“Fifteen years ago, very few people outside Eastern Europe had ever heard of kettlebells. Today these weights are in almost every gym in India, and kettlebell workouts is the sixth most googled exercise term on the planet” (Joshi, 2014). This once written by Dr. Anant Joshi, a doctor and sport sciences and medicine expert for Men’s Health Magazine (India) highlights how international kettlebell exercises have become. One can only imagine that kettlebell exercises have become so globally practiced because they have significant benefits to one’s health.
The purpose of this essay is to investigate this hypothesis by evaluating the following research prompt: “Detail how kettlebell exercises compare to more common and typical exercises.” An examination will include the effectiveness a kettlebell workout has on building muscle strength and improving cardiovascular health to loss weight. This essay proceeds by explaining the origins of the kettlebell, followed by evaluating case studies that discuss how kettlebell training compares to traditional exercises for muscle-building and for cardiovascular health, and finally proceeded by discussing the time efficient advantage of kettlebell exercises.
Before this research objective can adequately be investigated, it should be noted that physical activity will be defined as “an obtainable set of attributes which regulates the ability to conduct physical actions” (American College of Sports Medicine, 2006). Recognizing that these attributes include strength, body composition, flexibility, endurance and many more factors, the scope of this essay will only focus on muscular strength and cardiovascular health.
Although some studies differ about whether kettlebell exercises are comparable or superior than more common exercises for building muscles and improving cardiovascular health, kettlebell exercises clear advantage is that it is a fully body work out which makes it more time efficient.
Hailing from Russia, kettlebell is described as “an iron cannonball with a broad handle attached to it were formally” (Falatic, 2011, pg. 1). The kettlebell can be traced back as far as the eighteenth century when it was originally used as a counterweight commonly in produce markets (Fable, 2010). It later began to be used by Russian military personnel, and athletes for exercise training.
In 1999, kettlebell training was imported to the United States by Pavel Tsatsouline, a fitness instructor, who first taught these exercises to Marines and Army Special Forces, and then to the American public shortly after (Tsatouline, 2006). Kettlebell training has now gained popularity as “a well-rounded, functional resistance training program, with the added advantage of developing power [and] cardiorespiratory fitness” (Moreno, 2011, pg. 9).
This essay will begin by discussing the impact that kettlebell training has on developing power. Power production is debatably the most important factor for an athlete’s sport performance. Power production is possible through muscle building and enables athletes to perform explosive movements, such as jumping, throwing, and sprinting, which are important in all sports (Maulit, 2017).
Traditionally, powerlifting and weightlifting have been used to build muscle. One of the first researchers to scientifically support the benefits of kettlebell training, Jay and colleagues (2011) conducted randomized controlled studies to investigate the relationship between kettlebell training, and musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health. They found that kettlebell swings greatly improve musculoskeletal pain. While a study done by Matthew Maulit (2017) found that kettlebell training emulates a hip-hinge pattern comparable to these traditional exercises resulting in similar benefits, the American Council on Exercise (2010) found that “kettlebells provide a much higherintensity workout than standard weight-training routines and offer superior results in a short amount of time.”
Although it is clear that kettlebell training improves muscular fitness, its benefits relative to traditional muscle building exercises remain debatable. Due to the conflicting results of the studies, it can be difficult to conclude whether the muscle-building benefits of the kettlebell swing are superior to other traditional exercises. However, there is an added benefit of kettlebell swing that makes it more favourable for muscle-building than traditional exercises.
Researcher Maulit (2017) explains that the “the fast transition between muscle activation and relaxation during the exercise promotes increases in power during hip extension” and that “spinal loading is minimal” (pg. 14). Due to the fact that there is less stress on the spine, the kettlebell swing is arguably preferable than powerlifting and weightlifting. Although powerlifting and weightlifting develop power and strengthen muscles, their stress on the spine can affect bone health.
Clearly, if kettlebell training offers similar muscle-building benefits while minimizing negative impact to the spine, it would be preferable to the traditional muscle-building exercise. Although the degree of the benefit of kettlebell training compared to traditional muscle-building exercises is unclear, kettlebell training is touted as the most time efficient exercise to improve cardiovascular health.
Oxygen consumption is an important factor of evaluating aerobic performance (Helgeruld, 2007). Researcher Gormley and colleagues explain that the higher exercise intensity improves one’s maximum oxygen consumption more than lower exercise intensity, and thus the increased cardiovascular benefits. Due to its simplicity and convenience, the most prescribed and employed aerobic fitness exercise for Americans citizens is walking (Gourley, 2017). However, due to the fact that it is a lower exercise intensity that does not maximize oxygen consumption, its cardiovascular benefits are minimal.
Not only did Farrar and colleagues (2010) find that performing twelve minutes of continuous kettlebell swings was a metabolic challenge of sufficient intensity to increase the maximum oxygen consumption resulting in cardiovascular benefits, but that this metabolic challenge increased oxygen consumption more than traditional circuit weight training. This captures one of the advantages of kettlebell training. It provides a full body workout with multiple fitness benefits, such as building muscles and improving cardiovascular health, at the same time.
One common excuse that individuals give for their lack of exercise is not having enough time. As people’s schedules get busier, it is unsurprising that people are looking to high-intensity workouts that allow them to reduce the amount of time they dedicate to exercising. Kettlebells and circuit training are exercises that known for being an efficient use of time to improve cardiovascular fitness (Schreiber, 2014).
Researcher Brett Schreiber (2014) explains that what characterizes a circuit workout is its shortened breaks between sets and exercises. The rest period is used to immediately move from one exercise to the next. This reduced rest period has caused the heart rate to stay at an elevated level, which has some cardiovascular benefits (Schreiber, 2014).
Despite this advantage, if one had to pick between kettlebells and circuit training, one should pick the former based on Schreiber’s research. According Schreiber (2014), the kettlebell swing workout was slightly more advantageous than the high-resistance circuit work out. This is because although there was no significant difference between kettlebell and circuit training before and during exercise, “it was observed that heart rate was sustained at a high level that could over time, increase cardiovascular capacity” (Schreiber, 2014, pg. 17). Thus, those who are looking to improve their overall cardiovascular health may consider kettlebell training over the traditional circuit training.
Based on the discussion above, it would seem that kettlebell workouts are efficient and time effective, which speaks to the perceived barrier of time constraints that discourages people from participating in physical activity. As Steve Cotter emphasized “time is money-it’s a really valuable commodity and we have to make decisions on how we spend our time on a daily basis.
One of the real benefits of kettlebells is that they combine the benefits of strength training with aerobic cardiovascular training at the same time” (Tuthill, 2014). All in all, although some studies differ about whether kettlebell exercises are comparable or superior than more common exercises for building muscles and improving cardiovascular health, the clear advantage of kettlebell exercises is its time efficiency.
This essay proceeds by explaining the origins of the kettlebell, followed by evaluating case studies that discuss how kettlebell training compares to traditional exercises for muscle-building and for cardiovascular health, and finally proceeded by discussing the time efficient advantage of kettlebell exercises.Considering the superior health and time advantages to kettlebell training compared to traditional exercises, Dr. Joshi’s observation becomes less surprising.
Kettlebell exercises have gained popularity all around the world because of the comparable or arguably superior benefits that it has on muscle building and cardiovascular health. Although these benefits differ depending on the study, the added benefits of minimizing stress on the spine during muscle building, time efficiency, and an instant full body work out, make kettlebell training the obvious choice over traditional exercises, such as powerlifting and circuit training.
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