapular position, making the move more effective and reducing wear and tear on your body. Undoubtedly the kettle bell is an extraordinary tool with a long history of producing excellent results.
I recently got asked “Are kettle bell swings good for you?” so I thought I would answer the question here. So the kettle bell swing is very demanding on the cardiovascular system without the need to move your feet or impact your joints.
So another advantage of the kettle bell swing is the large amount of muscle recruitment you get from the exercise. As you drive the kettle bell up using the hips and legs you recruit a large amount of muscles in the back of the body.
The kettle bell swing is different because it strengthens the posterior chain, improving your upright posture which in turn pulls your shoulders back and reveals the chest. With a strong emphasis on desk jobs and computer work many people spend too much time seated.
The kettle bell swing helps to combat this by strengthening the abs as you lock into the upright position. The abs work hard at the top to prevent the body from over extending backwards, similar to a vertical plank position.
During the swing the lower back should also be kept in a static (isometric) position so the movement can be generated by the hips. The kettle bell swing uses 100’s of muscles in one movement, is very cardiovascular without the need to move your feet, improves your posture and burns lots of calories.
If you experience pain when you lean forward or bend backwards then the kettle bell swing is not for you. A lot of people are under the impression that the use of kettle bells are some gimmicky fad that burst on the fitness scene within the last decade or so.
The benefits of Kettle bell Training are backed by valid science & extensive studies conducted in the exercise industry along with many hours of practical application experience. While referencing all this science and studies lends credence to the effectiveness of using kettle bells, I only need to trust my own experiences with these amazing implements and the great results I have gotten myself and for those who have practiced with them under my guidance.
A supreme benefit to Training with kettle bells is that they elevate the heart rate and work many major muscle groups at the same time. Plus you will build lean muscle and turn your body into a calorie burning, fat eradicating machine while at rest experiencing this incredible metabolic effect many hours after the workout!
If you are going to put forth the time and energy to work out, why not choose a program where you can get great back- end benefits like this for your up- front efforts? If you were to read no further, just that reason alone would be enough to position most people for success in their quest for their ideal body composition.
Unfortunately, that hack trainer over at the 24-hour super-duper mega techno gym considers throwing you on a treadmill like some mindless hamster followed by doing some curls and crunches a total body workout. Spare yourself the disappointment and frustration of participating in thoughtless and ineffective workouts like this if you really want to improve your fitness.
Many of my reasons I state in this article for why I use a kettle bell in my training also cover what a total body workout should consist of. Hopefully, you realize that our stay on this planet is finite and that we don’t have a lot of time to waste doing unproductive things.
I train with kettle bells because they allow me to design safe, brief, sustainable workouts to experience Maximum Fitness in Minimal Time leading to Stellar Results. Everybody talks about the ‘core” and all of its virtues, but really never train it too productively from what I see while walking around gyms in different cities I visit.
Rarely do I witness worthwhile or meaningful efforts to train the core besides people throwing together some type of crunch or setup routine they have etched in their brains from somewhere in time. Many kettle bell exercises will give you a metabolic effect similar to sprinting, BUT without beating the hell out of your knees, ankles or joints.
The challenge is to pursue a fitness program consisting of exercises that will not only give you a productive workout, but promote an existence of rich, pain free movement as well. High-repetition kettle bell exercises, such as swings and their variations really get your heart rate up and push the limits of your cardiovascular endurance.
Kettle bell exercises push your muscles, especially those in your core, to keep working repeatedly for long periods of time. This builds muscular endurance, which helps maintain posture and form in your workouts as well as throughout everyday life activities.
Good posture prevents injuries, unhealthy muscle tension, and other aches and pains we all seem to have accumulated to varying degrees over our lifetime. The good news is that you can get incredible fitness and health results with just 2-3 short kettle bell workouts per week in conjunction with a well-designed program.
I loved the fact that I could get in a challenging and fun kettle bell workout that literally addressed every fitness goal I valued with a minimal time investment that yielded maximum results. This really uncomplicated my routine, freed up more time to devote to other responsibilities/leisurely pursuits and boosted my fitness and health to levels that surpassed my expectations.
