The Effectiveness of Kettlebell Workouts
There are many benefits of exercising with kettlebells that traditional equipment, like the barbell and dumbbell, can not offer. While both of those pieces of equipment aren’t going away (nor should they), they’re pretty much limited to basic exercises. Presses, curls, and rows are indeed great exercises that can be done with a kettlebell or a dumbbell. However, due to the very nature of a dumbbell, it’s impossible to activate as many muscles simultaneously like a kettlebell does when exercising.
By combining kettlebell exercises into flows, a smooth and seamless transition is made from one to the next. This keeps the muscles engaged as well as the heart rate elevated. You may have heard the term HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and wonder what all the fuss is about. Simply, it’s all about getting the most out of your body while exercising in a short period. Although HIIT isn’t exclusive to kettlebell exercising or training, the two have nonetheless been linked together. The fact that working out with kettlebells is one of the quickest ways to burn calories, build strength, and shape your physique is what makes them so appealing to people trying to achieve their fitness goals.
If you search online you’ll find several studies that prove the effectiveness of kettlebells. While these studies still hold true, they were performed years ago. The most popular study, is in fact, almost a decade old! In order to get some new perspective on the matter, we asked college students to submit an essay for a chance to earn a scholarship that details the benefits and advantages that kettlebells offer.
Below you’ll find the winning essay as well as several others that were submitted.
The Effectiveness of Kettlebells
Walk into any gym, and you’ll find yourself faced with a variety of exercise equipment; there are treadmills and ellipticals in the cardiovascular health section, squat racks and free weights for strength building, and TRX cables and battle ropes situated in the abdominal exercise studio. For new and old gym goers alike, it can be intimidating to decide what equipment to use; should one stick with the familiar exercises or change up the regular routine? What is the best exercise for weight loss, toning, or flexibility, and how does it compare to other exercises? In recent years, there has been a dramatic resurgence in the use of kettlebells. Popularized by the emergence of fitness classes and endorsed by celebrities and personal trainers, kettlebells are categorized as a must-have piece for anyone looking to train and work out. Kettlebell exercises are believed to provide many of the same, if not more, benefits as weightlifting and cardiorespiratory exercises. But how effective are kettlebell exercises as it relates to the more common gym goals?
One of the most common reasons people are picking up a kettlebell is to help build muscle strength. Many have credited kettlebell training programs for sculpting and defining their muscles. For example, Tracy Reifkind, a certified kettlebell instructor, has attributed her initial and subsequent muscle definition to kettlebell swings (Reifkind, 2018). Studies show that just a few variations in kettlebell usage simultaneously activates multiple muscles while placing different demands on each muscle (Maulit et al., 2017). For instance, one-arm and two-arm kettlebell swings mainly activate the erector spinae, a group of muscles necessary for proper posture and mobility. Additionally, one-arm snatches target the external obliques, and one-arm kettlebell cleans will leave your outer thighs “burning”. Kettlebell exercises are also effective in building muscle with those suffering from sarcopenia which is the decline of muscle tissue with age. Elderly women with sarcopenia who engaged in kettlebell training programs exhibited significant increases in skeletal muscle mass compared to those who did not engage in the training (Chen et al., 2018). Additionally, the kettlebell exercises significantly improved back strength and left and right handgrip strength, and those who did not engage in the training program had little to no improvement.
Kettlebells are also great alternatives for standard strength training involving barbells or high-impact explosive exercises. For instance, a six-week kettlebell swing training can produce similar results as a six-week squat training program (Lake and Lauder, 2012). The outcome of power production from kettlebell swings versus explosive deadlifts is also comparable (Maulit et al., 2017). Scott Iardella, a licensed physical therapist and current certified strength and conditioning specialist, also advocates for the use of kettlebell training for safe training with maximum results (Iardella, 2019). Scott started training with kettlebells after the birth of his daughter, which greatly limited his access to the gym. He purchased a single kettlebell and would work out in his garage. He soon discovered that kettlebell training program produced safe, comprehensive, effective, and time-efficient workouts. One kettlebell provided an effective total-body workout that helped him maintain and build strength and burn fat fast. He soon started buying various types of kettlebells to diversify his workouts to strengthen his muscles and for overall toning and sculpting.
