Why I am posting about kettlebells
Today I will be talking about the benefits of use kettlebells. Kettlebells are cast-iron or cast steel weight. Kettlebells are used to perform ballistic/explosive exercises that combine cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training. They are also amazing for strengthen your core and posture and in this post we will look at the origins, their uses and main exercises.
What exactly are Kettlebells
Kettlebells like in the picture are a type of cannonball with a handle on top. This is to help do ballistic movements as the centre of gravity goes beyond your hand like dumbbells would.
Kettlebells originate from around Russia and were used by the Soviet Army back in the 1980s for strength and conditioning programs. There are reports of them being used by farmers in festivals as well for competitions.
Kettlebells are also called ‘Poods’ and sizes can range between 2kg to 30kg plus. I would recommend anything from 2kg – 8kg. The light resistance should be more than enough for starting out your training.
What muscles do they use
Due to their ballistic nature kettlebells work the full body, using both anterior(front) and posterior(back) muscles in core/upper/lower body. Standard exercises like clean and jerk work ALL muscles simultaneously and they are not the only ones..
Depending on what your training goals are you can uses then for high reps/minimal rest (endurance) or low rep/maximum rest (strength).
Due to their functionality, kettlebells are used by anyone from parents at home to elite athletes looking to compliment their training programs.
Can I use these at home?
Of course! The best thing about these poods is that if you have room to swing a bag about you have room to swing a kettlebell about. (Obviously a good few yards from your Plasma TV or Windows)
At the minute Kettlebells are growing increasing popular as they can be easily stored away (no dumbbell stacks lying around) and standard workouts are from a standing position so less space needed.
Lets get to work!
Here are the main kettlebell lifts to try at home.
This is a list of kettlebell movements that I like to do. Remember not to over extend back and keep your body in neutral position.
The following movements can be done with one or two kettlebells:
Kettlebell Swing: The kettlebell swing is a basic ballistic exercise used to train the back of your body. The kettlebell is swung from just below the groin to somewhere between the upper abdomen and shoulders, with arms nearly. Thrust the hips, not too much bending at the knees and sending the weight forwards, as opposed to squatting the weight up, or lifting up with the arms.
This requires glute muscles to be contracted. The swing can also be performed with a release and catch of the kettlebell, which helps train the proper swing pattern where the arms aren’t pulling up at the top. This can be done with two hands switching from one to another.
The one-arm swing presents a significant anti-twisting challenge, and can be used with an alternating catch switching between arms. Further variations include the walking swing taking a step forward at the apex of each swing, the outside swing where the kettlebell swings outside the leg, and the kneeling swing, swinging between the legs in a one-leg half-kneeling position. Check out pic below and this alt kb swing video.
- Kettlebell Overhead swing: This swing variation ends with the kettlebell directly above your head.
Kettlebell Clean: The kettlebell is held in the rack position (resting on the forearm in the crook of the elbow, with the elbow against the chest), lowered to below groin, and then thrust back up to the rack.
The clean is often combined with a press or jerk to make a clean and press or a clean & jerk. The dead clean is a clean starting with the kettlebell on the floor. This is an excellent full body workout exercise.
- Kettlebell Snatch: The kettlebell is held in one hand, lowered to below the groin, swung to an overhead position and held stable, before repeating the movement. See picture below
- Kettlebell Strict Press: Also called the military press or standing press, the kettlebell is held in the rack position and pushed overhead with one arm, keeping the body rigid.
- Kettlebell Push Press: As a strict press, but with a single dip of the hips to provide assistance.
- Kettlebell Jerk: As a push press, but with two dips, for more leg assistance (as in the barbell Clean and Jerk)
- Kettlebell Thruster: A rack squat with a press at the top using momentum from the squat. Popular full body exercise
- Kettlebell Squat: The basic squat is performed holding one or more kettlebells in the rack position, or a single a bell in the goblet position, which can help develop hip mobility by using the elbows to push the knees out at the bottom of the squat.
- Kettlebell Deadlift: Usually performed sumo-style with one or more bells between the legs, it can also be performed with the feet between the bells. Deadlifts can also be performed with one-arm, one-leg, or both.
- Kettlebell Row: While bent over (back in neutral spine position) anywhere from 45 degrees to parallel with the ground, the kettlebell is held hanging from a straight arm, pulled up to the chest, and lowered again.
- Kettlebell Lunge: A lunge performed with the kettlebell held in either in the racked or overhead position. There are other variations of this you can incorporate into other upper body exercises
- Kettlebell Windmill: Standing with a bell is held overhead, the hips are pushed to the side of the bell. Keeping the bell arm vertical, the upper body is bent to one side and rotated until the other hand is touching the floor.
This improves mobility and stability through the hips/shoulders and is an excellent core exercise. One of my favs!
The following movements can be done with a single kettlebell:
Kettlebell Turkish get-up: A kettlebell exercise that combines the lunge, bridge and side plank to build strength, the get-up is a slow and controlled movement, unlike the other exercises that have a power or ballistic element.
Keeping the arm holding the bell extended vertical, the athlete transitions from lying on the floor to standing, and back again down again.
Get-ups are sometimes combined to make get-up presses, with a press at each position of the get-up: floor press, leaning seated press, high bridge press, single-leg kneeling press, standing press.
- Kettlebell Halo: The kettlebell is held by the horns in front of the shoulders, usually upside-down, and moved in a circle around the head while keeping the head straight in place. This movement is done to improve mobility of the shoulders and triceps.
- Kettlebell Russian twist: While seated the trainee leans back to around 45 degrees and balances with the knees held at 90 degrees from the torso. The bell is held by the horns and moved from side to side of the torso.
For some exercises, multiple kettlebells can be held in the same hand, for trainees lacking sufficiently heavy kettlebells.
In any movement involving the rack or overhead position, the kettlebell can be:
- held with the ball in an open palm
- the bottom-up hold, squeezing the kettlebell by the handle upside-down
- Holding a single kettlebell in the rack position bottom-up with two hands (“by the horns”) makes for goblet exercise variants.
My view is that Kettlebells are an essential piece of kit for anyone, especially those who struggle for time to train. Using kettlebells regular can help keep your spine aligned for good posture and tone your full body to good health.
Always seek advice or better still ask for demonstrations for good form. if you don’t have these options I would train in front of a mirror if possible or record a part of your workout for good form. Due to their ballistic movements bad form could cause you major problems further down the line.
Enjoy your workouts!