Kettlebells have been used as a tool to develop muscular strength and endurance for centuries, dating back to ancient Greece. In the 18th century, kettlebells were introduced to Russia. While their original use was used as a weight to measure foods, people at festivals began swinging and lifting them in displays of strength. It wasn’t long before the health benefits were realized, and the rest, as they say, is history.
In the present day, it’s not uncommon to find kettlebells at just about any gym across the country, from strength and conditioning facilities to Crossfit boxes to franchise fitness centres. While many gym-goers use kettlebells interchangeably with dumbbells, for such exercises as curls and raises, the key to getting the most out of kettlebells is to play on its differences.
What do kettlebells do best?
Kettlebells provide a great way to burn fat, increase endurance, and get strong, making them a versatile tool. Traditional exercises with barbells or dumbbells generally utilize lower reps, higher weight, and a slower rate of movement. On the other hand, Kettlebells are designed to allow for higher and faster reps for a more extended period.
In addition, given the dynamic nature of exercises such as kettlebell swings, cleans, and jerks, the tool requires greater coordination and control than even doing those same exercises with a barbell or dumbbell. In addition, the need to absorb the weight of the kettlebell during dynamic movements and then change momentum in the opposite direction requires large amounts of energy and muscle activation. Engaged muscles are not just larger ones used to perform significant movements but also small stabilizers called into play.
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Kettlebells require more muscle stabilization
Adding to the need for stabilizing muscle activation is that kettlebells are asymmetrical. The centre of mass is outside the hand during the performance of the exercises. As opposed to dumbbells, which are held in their centre, allowing them to stay balanced, kettlebells have off-centre handles that challenge not only shoulder stability but core musculature as well.
Also lending itself to the effectiveness of kettlebells is the ability to flow from one exercise to the next without taking rest time to transition. Many popular kettlebell exercises can be performed in this fashion and allow for a highly demanding workout that not only helps increase strength and burn fat but taxes the cardiovascular system at the same time. Whereas a traditional dumbbell workout may consist of a set of ten reps of one exercise followed by a rest and another ten reps of another exercise, a kettlebell workout could call for ten reps of a handful of exercises that can all be done back-to-back. This allows the user to keep his heart rate elevated for a longer period and tax many muscle groups in a short amount of time.
Compound kettlebell exercises work many muscles at once
On a similar note, many traditional kettlebell exercises such as the swing and clean are compound movements that work dozens of muscles simultaneously, providing a maximally efficient workout. While there is a time and a place for isolation exercises, as well, kettlebells can provide a challenging total body workout in a short amount of time, which is ideal for many people.
Lastly, proper ‘rack position’ for a kettlebell calls for it to rest against the forearm, which helps keep the shoulder in a neutral position. Not only is this more comfortable, but maintaining correct alignment allows a person to train harder without risking a shoulder injury.
It should be clear that kettlebells provide an extremely efficient workout. Still, it should also be mentioned that many of the moves are pretty technical and proper form is of the utmost importance. A kettlebell workout should not be performed without appropriate training beforehand. Read more about home gym equipment here.