Kettlebell exercises are effective in building muscle due to its ability to induce acute hormonal responses. At higher kettlebell loads, kettlebell swings are able to produce an acute increase in cortisol and testosterone levels. Cortisol level, usually associated with the fight or flight response, is usually the first hormone to exhibit an increase as it is associated with increases in stress levels. This increase in cortisol then results in an increase in testosterone, a hormone necessary for muscle growth. The positive feedback loop between cortisol and testosterone allows for the hormones to regulate metabolism and induce muscle growth, which are both necessary components to building strength. Kettlebell exercises are also associated with a decrease in C-reactive protein levels in people suffering from sarcopenia (Chen et al., 2018). The decline in C-reactive proteins is indicative of decreased inflammatory responses in the liver. This may decrease the risk of chronic liver disease which usually causes and results in muscle waste and depletion.
Kettlebell exercises not only build muscle but also improve posture, mobility, and flexibility. One of the key components of good posture is stability. Kettlebell exercises work the abdominal muscles that help counteract sudden disruptions or perturbations to posture, such as uneven weights or a push or pull (Jay et al., 2013). In this same study, participants in the group that performed the kettlebell exercises also noted significant reductions in shoulder, neck, and lower back pain compared to their inactive counterparts. Similarly, kettlebell exercises improve countermovement. Many kettlebell exercises also target the hip flexors and extensors, an antagonistic pair of muscles necessary for flexibility in the hips. Other common kettlebell exercises such as the WindMill can increase range in motion in the shoulders. Flexibility, defined as “the range of motion of a given joint or group of joints or the level of tissue extensibility that a muscle group possesses”, is also essential to better posture. The range of motion associated with kettlebell exercises allows for the simultaneous stretching and strengthening of any muscle junction.
Many people also look to kettlebell exercises and training programs to improve their cardiovascular health. One study explored and compared the effects of a kettlebell training program, which mainly incorporated kettlebell snatches, and a circuit weight training program on aerobic capacity. The control group performing the circuit weight training exhibited no increase in aerobic capacity. Meanwhile, the group performing the high-intensity kettlebell training program consisting of kettlebell snatches, one of the more dynamic and advanced kettlebell exercises, exhibited a significant increase in aerobic capacity (Falatic et al., 2015). Furthermore, the kettlebell snatch training protocol significantly increased maximal oxygen uptake in female intercollegiate soccer players, which is associated with improved on-field performance (Helgerud et al., 2007). Also, adjusting the intensity of a kettlebell training program was found to be sufficient in improving one’s aerobic capacity.
As stated above, kettlebell exercises are effective for building muscle and improving flexibility and cardiovascular health and endurance, so it should come as no surprise that incorporating kettlebell exercises into your routine will result in an effective weight loss program. To explore the effectiveness of kettlebell exercises, we can look at Tracy Reifkind’s story and her journey using kettlebell exercises to reach her goals (Reifkind, 2018). Standing at 5-foot-4 at 250 pounds, Tracy was motivated to lose weight. She didn’t want to just “become a skinny version of her fat self”; she wanted to sculpt and tone her body while losing fat. Kettlebell exercises, specifically kettlebell swings, looked to be a good option to achieve her goals, so she began incorporating kettlebell swings into her routine. She started performing 15- to 20-minute swing training sessions twice a week. Shortly after integrating kettlebell swings into her workout, she developed never-before-seen shoulder and arm definition. Once she mastered the exercise, Tracy increased her swing training to 35- to 40-minute sessions three times a week. Within 15 months, she had lost 120 pounds and lowered her body fat percentage to approximately 15 to 18 percent. She did all this without stepping foot into a gym!
It is evident that kettlebell exercises are effective in building muscle. It is also known that kettlebell exercises produce similar results to the more common strength and cardiovascular health and endurance exercises. So how did kettlebells become so popular when we already have existing exercises that produce similar results? The answer is that kettlebells provide variety. The intensity of kettlebell exercises can be modified depending on the load and range of motion. Heavier loads can be used for strength training and building muscle mass. Meanwhile, lighter loads can focus on increasing the range in motion to improve mobility and flexibility. Similarly, higher intensity kettlebell exercises can be an effective alternative to traditional cardiovascular exercises (Gormley et al., 2008). In addition, compared to the more traditional exercises, kettlebells are versatile. Running on a treadmill mainly improves cardiovascular strength while lifting heavy weights focuses on building muscle. With kettlebells, you can incorporate strength, cardiovascular, and flexibility components into one workout. Kettlebells are also easily accessible and can be used anywhere. One can simply go to a department store or a thrift store, purchase a kettlebell, and be well on his or her way to losing weight or sculpting muscles. With just a one-time investment, one can improve his or her body in a matter of months if he or she is consistent in the kettlebell workouts.
