From its original use on Russian farms through to its adoption by the Soviet army during the cold war, the kettlebell has a great story behind it.
Kettlebells were made famous in the US in the early 2000’s by Pavel Tsatsouline, who claims to have been a drill instructor for the elite Soviet special forces unit, Spetsnaz. Two decades on, the kettlebell has exploded onto the scene as an effective and simple functional strength aid.
Great for warm ups or as an entire workout, trainers and gym owners can use kettlebells to provide a new suite of safe and effective training to their clients.
Kettlebell training involves using one or two kettlebells as a form of resistance strength training.
Beginners should use a single kettlebell at first, and with a light weight. There’s a steeper learning curve than with dumbbells, but once you’ve got your movements safe with a kettlebell, it’s an effective cross-functional tool.
Unlike dumbbells, you can’t add on weight to a kettlebell. To solve this, kettlebell coaches usually add volume to sets before moving onto a heavier kettlebell.
The kettlebell has a number of benefits, but the four most important are:
Many kettlebell movements engage the core, posterior chain, quads, upper back muscles, shoulders and arms all at once. This lack of isolation builds strength and stability across your body.
Note: think of it like a sports team. If you trained your team members on their own to specialise in their positions (e.g. defence positions, forward positions etc.), then they would become highly proficient in their specific roles. But if you only do that and don’t train the team to work together as a whole, those individuals never know how to communicate well and work together to win a game. It’s the same for your body. If you train one muscle in isolation only, it doesn’t know how to interact with the rest of your body when under strain.
Movements are intense if you want them to be, allowing for a great workout within a short amount of time. Because you don’t have to move from machine to machine, or swap out different dumbbell or barbell weights, Kettlebells can save you time and help you focus on your form.
Do a proper kettlebell swing routine and you’ll be able to hear your heart pumping. Kettlebells require a gradual increase of sets and reps, because you can’t just add on a weight when you want to progress. This means you can very quickly get your heart rate up and a great cardio workout.
The basic routines for kettlebell training incorporate a mix of explosive strength and functional stability (i.e. getups build stability vs. the explosive power needed for presses and swings).
Most trainers/sneakers have a higher heel than toe, affecting the alignment of your hips. It’s important to have your feet squarely on the ground when using a kettlebell, as you engage your arches, soles and toes throughout most kettlebell exercises. Just don’t drop the kettlebell!
It can be tempting to buy a heavy kettlebell, but this is a quick path to injury. It takes time to learn how to use a kettlebell properly, which is why it’s best to start off with a lighter weight.
Kettlebell training involves specific movement, with most routines breaking down into a range of particular actions. It’s important to practise these so you can safely increase your set volume and kettlebell weight.
Note: you’ll likely get that adrenaline rush towards the end of your routine, as endorphins are released in your brain. There is a meeting point in any training session where your adrenaline increases while your form decreases. When those opposing lines meet, that’s exactly when you’re most at risk of injury. Be aware of how you’re feeling during a workout and when you start to notice your form failing you, it’s best to slow down if not stop completely and focus on stretching.
Kettlebell training can be rough on the hands. This is because you often swing the kettlebell in one hand, which makes the handle revolve inside your grip (this happens most in swings and snatches). This can cause blisters/calluses in your hands. It’s hard to avoid this, but you can wear gloves if it becomes a problem.
Many kettlebell movements, such as the swing, involve the kettlebell being passed between your legs on the downswing before you engage the glutes and posterior chain to bring the weight back up. This is when lower back injuries can occur. To avoid overloading your lower back, always hinge at the hips – as if you’re sitting on a chair – and start off with a light weight.
While [DR3] you can do kettlebell training as a beginner at home, it’s best to get some expert advice. A certified kettlebell coach will iron out any mistakes at the beginning, so you avoid injury and get faster and better results.
Because of how effective and simple kettlebell training can be, it’s easier than ever to find certified kettlebell trainers and gyms around the country.
When engaging a kettlebell trainer, make sure you feel comfortable with that person. Your trainer should focus on your form more than anything else. Not having good form with a kettlebell can too easily lead to injury, so make sure you feel comfortable with them to advance at your own pace.