Adding Kettlebells to your Workout Routine

 September 28, 2015

   Kettlebells have been used as a dynamic tool to develop strength and endurance for centuries.

   Kettlebells are a Russian invention, appearing some time in the 1700s. In Russian they're called girya. Originally, though, they weren't used for fitness but rather as weights to measure the weight of grains and crops. But the handy handle was probably too irresistible to not show off one's strength and Russian farmers were soon establishing strength contests at local festivals, much the same way we have sledge hammer contests at the county fair.

   In the late 1800s "physical culture" and sports were all the rage. A Russian doctor, Vladislav Kraevsky, traveled throughout Europe researching health, well-being and physical education. Back in Russia he introduced exercises with kettlebells and barbells to the Russian athletic community. The practice caught on. The Soviet army used them as part of their physical training and conditioning programs and the Russians and Europeans were using them for competition and sports by the1940s.

   The kettlebell looks like a cannonball with a handle... because, that's kind of what they were when originally used as measurement weights. Today, they're used in strength training. Essentially, you lift, accelerate, and then releases the weight, rather than slowly lowering it as in other forms of weight training. It combines cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training.

Modern Benefits of Using the Kettlebell

   1. It's a movement based exercise. Kettlebell training teaches your body how to contend with a constantly changing center of gravity. This helps to improve anyones sports performance and  creates a mental toughness.

   2. Since many kettlebell exercises take place with your arms in an overhead position the muscles responsible for assisting the breathing process are engaged in this muscular activity. This forces the muscles most responsible for breathing to play a larger role in cardio-vascular fitness.

   3. Kettlebell workouts are so efficient that the time involved for a good workout is usually less that a weight lifting routine.This shorter time commitment will allow you to devote your  attention to skill, rest and recovery. 

   4. Kettlebell training is both strength training and cardio training. It Increases strength without increase of mass. Kettlebell exercisers are lean and toned, not bulky—a benefit that appeals to both women and men.

   5. It improves mobility and range of motion and decreases musculoskeletal pain by increasing strength in your lower back.

What weight should I start with?

   Kettlebells traditionally are measured in kilograms rather than weight. A beginner female should start with an 8-kg bell, as the  4-kg is not heavy enough to provide a solid weight lifting effect for most women. Women with more weight lifting experience and fitness can start with a 12-kg bell.

   A beginner male will do best with a 12 or 16-kg bell, depending on current fitness level. If you're familiar with weight training and moving with weight, then 16-kg can be used. If you are new to strength training, a 12 kg will suit your needs better.

   One of my all time favorites is the Kettlebell Swing. It is one of the  foundational exercises that teaches the powerful hip snap.

   This move works your core (abs and back), glutes, hips, legs, and shoulders! That’s a whole lot of body toning for one move! Begin with your feet hip width apart and hold the kettlebell with both hands between your legs. Inhale and lower into a squat position. Exhale and powerfully press your weight into your heels while swinging the weight up to eye level. Repeat 15 times.

   Adding kettlebells to your routine has many benefits. It helps to mix up how you train your muscles forcing them to work in a different way as well as keeping boredom out of your exercise routines.