Kettlebell exercises work; it helps build muscle, improve flexibility and cardiovascular health, and stimulate weight loss. However, it is important to note that while the kettlebell is a versatile piece of equipment, one should not feel the need to limit oneself to using only one tool. The kettlebell is not the king of strength training or cardiovascular workouts, so it’s not recommended that you completely ditch the barbell or treadmill if your primary goals are strength or cardiovascular fitness. However, as a single piece of equipment that can be stored anywhere, kettlebells can be a complete training system that increases accessibility to train in any setting.
Chen, H., Wu, H., Chen, Y., Ho, S., & Chung, Y. (2018). Effects of 8-week kettlebell training on body composition, muscle strength, pulmonary function, and chronic low-grade inflammation in elderly women with sarcopenia. Experimental Gerontology, 112, 112-118. doi:10.1016/j.exger.2018.09.015
Falatic, A., Plato, A. Holder, C., Finch, D., . . . Craig, S. (2015). Effects of Kettlebell Training on Aerobic Capacity. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,29(7), 1943-1947.
Gormley, S.E., Swain, D.P., High, R., Spina, R.J., Dowling, E.A., Kotipalli, U.S., Gandrakota, R. (2008). Effects of intensity of aerobic training on VO2max. Med Sci Sports Exerc,40,1 336–1343.
Helgerud, J,. Høydal, K., Wang, E., Karlsen, T., Berg, P., Bjerkaas, M., Simonsen, T., Helgesen, C., Hjorth, N., Bach, R., Hoff, J. (2007). Aerobic high-intensity intervals improve VO2max more than moderate training. Med Sci Sports Exerc,39, 665–671.
Iardella, S. (2019, April 20). Why I started training with kettlebells (and maybe you should too). Retrieved May 4, 2019, from https://www.rdellatraining.com/
Jay, K., Jakobsen, M. D., Sundstrup, E., Skotte, J. H., Jørgensen, M. B., Andersen, C. H., . . . Andersen, L. L. (2013). Effects of Kettlebell Training on Postural Coordination and Jump Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,27(5), 1202-1209. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e318267a1aa
Lake, J.P. and Lauder M.A. (2012). Kettlebell swing training improves maximal and explosive strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,26(8), 2288-2233. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31825c2c9b
Maulit, M. R., Archer, D. C., Leyva, W. D., Munger, C. N., Wong, M. A., Brown, L. E., . . . Galpin, A. J. (2017). Effects of Kettlebell Swing vs. Explosive Deadlift Training on Strength and Power. International Journal of Kinesiology and Sports Science,5(1), 1. doi:10.7575//aiac.ijkss.v.5n.1p.1
Reifkind, T. (2018, July 27). Swing for the fences: kettlebell training - burn fat and build muscles! Retrieved May 2, 2019, from https://www.bodybuilding.com/
The History and Benefits of Kettlebells
There is a piece of prestigious equipment in the exercise community that is often underrated and unfavorable by many. A handle attaches this spherical flat-bottomed weight and is mainly made of steel or cast iron. This free weight is called a girya in Russian but is more commonly known as the kettlebell. Kettlebells weren’t always used as a way to build one’s muscle strength or mobility. Initially, the kettlebell was made to be used as a form of measurement. It served as a counterweight to help with measuring out dry goods at markets. The first appearance of the word kettlebell dates back to 1704 in Russia where market items were measured in poods, which is approximately 16kg or 36lbs. Today, in Russia and former Soviet countries, kettlebells are still measured in poods but are mainly measured in kilograms or pounds. The beginning of kettlebells becoming used for exercise first started as a form of entertainment. People would fling and throw around the kettlebells for fun which soon developing into a use for exercise.
