While their appeal may have faded here, Russians fully embraced kettle bells because they offered an effective workout in a small space. Some people credit the resurgence to Belarusian Pavel Tsatsouline, a former trainer of Soviet Special Forces soldiers and subject-matter expert to the U.S. Marine Corps, Secret Service and the Navy SEALs.
But it’s also been noted that a number of ex-Soviet kettle bell athletes who fled to the U.S. after the fall of the Berlin Wall were instrumental in putting this form of training on the radar again. We’ll explore this strength conditioning option and get the basics from physical therapist Tyler Hewitt.
If you’re not a creature of habit and you really enjoy mixing things up when you work out, kettle bell training can offer a number of benefits. “ Kettle bells give people more variety in their workouts and offer different variations of body mechanics that allow muscle groups that haven’t been previously targeted to be isolated and challenged,” says Hewitt.
The International Sports Sciences Association says that a good amount of kettle bell exercises engage the entire body through multi-joint, functional movements. Kettle bell training movements not only engage the entire body, but they also challenge balance and strength overall.
Hewitt recommends having a safe non-slip surface such as a yoga mat for any sort of dynamic movement during training. If you work out regularly, Hewitt says that trying a basic kettle bell workout at home shouldn’t be a problem.
“If you are used to working out and are aware of proper mechanics, I recommend starting at home with lighter kettle bells. According to Hewitt, many people make the mistake of starting their training without learning the proper form for exercises, or they don’t pick the right size kettle bells.
It’s always a good idea to master the form and mechanics of each exercise in your set rather than jumping into them with too much weight.” You can break a kettle bell workout down into basic movements such as shoulder presses, bicep curls, dead lifts and more.
On the other hand, a beginner would benefit from working with a trainer to understand the exercises and develop proper mechanics. But even if you are experienced, there’s nothing wrong with having a trainer critique your form to help ensure that you’re doing things the right way so you don’t injure yourself down the road.”
Hewitt adds that osteoporosis patients might be able to try kettle bell workouts with certain modifications added to prevent fractures. “It’s OK for people with arthritis in their back or knees to try kettle bell training as long as they have the proper form and mechanics down.
If you’re not sure if you should try kettle bell training, it’s a good idea to see a medical professional or certified trainer first before beginning this workout. Tour any modern gym and you're bound to stumble upon a section littered with kettle bells.
People may also refer to the weight of a kettle bell in “goods,” which is an old Russian unit of measurement. 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.
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.
Kettle bells, which look like cannonballs with handles, have become a popular strength training alternative to traditional barbells, dumbbells, and resistance machines. Kettle bell exercises often involve several muscle groups at once, making them a highly effective way to give your arms, legs, and abs a great workout in a short amount of time.
Kettle bells can be used for a variety of exercises that improve both your strength and cardiovascular fitness. Russian strongmen in the 1700s developed kettle bells as implements to build strength and endurance.
You’ve probably seen depictions of bare-chested carnival strongmen hoisting them over their heads. Using lighter kettle bells at first allows you to focus on using the proper form and technique for the different exercises.
Fitness experts suggest using kettle bells with the following weights if you’re at an intermediate to advanced level with your strength training : Aim to add more reps each week, then work toward adding more sets as you build strength.
Push your hips backward, and bend your knees to reach the kettle bell handles. Firmly grip the kettle bells, keeping your arms and back straight.
This is an excellent exercise to boost both your muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness. While your shoulders and arms will do a lot of the work, most of the effort should come from the hips and legs.
Engage your abdominal muscles and set your shoulders back. Exhale as you make an explosive upward movement to swing the kettle bell out in front of you.
Squats are an excellent lower-body exercise that work your quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, as well as your abdominal muscles. Using your leg muscles, with your upper body still, straighten up to your starting position.
Alternatively, you can hold a kettle bell by the handle in one or both hands, with your arms at your sides. Slowly step forward with your left leg, bending your knee while keeping your right foot in place.
Make sure your left knee doesn’t extend over your toes. A great exercise for working your abs and obliques (the muscles on the sides of your abdomen that run from your hips to your ribs), the Russian twist can also be done with a weighted medicine ball or barbell plate.
When using a kettle bell, be sure to keep a firm grip so that you don’t drop it on your lap. Sit with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor.
Holding the kettle bell handle with both hands, lean back so that your torso is at about a 45-degree angle to the floor. With your heels a few inches above the floor, rotate your torso from right to left, swinging the kettle bell slightly across your body.
When you’ve completed your repetitions, return to your starting position. Push ups target your chest, triceps, and core muscles.
When your chest is even with the kettle bell handles, exhale and push your body back up to its starting position. Hold a kettle bell by the handle so that it rests against the outside part of your shoulder.
While exhaling, push the kettle bell upward so that your arm is almost straight. There are many benefits to working out with kettle bells, for both men and women, across all age groups.
According to a 2019 study, a kettle bell workout is a highly effective way to improve your strength, aerobic power, and overall physical fitness. Compared to resistance circuit-based training, the same study found that a regular kettle bell workout is just as effective at improving cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength.
A 2013 study reported that participants who completed an 8-week kettle bell training session saw noticeable improvements in their aerobic capacity. Kettle bell exercises have the ability to restore muscle mass and improve grip strength in older adults, according to a 2018 study.
According to Harvard Health, kettle bell exercises can also help improve your posture and balance. You typically use your core muscles more with kettle bell exercises than with dumbbells or barbells.
If possible, ask a certified personal trainer at your local gym or fitness center to show you the proper form for kettle bell exercises. A little mild soreness after a workout is normal, but you shouldn’t feel sudden, sharp pain while working out.
Kettle bells can take a little getting used to, but working out with them is a highly effective way of improving your muscle strength and cardio fitness. The key is to start slow and, if possible, with the help of a certified personal trainer.
Today I’d like to help answer a question I’ve been getting asked a lot recently, Are Kettle bell Workouts Cardio or Strength ? All activities that keep the heart rate elevated and make you breathe hard for long periods of time.
Strength based exercise involves developing the muscular system so you can jump higher, run faster, punch harder, lift heavier etc. However, if you use a challenging weight and put together a selection of kettle bell exercises into a circuit then you will raise your heart rate and keep it elevated for a long period of time.
A kettle bell circuit like the one above will not only build strength but also keep the heart rate elevated making it a cardio workout too. Here’s a video showing how kettle bell exercises can flow keeping your heart rate elevated for great cardio:
Kettle bell workouts are inherently strength based because you are lifting a weight that challenges the muscular system. As most kettle bell exercises involve the use of hundreds of muscles at a time they require a great deal of energy produced by the heart and lungs.
It is due to this fact that kettle bell training is becoming more and more popular as a tool for saving time while generating some great results.