Kettlebells, for those who don’t know know are traditionally cast iron or cast steel weights, picture a cannonball with a handle. It’s not uncommon to see the weight of kettlebells marked in kilograms not pounds. Developed in Russia during the 1700’s they were primarily used for weighing crops however, it is believed that Russian farmers started lifting them to make themselves stronger and show off their strength at carnivals and festivals. If you’ve read up on kettlebells you will know they later became used as strength and conditioning tools for the Soviet military during the 20th century.
Unlike dumbbells the kettlebell’s center of gravity is extended beyond the the grip of the individual facilitating the ballistic and swinging movements which are essential to training with kettlebells. Typical kettlebell exercises are great for building strength and endurance, especially in the back, legs and shoulders primarily but also provide the same benefits secondarily to the entire body as the movements themselves require engagement from the whole body. The swing, snatch and clean and jerk are three of the basic movements of kettlebells and engage the entire body thus mimicking real world activities.
Kettlebell exercises often involve large numbers of repetitions and are compound in nature, working multiple muscle groups at the same time. It’s because of these higher repetitions and the intensity in which the exercises are performed that makes the workout more aerobic as compared to traditional weightlifting. One study from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) found that you can burn up to 20 calories per minute kettlebell training, depending on the effort you’re putting in. The fluidity of the transitions from one exercise to another can make it easier on your body as well. Let’s not forget that in addition to strength routines it can also be added into HIIT and Tabata workouts.
If you are buying yourself equipment to use at home, the kettlebell is pound for pound the best bang for your buck. You are more likely to outgrow a 25 pound dumbbell before you outgrow a 25 pound kettlebell. The benefits are incredible!
Convinced yet? If you are you’ll need to know how to choose the right weight for you to get started. That’s actually pretty simple. Pick up a kettlebell by the handle, lift and extent it out in front of you with two hands and hold. Is it easy? then the weight is too light for you. It should be too heavy to comfortably hold a kettlebell extended out in front of you.