This isn’t the first time that some kind of weighted object with a handle was being used as a form of weight training. It is seen throughout many cultures across the world. One being Scottish tribes who would use a weighted object with handles, resembling a kettlebell, in their Highland games. The Shaolin Monks of China would do kettlebell like exercises using stone padlocks. This form of exercise was called Shi-SuoGuong, which came thousands of years before the kettlebell. However, kettlebells are still more associated with Russia more than any other country. At one point, it was the national sport of the Soviet Union during the 1970s. The sport of kettlebell lifting, that is still popular in Russia, is called Girevoy. It is a sport that has powerlifting and weightlifting similarities, except it is all done with kettlebells. It consists of three main lifts. Those being the snatch, jerk, and long cycle. The contestants are judged based on time and weight, but unlike powerlifting and weightlifting, Girevoy is a cyclical sport with repetitive repetitions instead of one lift for maximum weight. For example, in Girevoy, the contestant may be given a 24kg kettlebell, and they have ten minutes to do as many kettlebell snatches they can do. Unlike, in weightlifting, the contestant has a minute to do a single lift at a weight they have selected. To be successful in Girevoy, the sport requires strength, technique, endurance, and flexibility, which can be successfully acquired through kettlebell exercises.
Training in Girevoy has its benefits for other sports. Girevoy improves training and competition endurance because of its repetitive anaerobic and aerobic exercise. Girevoy also improves flexibility due to constantly being in a sitting rack position and overhead position. However, you don’t have to participate in Girevoy to receive the benefits that kettlebells offer. Kettlebells on their own provide phenomenal results in nearly all aspects of exercise. Kettlebells help with building muscle strength, weight loss, grip strength, and mobility.
The first way kettlebells can be effective for muscle building is by recruiting multiple muscle groups. Kettlebell swings alone primarily work on glutes, hamstrings, quads, and lats. The secondary muscles that kettlebell swings work on are the abs, traps, and deltoids. While dumbbells primarily focus on arm strength and growth, kettlebells focus on the growth and strength on nearly every muscle. Another example of a muscle building kettlebell exercise is an overhead kettlebell deadlift. This exercise will engage nearly every muscle to thoroughly do the exercise. This exercise is done by holding one kettlebell above your head with a straight arm while the other hand is deadlifting a kettlebell from the ground. The deadlift part of the exercise will engage the glutes, quads, hamstring, and calves while the overhead part of the exercise will engage the abs, traps, shoulders, triceps, and biceps. Nearly a full body workout can be accomplished in just one exercise.
These kettlebell exercises demonstrate how a kettlebell can easily be more effective than other more common and typical exercises. Typical exercises like sit-ups and dead bugs only focus on abs and obliques, while kettlebell exercises will not only focus on abs and obliques but also leg muscles and arm muscles. Kettlebells can also be done in multiple planes. Exercises can be done forward, backward, lateral, and rotational, which would be difficult to do with a barbell. Kettlebells also provide unilateral workouts to help increase strength and mobility. Kettlebells are able to increase mobility because of their extensive range of motions. Some specific exercises that can increase mobility are goblet squats and Turkish get ups. These exercises will increase the mobility of the shoulders, hips, and ankles. Mobility in these areas are very important for lifts outside of kettlebells such as barbell snatches and jerks.
Kettlebells also increase an athlete’s lifting strength in the bench press and clean and jerks. A study done by LaPalestra Center for Preventative Medicine posed the question; Does kettlebell training improve the power and strength in powerlifting and weightlifting exercises along with muscular endurance? This test was done with thirty-seven physically active men and women. Twenty-three of them were assigned to be the experimental group, and the other fourteen were assigned as the control group. The average age was forty-five years old with the ages ranging from eighteen years old to seventy-two. These participants would perform a heavy bench press, clean and jerk, maximum vertical jump, and a forty-five-degree angle back extension until exhaustion. They would be tested on this at the beginning of the study and at the end, to see if any results were seen. The experimental group would be put on a ten-week kettlebell training program, while the control would be put on an eight-week kettlebell training program. The results at the end of the study showed improvement for the experimental group. The experimental group increased nearly 5kg in their clean and jerks while the control mainly stayed the same. Same goes for the bench press. The experimental group increased about 15kg on their bench press while the control only went up around 2kg. However, there was no significant increase in either group’s vertical jump, but the experimental groups back extensions increased over half of what they were originally. This study shows that kettlebells can help improve muscle strength and endurance and compliment other strength movements.
