What are Kettlebells?
The kettlebell, also known as the girya, is a cast-iron weight used to condition and train for cardiovascular, flexibility and strength improvements for one’s body. Resembling a cannonball with a handle attached, it comes in various sizes and weights typically in increments of 26, 35, and 52 lbs. Originating in Russia, the popularity of the kettlebell came to worldwide prominence in the 1990’s, especially in the United States.
In fact, The Russian Special Forces owe much of their abilities due to extensive training with kettlebells. Many notable weightlifters and Olympians trained with kettlebells after realizing their advantages versus using barbells and dumbbells. Strength potential has been proven to increase dramatically when properly using kettlebells. The key to an effective kettlebell workout is the ability to work several muscles simultaneously while keeping repetitions high and breaks short.
If not for a former Russian military officer these routines and exercises would have been the best-kept secret in regards to training and conditioning within the Russian empire. Today, in the United States, offices such as the FBI Hostage Rescue Team and the Secret Service Counter Assault Team employ kettlebell instructions to train our elite personnel.
Why train with Kettlebells?
A 1983 study done by Voropayev, A Russian scientist, oversaw two different control groups in regards to the effectiveness of kettlebell training over the course of a few years. The first control group had its subjects use traditional means of armed forces exercises which included: pull-ups, a 100-meter sprint, a 1-kilometer run and standing broad jumps. The 2nd group used a variety of kettlebell exercises only for their training. The results were staggering. Not only did the 2nd group outperform the 1st with better scores with various endurance and strength tests but it was also shown that kettlebell training lowered participants heart rates and blood pressure.
Kettlebells allow you to get a full-body workout without having to go to the gym. The only piece of equipment you truly need to do kettlebell exercises are the weights themselves. The ability to burn calories at a high rate makes them the perfect tool for a great workout in a short amount of time. Combine this with a sensible diet and you’ll be losing weight in no time.
Kettlebell Exercises Burn a Ridiculous Amount of Calories!
One of the most trusted exercise and fitness organizations in the world, the American Council on Exercise (ACE), performed their own study with some eye-popping results. Participants in this study burned around 20 calories per minute on average during a normal kettlebell workout. If you do the math, that is approximately 400 calories burned in a 20-minute session.
The key is in your movements during kettlebell exercises. Many muscles are getting used as you move in, out, up, down and side to side. Traditional weight lifting exercises can’t even come close to replicating that. When using kettlebells it is a much more natural process that your body is used to from everyday activities. Of course, just in a much more intense fashion.
Below is a chart of common exercises stacked up against a normal kettlebell training routine. The chart is based on a body weight of 250 lbs. during a 20-minute session. Information was gathered from calorie burn calculators provided by SparkPeople. They’re a leading resource for calorie counting and weight loss information.
Based on a body weight of 250 lbs.
What Size Weight Should I Use for Kettlebell Exercises?
Probably one of the most common questions people have when first learning about kettlebells is what size weight they should use. If you’re serious about losing weight you’ll want to purchase a kettlebell set. You can buy a variety of different combination weight sizes. Keep in mind, that if you’re just starting out, you should start on the lighter side.
For women, a good starter set should include weights between 5 and 15 lbs. In order to get your body acclimated to kettlebell exercises, you should stick with the lightest weight in the beginning. I recommend 20-minute sessions, 3 days a week. It won’t be easy at first, but as time goes by you should be able to increase that to 5 days a week. It should remain challenging. If you find yourself not exerting as much energy, it’s time to move to the next weight size.
For men, a set between 10 and 25 lbs is ideal. Remember, you’re not trying to prove anything to anyone but yourself. Don’t feel obligated to start with a weight on the heavier side. You’ll either get discouraged or may even hurt yourself. Everyone’s body type is different and there is no shame in starting off with a 10 lb. kettlebell.
The Benefits of Kettlebells vs. Other Weights
You’ve already read about how effective kettlebells are when it comes to burning calories. Now it’s time to talk about why they krush the competition in other areas. The list below details just some of the advantages that kettlebells have over traditional gym equipment.
1. Kettlebells are a Space-Saver
Let’s face it. When it comes to taking up space, nothing beats kettlebells. Treadmills, weight-lifting benches, and ellipticals all require large amounts of space. Maybe you have a garage, basement, or spare bedroom you can dedicate to working out. Why not use that space for something else?
You might be wondering, but I need all this equipment to get different types of workouts. Well, you’re wrong! With kettlebells, you can get all sorts of different workouts.
Kettlebells workouts include:
- Full Body
2. Kettlebells are Portable
Since kettlebells don’t take up a lot of space, they can easily be lugged around. There are even bags and other accessories you can use to help transport kettlebells. Going away for the week? Put them in the trunk of your car. If you’re working out with just one kettlebell that makes it even simpler.
We all want to look and feel great. Being motivated to workout can take some energy in itself. A real motivation killer is life itself. Going on a business trip or an extended vacation can put a real dent in your workout routine. When all of your equipment is at home, you depend on having access to it. Not so with kettlebells. You might get a chuckle or two from your hosts for being so strict. However, I’m sure they are secretly admiring your dedication.
3. Kettlebells are Better For Increasing Grip Strength
Since the handle of a kettlebell is typically thicker than a dumbbell bar, your ability to grip things because better. What is grip strength? Simply put, it is the ability apply force with your hand by pulling or suspending an object.
Aside from the thickness of a kettlebell handle, the range of motion performed while doing kettlebell exercises requires great handling. Kettlebell snatches are an example of one exercise that involves the weight moving from one side of your wrist to the other. This is another reason why it is best to start off with a light weight. You don’t want kettlebells flying out of your hand!
4. Kettlebells Have an Off-Center Balance
Unlike dumbbells, when you grip a kettlebell its’ center of gravity is approximately 6-8 inches away from your hand. Your body will need to work harder to compensate for this adjustment. Much like when picking up a box and holding it in front of you, kettlebells simulate real-life activities.
The off-center balance of a kettlebell forces your muscles to adjust to the constant shifting of the weight. During a typical kettlebell exercise, you might start with holding the weight between your legs. As you swing it upwards, that weight will shift, especially if it is flipped to the backside of your wrist.
I hope that this guide has been an eye-opener for you. Losing weight and sticking to a workout regimen is a difficult challenge. I truly believe that kettlebells can give you the best results in a short amount of time. Like any workout program, you do have to remain consistent. If you are serious about losing weight, see if a friend or a loved one would be interested in participating with you. Having a support system is a great ally for staying on track and reaching your goal.
Once you’ve purchased your kettlebell set, take a look at the kettlebell exercises we have listed. They’re great for any weight size and will help get you in shape!
Useful Kettlebell Guides
We’ve written some kettlebell equipment and accessory guides that may help you decide on how to begin your kettlebell training. We’ll be constantly adding reviews and new guides to the website, so be sure to check back often!