This is very true if you define quality as moving better and pain free, performing daily tasks more efficiently and confidently, enjoying new levels of activity and finally achieving that ideal lean, tight and strong body worth bragging to the heavens about! I’m convinced that sound, thoughtful and challenging physical training in general does wonders for your mental well-being and will contribute to a positive outlook on life.
Furthermore, kettle bell exercises are extremely efficient at building lean muscle mass, which elevates the metabolism and helps maintain a healthy body weight long term. Kettle bell training will help you forge your ideal body without wasting a lot of unproductive time in the gym.
If you value a physique that looks as good as it moves and will get you excited about parading around in a bikini or bathing suit again then the kettle bell is the fitness ally you should partner up with. Whether it is building muscle, losing fat, improving coordination, conditioning, increased joint mobility or just trying to perform better — kettle bell training can get you to your fitness goals.
Thoughtfully programmed variety is beneficial because it keeps the body challenged, which helps avoid training plateaus. Add new exercises only if you can justify its purpose in furthering your training goals, it’s safe and you can perform them competently.
Beginner, intermediate, and advanced trainees will all be challenged since there are so many exercise regressions and progressions that can be applied in a kettle bell training program to keep all levels engaged and moving forward with their goals. If you can’t move well and with a requisite amount of strength, then your quality of life and performance of your everyday activities will suffer.
Heed my warning and train in such a way where you will promote and preserve your joint mobility and pain free movement quality. Renowned coach Steve Maxwell stated that in his many years of teaching fitness worldwide, he has never had a client tell him that they wished they had done more bench presses over their lifetime.
Instead, they all overwhelmingly regret not practicing and staying connected to exercises that improved their movement quality in order to live an active pain free life. This is a great warning that I wished I would have heeded in my younger training days, but fortunately it is rarely too late to improve your movement quality if you have the desire to take action and practice meaningful exercises.
I absolutely love the comradery of training with others in the mutual achievement of fitness goals as I am the consummate social animal and am not the grim guy with the ear buds training in the corner of the gym screaming to the heavens on every cheat rep with a perpetual scowl on my face. But, let’s put some perspective to this — Kettle bells won’t cure cancer, give you superpowers, suddenly make people leap from their wheelchairs and spontaneously River dance or bring about world peace anytime soon.
While kettle bells play a huge part in the programs I design, they are by no means the be all and end all fitness modalities. But if you want to torch the fat, increase mobility, get lean & strong, develop killer legs, tighten your butt & perform better physically and live a life of active vitality and longevity, then a well-designed kettle bell based program may be for you.
If you like the fitness benefits you can experience from training with kettle bells, then take action and dare to transform your body and your quality of life. Grab a friend, spouse or loved one or go it alone and give kettle bell training a shot if you want to experience meaningful results, achieve that ideal body and even have some fun and excitement.
Many gyms and health clubs wanting to jump on the kettle bell bandwagon and cash in on their dynamic reputation and “cool” status for propelling one to their fitness goals will make the knee-jerk decision to add them to their facility with little thought as to their proper use or how to integrate them safely into their master plan if they have one at all. I have been to more facilities than I care to remember that will just let trainees and trainers do all kinds of unsafe movements and buffoonery with a kettle bell ranging from truly cringe worthy technique to using the kettle bell to gang dance around in some kind of disjointed routine of meaningless expenditures of energy.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of this ridiculous and unsafe performance — much like one does when they are about to witness a car crash or train wreck. When confronted with attitude and logic such as this, I usually politely excuse myself quickly as dealing with clueless characters like these types is pointless.
People get hurt when they don’t take the time to learn safe, sustainable technique or take instruction from inept, unqualified, unprepared instructors who do you, me, the kettle bell and the fitness industry a colossal disservice by muddying the effectiveness and reputation of this excellent tool. Regarding scenarios such as this, trainees and trainers will usually get hurt at some point due to their lack of proper technique training and then ridiculously blame the kettle bell for their shortcomings instead of their own ineptness and failure to learn proper technique and program design as to the reason for their failure or injury.