A lesser-known benefit of working with kettlebells is the effect on grip strength. Grip strength is often forgotten about when training and is not the main area of focus. However, grip training is an essential part of kettlebell lifting and is emphasized in every movement. Using kettlebells to improve grip strength offers a greater benefit compared to dumbbells. This is due to the diameter of the kettlebell’s handle. The handle of a dumbbell is typically only an inch in diameter, while the diameter of a kettlebell’s handle is around 33mm, about 1.42in. That .42 inches might seem insignificant, but it makes a huge difference. The thicker handle will require more grip strength and will cause more muscle recruitment to happen. Doing farmer’s carry exercises with kettlebells will improve an athlete’s grip strength more effectively than a dumbbell since its diameter is larger.
An unusual but unique way of increasing grip strength with kettlebells is through kettlebell juggling exercises. The main kettlebell juggling exercise is called the two-handed front juggle. Start by doing a normal kettlebell swing in an upward motion. When it gets about eye level, let go of the kettlebell. This will cause the bottom of the kettlebell to continue to rotate. Immediately after the kettlebell makes a full rotation, catch it by the handle. The action of having to regrip the kettlebell increases grip strength. An exercise like this can’t be done with any other type of typical weight, like dumbbells, because of the way it is shaped. The linear form of the dumbbell won’t allow it to make a full, smooth rotation in the air. The physics of how a kettlebell can make a full, smooth rotation is its unique shape. Unlike a dumbbell, the heavy weight of the kettlebell is below the handle, thus causing it to have a heavy bottom and light top. This allows the heavy weight of the bottom to rotate around the top of the light handle. Other kettlebell juggling exercises include the alternating front juggle, around the body juggle, and side body juggle. But the most commonly used is the two-hand front juggle.
Grip strength is an important thing to have outside of the gym because it is seen as a predictor to longevity. Stronger grip strength has the potential to protect people from old age disability. A decrease in muscle strength is the expected outcome of an aging body, which can lead to future physical disability. According to Carolina H. Y. Ling in her study called,” Handgrip strength at midlife and familial longevity” she states that” Handgrip strength is commonly used as an indicator of overall body strength and it has been shown to be inversely associated with survival.” So even if you aren’t a fitness enthusiast, having a firm grip strength is essential to the everyday person.
Lastly, kettlebells are one of the most straightforward exercises to learn. Kettlebells require little skill, so it is an easier way for someone inexperienced to exercise and lose weight. Kettlebells offer a wide range of intense workouts with explosive movements and endurance like exercises that can benefit those looking to lose weight. The strength training of kettlebells burn calories and can increase someone’s metabolic rate, which is an extreme benefit towards weight loss. But the prestigious spherical flat-bottomed weight that dates back thousands of years doesn’t deserve to be underrated or disregarded. The kettlebell deserves to be put into more exercises no matter the sport. Even the FBI Counter Assault Team and Secret Service are required to train with high repetition kettlebell movement. Whether it be weightlifting, powerlifting, or CrossFit, the kettlebell will, for sure be a benefit to the lifter. You don’t have to be a Girevoy athlete to receive the benefits of the kettlebell. Just slowly start to develop it into your program, and over time the results will begin to show because the kettlebell is more than just an ordinary free-weight.
Ling, C.H.Y., de Craen, A.J.M., Slagboom, P.E. et al. AGE (2012) 34: 1261. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11357-011-9295-4
Velazquez, E. (2018). BATTLE THE BELLS: Kettlebells are an ideal tool for building size and burning fat--especially when they’re used with these five workouts. Joe Weider’s Muscle & Fitness, (4), 88.
"Transference of Kettlebell Training to Strength, Power, and ... : The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research." LWW.
Benefits of Kettlebell Exercises
Kettlebell exercises have been a widely used form of working out in my career as a Marine. In fact, many Marines utilize kettlebells as they offer a wide variety of workout options and are portable compared to most any other tool used for exercise. It isn’t an uncommon sign to see a Marine on a training operation using a kettlebell to engage in a full body workout. This is what makes the kettlebell so versatile. The fact that it isn’t super bulky and weighs enough to carry without too much undue strain. We can do these exercises on a lunch break or at home while watching the kids. All you must have is about 30 minutes, the space to perform these workouts and the kettlebell itself. It is one of the most convenient methods of exercise. There are so many benefits besides just the ease of use that in the following we will discuss other huge positives on why kettlebells are the wave of the future.
