What The Hell Are Kettlebells? And What’s With All That Swinging?

Kettlebells have been around for a really long time and are nothing new to fitness, but in the last 5-10 years kettlebells have become much more prevalent in the big box/corporate gyms that many of us go to.  Unless you are the gym, Planet Fitness…. Then you have only treadmills, a smith machine and a small smattering of dumbbells. I kid! Not really though.  Just make sure not to make any noise or put any effort in there or you might be asked to leave. Ok!  Mini rant over.  Ha!

What The Hell Are Kettlebells? And What’s With All That Swinging?

Kettlebells originated out of Eastern Europe many moons ago. As folklore would have it Kettlebells were used as counterweights in Russian markets, then after hours when the market closed, farmers would use the Kettlebells to swing and toss around both for fun and for physical exercise.  

As with most resistance training techniques the Russians/Eastern Europe where the first to start incorporating kettlebells for exercise.  In the 1980s Russia, Kettlebells started to be used to raise the popularity of physical culture.  In 1981, the USSR Weightlifting Federation established a Kettlebell commission in order to keep the masses fit and help decrease healthcare costs. Kettlebells were an easy way to get weights in people’s hands and get them moving without having to have an entire collection or different weights and machines.

The USSR had a unique position in history. 

-          They had complete control over what to use/promote for health and fitness

-          They had the most advanced sports and human performance scientists at the time

-          A need to minimize upfront costs & a desire to reduce long term health expenses

-          Desire to maximize the longevity and work capacity of its population

Their choice of tool to achieve these goals was the Kettlebell.  Today, we live in a society that’s sole motive is to sell and market without a need or concern if what they are selling is actually achieving the results that are desired.

 Kettlebells are about efficiency. Efficiency of movement, cost , space needed and they are multipurpose. Perfect for a home gym setup as all you need is 1-2 appropriately challenging Kettlebells, a little bit of space and you have a home gym!

Another aspect that makes Kettlebells unique from other weights is that the weight is not perfectly centered in the hand. The weight and center of gravity is away from the hand on a handle and better mimics objects that one would actually come into contact with in the real world. ie.  A backpack. You have a strap with off centered weight from the handle or strap.  The take away here is that Kettlebells will better mimic the type of objects we will actually encounter in the real world.

The benefits of Kettlebells include:

-          Strength

-          Endurance

-          Caloric expenditure

-          Functianal movement patterns

-          Improvement in timing and space awareness

-          Better balance

-          Improved coordination

-          Focus

-          Injury prevention

Injury prevention is one of the big benefits of Kettlebells. Most often injuries incur during deceleration of weight . For example jumping.  Landing and absorbing the force of the jump is where most people injure themselves. Not the initial leap.  Kettlebells help teach your body to better manipulate weight that is not perfectly centered in your hand and to better absorb force through rapid, smooth deceleration by spreading forces through the body.  Kettlebells help promote trunk stability and encourage hip dominant movement.

In summary, Kettlebells are great for training the body to manipulate weight more efficiently, learning to absorb force through the body, are low cost and easy to have and use for home (or in the gym) to achieve great results in less time.

 “Physical fitness is the ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness without undue fatigue and ample energy to enjoy leisure time pursuits and meet unforeseen emergencies”. -  According to The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport

So the next time you are thinking about what to add to your home gym arsenal without spending a fortune or you want to add a new challenge to your body and shake up how you go about your workouts give Kettlebells a try!