In the wrong hands the kettle bell becomes nothing more than an Attractive Liability for irresponsible gym owners, trainers and members who are either ignorant of sound technique or their colossal egos dictate that they are above learning from others with greater skill than their own. I politely questioned one gym owner why he lets his admittedly unqualified staff have free rein of the kettle bells without any legitimate training.
I told him you are allowing your staff to teach horrendous technique to your client base in a dangerously unsustainable manner. Don’t get me wrong- everybody at some point regardless of their experience or qualifications will sustain some type of injury or tweak a muscle here or there performing any exercise using any fitness tool.
Proper kettle bell training works everything — the core, heart, lungs and entire body from the toes to head. While I use and advocate many fitness tools, the kettle bell does represent the foundation of my training play book because they simply are that damn good, and they work.
With proper instruction, kettle bells are easy to learn, yet will keep you challenged and progressing without boring the hell out of you. I have been using kettle bells for over a decade and I have yet to experience boredom or lack of enthusiasm and I have sampled just about every fitness tool and method out there.
Well, there is no doubt that the kettle bell itself looks really strange — like a mini bowling ball with a luggage handle. For those out there who aren’t confident in doing kettle bell workouts due to the high intensity and expected grip strength, don’t turn away yet!
Our patented Dark Iron Fitness lifting straps are made of durable cowhide suede and are the perfect accompaniment to kettle bells. Their numerous benefits include strength gain, endurance, flexibility and weight loss.
Many of the movements and skills required in CrossFit focus on learning to have fast and effective hips. Dumbbells have a tight center of gravity and mainly utilize the major muscle groups.
A kettle bell ’s odd shape and off-center mass forces you to use muscles that mimic real-life activities. Its odd center of gravity forces you to do more work involving your stabilizing muscles to create explosive movements with the bell.
Enjoy the ease of use and appreciate that such a unique weight can help streamline other exercises you already do. Always practice correct form and safety in all exercises, but be content in the fact the kettle bell is one of the safer weights to work with.
If you have previously been avoiding barbell exercises due to safety concerns, look into the kettle bell alternatives. The kettle bell alternates periods of intense contraction and controlled relaxation, to give you a superior workout that combines strength, as well as endurance.
Other exercises such as the windmill, and single leg dead lift, also build flexible strength. The kettle bell stimulates tremendous abdominal contraction because of the explosive conditioning movements.
The fact you can work your core indirectly, just through the dynamic aspect of kettle bells, is truly amazing. They enable you to increase your strength, build up speed as well as your endurance level at the same time.
This gives you a great strength and endurance workout in a shorter amount of time. So rather than moving on to a heavier kettle bell you simply complete more reps or change the exercise to a more difficult option.
Killer strength and endurance work can be achieved without necessarily having to use the heaviest weight you can find. Some people are naturally stronger, but ultimately the kettle bell isn’t a strength tool— it’s a strength-endurance tool.
If you find yourself becoming bored with traditional exercises or having to be in the gym, consider using kettle bells. This is especially valued by physical therapists because kettle bells actually teach you to move in a way that is better, stronger, and safer.
Unfortunately, many of us today lose some of our basic movements as a result of sedentary occupations and lifestyles. That’s what happens when we don’t move our bodies with the full range of motion or become used to certain unhealthy postures (like sitting in front of a computer all day).
They are terrific for overall fat loss, improving lean body mass, and helping teach proper use of the hips (important for speed and power sports). They are so effective that serious lifters should definitely consider them as a way to enhance and supplement their barbell or dumbbell workouts.
Dark Iron Fitness leather suede lifting are guaranteed not to rip, tear, or fall apart — the perfect compliment for your kettle bell. Unfortunately, Clint Eastwood never made a movie called, The Good, The Great and The Awesome.
There’s quite enough negativity in the real world without my highlighting the bad and ugly points about something we all love. The glutes and lats are the two largest muscles in the body for good reason—they bring us out of the fetal position.
They have the highest crossover effect to other activities, and if you did just these and nothing else, forever, you’d pretty much be able to handle anything that life threw at you. Call me biased, but I think there are more golden exercises associated with kettle bell training than with any other piece of equipment.
The fact that a kettle bell can be swung through two planes of motion during one repetition develops applicability to real life challenges and activities. A great deal of work can be achieved in a very short period of time with kettle bell complexes and visible results come very quickly for consistent swingers.