There are also several proven facts regarding the advantages of Kettlebells versus tradition dumbbells. Very Well Fit states, “Kettlebells allow easier training across body planes. The ability to swing kettlebells provides training for muscle groups across planes other than the vertical (sagittal) and horizontal (transverse) planes.” This means that you can literally work several muscle groups at once that don’t necessarily restrict you as dumbbells would. For example, the shape of dumbbells restricts arm movement. If I do a curl which is based on vertical movement, I can’t easily shift that movement into a horizontal direction like I could with a kettlebell. Therefore, it is very much restricted to the plane you are concentrated in.
Kettlebells also provide a more conducive cardio workout since they require extra movement in standard exercises. This could be a preferable alternative to exercises such as running since it is lower impact on the joints or if you want to make your run harder you can always put it into a backpack and weight the jog down. If cardio isn’t you focus however, you can also use kettlebells to focus or more strength building exercises such as kettlebell lifts. The fact, that you can target strength or cardio related exercises makes it more versatile than traditional weight training practices. Allowing people who may not have the resources or time to go to a traditional gym. In fact, a statistic released by WebMD found that 1 minute of Kettlebells can burn roughly 20 calories, which can total 400 calories in 20 minutes. This is the same as running 6 miles. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that kettlebell swing training increased both maximum and explosive strength in athletes, while a study conducted by the American Council on Exercise found that kettlebell training (in general) can increase aerobic capacity, improve dynamic balance, and dramatically increase core strength.
Very Well Fit also claims that Kettlebells improve "functional strength." This typically means strength that is applicable in everyday life situations. Especially since most of the same motions used to lift kettlebells are like lifts you see in everyday life. Like if you worked in a warehouse and had to bend the knees to pick up heavy boxes or working overhead. Functional strength is developed by an appropriated all-round training program, which may include kettlebells. This could also work in conjunction with the fact that Kettlebells don’t target specific muscles but rather target the entire body. Stabilizers are worked at high paced speeds as well as done with more sets of repetition than that of typical exercise practices. This can allow people to do outside physical activities with relatively more ease. Things such as golf, basketball or even in the work environment that may require heavy lifting.
In fact, the kettlebell is so versatile and targets so many areas it could be a cheaper alternative to traditional gyms and personal trainers. Many places offer DVD’s on how to use kettlebells to achieve desired results. Kettlebells range anywhere from 5 pounds up to 100 pounds and cost anywhere from $10 to $100. This is a lot cheaper than a $50 gym fee and costs way less than the hourly cost of a personal trainer. Kettlebells target the core, arms, legs, glutes and back and can help build flexibility, strength, or aerobics. All this for $10 to $100, sounds like its time to make a financial choice. This is such an effective piece of equipment that even doctors have suggested its use in your work out routine. Dr. Melinda Ratini Says,” Using kettlebells can be a great way to pump up your workout. You will be burning more calories in a shorter period and depending on the program, you may be getting both your strength training and your aerobic workout at the same time. In an interview for Men’s Health, Jason Brown, C.S.C.S., owner of Kettlebell Athletics in Philadelphia stated, “If your goal is to burn fat, increase power endurance, and get strong, then kettlebells are a great tool.”
Biologically, kettlebell training has also been proven to help boost your metabolic rate via the hormonal release during the exercise regimen. Scientific research conducted and posted by the site Green Apple, found that metabolic weight training has become so predominant with kettlebell users since it boosts levels of fat-burning hormones beyond that of dumbbell training. These workouts consist of strength training exercises performed rapidly with little rest between sets and have short rest periods. This rest period is usually less than a minute and help keep the heart-rate up. Doing practice allows one to keep their metabolic rate up for hours after the workout is over. To caveat on the kettlebell workout concept, help the cardiovascular system as well. According to a study carried out at Truman State University, swinging a kettlebell vigorously for 12 minutes or more boosts heart rate and maximal oxygen consumption (V02 max) making it an effective cardiovascular workout.
Another strange fact about kettlebell workouts are that they are often referred to as the thinking mans workout. Many of the exercise require a lot of hand eye coordination that needs a substantial amount of mental coordination. Some experts even believe that this type of workout may stimulate thought processors that help improve motor skills. In congruence with this, it is believed that because each moment the lifter must be focused on the movement, the result is improved coordination and mental focus. Thusly, not only do kettlebells help us physically but also help us mentally.
Did you also know that kettlebells have some curative properties by doing workouts with them? Many elderly people utilize kettlebells to strengthen core muscles which help alleviate certain joint pain. Traditional lifting for the elderly isn’t an option since it is so high impact that kettlebells have paved the way for people of all ages to exercise and alleviate joint aliments. Those with lower back pains are typically affected by the overuse of lower back muscles. However, since kettlebells have a strong emphasis on glutes it is likely that the strengthening of these muscles will remove the strain from lower back movements. Even those who have a loss in mobility can find improve through core strengthening exercises. This is possible because core strengthening, and modified drill tones will strengthen as mobility is restored. So as the core gets stronger our range of motion is increased. Truly a benefit for anyone who struggles with basic movement. Shoulders can be repaired via Kettlebells since they target the three things a shoulder needs to rehabilitate; mobility, stability, and strength. All these curative properties are cured because kettlebell exercises reveal misalignments, compensations and weaknesses in the body and proceed to fix them. As the body returns to the aligned state, musculoskeletal pain is relieved.
So, as you can see kettlebells offer many advantages that range from convenience, to economical, biological and produce curative results. With all these facts and examples from experts, not only in the sports and fitness fields but also from doctors and medical advisors, why is it that we are hesitant to pick up a kettlebell and utilize them properly. There are so many benefits to be had that it is ludicrous not to listen to lead individuals in these fields of study. Why continue to pay hundreds of dollars while there’s a cheaper alternative that has so many positive metabolic and health benefits. Let’s stop running ten miles a day for moderate results when you get the same thing in about 20 minutes of hard and intense kettlebell lifts. We all deserve to get these results but now it doesn’t have to take all day and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Listen to the sales pitch, “Get a better range of motion and fix you musculoskeletal pain for less than a hundred dollars in your lifetime.” It’s a deal you will get nowhere else and the best part is you can do it at home or in your office.
The Effects of Kettlebell Exercises
The effects of using a kettlebell in exercise plays a crucial part not only for the average person looking for new exercises, but it is especially important for athletes. Most people do not initially start with kettlebells over dumbbells or barbells; however, I would argue this is a mistake because it can be one of the best tools for a beginner who wants to explore in the realm of weight lifting. Kettlebells have a wide range; their unique shape offers several distinct movements for more experienced athletes as well that other types cannot. Beginners love the use of the kettlebell for its simplicity in learning new movements, older people love it for its appeal towards easier, yet effective exercises and professional athletes love it for its ability to greatly increase one’s power. The kettlebell is a tool that caters to a wide range of people.
For the beginner, being able to achieve good form can be difficult. Some advice I would offer to a beginner would be to start with a kettlebell when learning squats. For both spectrums of beginners who are younger or on the other hand a bit older, using a kettlebell can be essential in learning the technique. With one, teaching someone to lift the weight in their legs versus their back I find is easier to apply to lifting a kettlebell versus having a barbell sitting on the front towards the shoulders or on someone’s back. The most common mistake I have seen when one in learning to squat is using too much back by bending forward too much. One can easily bend forward too much while learning through use of a barbell because it is difficult to hold the bar in its proper position, therefore they are likely to injure their back while doing so. But when using a kettlebell, the weight is in a position where is it much easier to hold therefore controlling the pressure in which the weight in being applied can be much simpler for beginners.
Another common mistake for beginners is when they are learning power cleans. The kettlebell swing and the power clean work on fairly similar movements, both helping to improve triple extension through the ankle, knee and hip. However, a common mistake in the power clean is that the beginner uses too much arm and they do not use their legs to push the weight up, instead they end up lifting the bar up with their arms, struggling to do so. With the kettlebell swing, it is easier to picture and perform the movement focusing on powering through the legs simply by making sure the person keeps their arms straight. So having a kettlebell helps to teach the same technique and movement but through an exercise that is much easier for a beginner to understand and perform well right off of the bat.
In a study conducted by LaPalestra Center for Preventative Medicine to test the effect of kettlebell training on a man’s strength, power and endurance a male of the average age of 40 was put through a ten-week kettlebell training program to see its effect on the barbell clean and jerk, vertical jump and 45-degree back extensions. There was a control group as well and when conducting the results, it came to be that the clean and jerk demonstrated a positive transfer of power and strength through the program. Through this study, it can be concluded that the use of a kettlebell is a crucial factor in training for power.