When kettle bell exercises are put together to form complexes and chains, a great deal of full body work in many movement patterns can be performed. If an exercise has a score of one, it means every rep will bring an untrained person further away from good form.
Unfortunately, most kettle bell exercises score quite low on this scale, therefore require considerable technical coaching to ensure that every rep isn’t doing more harm than good. I didn’t realize this concept for the first few years of leading my own kettle bell class in London.
My regulars reached such a high level of skill that the class became completely inaccessible for most new starters. This led to my having to spend one-on-one time with newbies at massively discounted rates to develop a basic level of skill.
The bad point of group kettle bell classes is that they must remain super simple with a minimal exercise library. This is especially important if the goal is building a bigger class and ultimately being able to bring on another instructor.
Having a super simple session plan and sticking to it indefinitely may not sound great to you or some clients, but look at Hiram yoga. Instead, use your creativity to design a kick-ass repeatable class-plan that includes progressions and regressions suitable for all new-starters but challenging enough for the intermediates.
Use the ingredients of swings, crawling and any of the high-scoring exercises listed in the previous point and you have an unlimited choice of workout options. Just because a coach has a master’s degree in kinesiology, a personal trainer certification and ten years’ experience at competitive track and field, it doesn’t mean they know the first thing about using (let alone teaching) kettle bells.
Testosterone and overconfidence are rife in the personal training and coaching industry, which when mixed with a lack of knowledge is a dangerous combo. I would recommend a family member wanting to learn kettle bells to seek out anyone with an SFG or ROC certification.
I’ve been on a lot of really goodkettlebell courses (and bad ones) and there are some amazing world-class teachers out there. Unfortunately, none I know of (including those in the GS world) have technique testing standards to the same degree as Strongest and ROC.
When untrained chair-shaped humans swing heavy metal objects in two planes of motion, injury usually occurs. I’m all for training grip strength but if one of those slippery things flies out of your sweaty hand you could be in for a torn finger tendon (seen it happen).
These can be very useful for the top 1% of athletes who possess an existing elite level of body awareness, proprioception and mobility. For average, everyday athletes who live in chairs, they’re completely unsuitable and if performed for reps, they’re downright dangerous.
This danger warning is particularly relevant to those with a posteriorly tilted pelvis, which is approximately 60% of the American population. Posterior filters already start everyday hinge movements by flexing the lumbar vertebrae first.
Swinging a kettle bell overhead makes gravity do the role of the lats and cheats them out of a job during the back swing. When people use their shoulders to swing overhead, it takes away from their ability to produce force with their hip hinge.
I’m all for working joints through their full range of motion, but not at the cost of making a high-value exercise considerably less effective. If the goal is working the shoulder through its full range of motion during a hip hinge pattern, we have the snatch.
Of course, if you enjoy overhead swings and can perform them without overextending the lower back, then crack on. Extended wrists are a classic indicator of both untrained newbies and of coaches or athletes who have extensive barbell experience then jumped into kettle bells without any training or understanding.
An extended wrist sends a signal to the shoulder to move away from the midline, making a press or any overhead activity less stable (weaker). Also consider that 40% of power production comes from fascia, not muscle contractions (Carla Stucco’s Functional Atlas of Human Facial System).
By looking forward (extending the cervical spine) at the bottom of the swing, you’re cheating yourself out of potential power. A neutral cervical spine with the deep neck flexors engaged also facilitates a stronger neurological innervation to the abdominal and glutes.
Most new students don’t know how to maintain a neutral cervical spine during a hinge pattern while swinging a heavy iron ball. When new students focus on keeping their neck neutral, many nod the head forward or point the chin out.
This promotes slight cervical extension, but it generally helps prevent the rest of their spine from flexing. After a new student has a few thousand swings under his/her belt and a strong hinge pattern has been established, it is then appropriate to switch to a neutral cervical spine position for more power.
I’m no advocate of the dumb saying, “no pain, no gain,” but I think that discomfort is an important factor that’s missing from the modern human’s life. I get that some people experience great bone pain when they’re learning to clean but sometimes that just comes with the turf of kettle bell training.