In addition to this, another study was also conducted to compare kettlebell swings and treadmill running for its rating of perceived exertion values. The metabolic demand of a kettlebell swing routine versus treadmill running was tested within thirteen subjects. In this study conducted by the Human Performance Laboratory at Truman State University, it was essentially gathered that the treadmill and kettlebell exercises matched in rating of perceived exertion. While it is true that subjects are more likely to have a higher oxygen consumption while on a treadmill it was still concluded by the American College of Sports Medicine that the kettlebell drill provides sufficient enough exercise stress to produce gain in aerobic capacity. This conclusion makes great strides for many people, especially those in the older category who aim to exercise just to keep their bodies healthy.
Most people do not find running enjoyable, and at the older ages the repeated pounding can be hard on one’s body, especially their joints. It is fulfilling to know that those who exercise just to stay fit have an alternate means of exercise through the use of a kettlebell that will still help to maintain one’s aerobic capacity, hence maintaining heart health. This can be a difficult task to do as one reaches old ages due to constraints in flexibility or mobility, so having a drill exercise using a kettlebell offers a great alternative for these older audiences.
As a Junior in a Division I track program, weight lifting is something that has been a part of my exercise regimen since my sophomore year in high school. From personal experience I can absolutely vouch that weight lifting in general is a crucial part in what it takes to become a successful athlete. With my weight trainer at Legerity Sports Performance, we focused mainly on Olympic lifting as well as squats. Like previously mentioned, these Olympic lifts are typically the first versions of lifting a strength coach would primarily assign because of their outstandingly apparent contribution to building power. It was not until I got into college that I had gotten introduced to exercises that require the use of a kettlebell. My trainer here had introduced us to kettlebell swings, farmer and suitcase carries as well as RDLs. The swings were something of a body movement I had not been familiar with performing prior to coming to college. When I came back home and informed my track coach about the new exercises I had learned, and he immediately turned to my strength coach to input these into his lifting program.
I see a first-hand benefit from implementing the kettlebell swing exercise in my hip extension coming out of my blocks. Block clearance was a portion of the race that I had previously struggled with and now I am able to more powerfully extend out of the blocks. This is definitely one of the factors I would attribute to my two school records in both the 60 meter and 100-meter hurdles as well as my half-second PR in the 100 meter this year. The movement performed through a kettlebell swing is something I cannot compare to any other lift I have done which is why I find it so crucial to the improvement and maintenance of my power. While the triple extension can be found in the power clean lift, it can often be harder for me to push my hips all the way through before the bar reaches the top, because of this I find that an exercise like the kettlebell swing is much more efficient in helping me improve my triple extension which is an extremely important movement for sprinters in track and field. Moreover, performing exercises like suitcase and farmer carry as well as the RDL, I find that the shape in which a kettlebell is made makes it much easier to grip and hold in the hand. While this may seem like a miniscule detail, it does set itself apart from the use of a dumbbell.
In conclusion, the kettlebell is one of best tools for its versatility. It can be used on such a broad spectrum of athletes because of its unique shape and range of weight. For the younger athletes, it helps with grip strength and learning new techniques. It’s appeal to this audience means that the usage of a kettlebell is available to all audiences. Additionally, when it comes to older audiences as well, the kettlebell offers one of the safest ways to maintain heart health. Heart health is one of the main aspects that contribute to leading a healthy lifestyle, and by offering a safe and easy way of doing so, the kettlebell encourages those who struggle with aerobic training because of their dislike for running or cycling to do so in an easier way. Last but not least, one can see the use of the kettlebell in gyms that train the highest ranked athletes. This is because of its ability to grant them with improving their power in a way that other tools cannot offer. The popularity of appearance of dumbbells and barbells can and will shift over to the appearance of kettlebells because of their contribution towards improving one’s power. Not only do I have first-hand experiences in seeing how my times in track and field have improved through the implementation of the kettlebell, but I encourage any athlete to use one. This is because in virtually any sport, the athlete must be powerful. Using a kettlebell is the best way to improve that hip extension.
Building Muscle and Improving Cardiovascular Health through Kettlebell Training
“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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