A kettlebell is a cast iron ball with a handle attached to the top of it (picture a cannonball with a handle on the top). This design makes kettlebells different from training with dumbbells because the weight of a kettlebell is not distributed evenly, thus creating the need to counter balance and stabilize during your workout (Aha … core strength!). Let’s face it, most exercise is boring. Kettlebell training is quick and enjoyable, which is one of the reasons you’ll stick with it. And, you’re only doing it twice a week—so you don’t have a chance to get bored.
Try not to confuse kettlebells with conventional weight training or bodybuilding. Kettlebell training focuses on (a) movements, not muscles, (b) whole-body, functional training, (c) strength as a function of mobility, and (d) cardio and strength combined.
The top 9 reasons to use Kettlebells as part of our training programs are as follows:
- Combines “cardio” and “strength” training. The ballistic, but non impact nature of KB work is the key. Instead, KB exercises actually strengthen your joints.
- Strengthens every muscle from head-to-toe – Kettlebell training consists of whole-body movement exercises. It’s well-known that compound, whole body movements typical of kettlebell exercises are superior to machines that isolate muscles for improving muscle tone, body composition, and strength. Further, kettlebells strengthen the tendons and ligaments, making the joints tougher and less-susceptible to injury.
- Develop Functional strength – Even if you are not an athlete, KB training uses fundamental movement patterns making everyday activities easier and injury less likely. You will stand taller, carry packages easier, climb stairs with less effort and have more energy. Kettlebell training offers the most functional training possible, because the parts of the body must work as a unit.
- Builds mobility – Stretching practitioners often develop high levels of muscular flexibility, but without developing joint stability or muscular strength. That is a prescription for injury! KB training provides all three: mobility, stability, and strength. A big part of this is the design of a KB with it’s off-centered weight.
- More coordination – Since the brain knows movements and not “muscles” you become more coordinated with KB use. KB exercises train your body to work as a unit. This is also why athletes look different than bodybuilders.
- Develop incredible power – Perform the Olympic explosive lifts like the clean, jerk or snatch if you know how. But you can get almost the same benefits using KBs — with greater safety and simplicity.
- Gentle rehabilitation – Those who are older and wiser benefit by healing their pain, gaining strength and energy and functionality of their body that they once lost.
- The glutes and all the hip muscles are strongly emphasized in KB training. Not only do they get much stronger, they wake up and start participating in your movement. Mechanically, if you’re not firing your glutes when you lift or extend your hip, you are compensating by overusing your lower back muscles. The low back muscles were NOT intended to do the job of your glutes, one of the largest muscles in your body. In other words, your body learns a more correct, much more powerful movement pattern that helps everything you do — and your low back stops complaining (pain).
- Kettlebells are famous for curing bad shoulders, rehabilitating the three things a shoulder needs: mobility, stability, and strength.
- Develop dynamic resilience – The acceleration/deceleration of moving the KB strengthens the connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, cartilage) and increases mobility, strength and flexibility reducing the possibility of injury. You want tendon and ligament strength along with your muscular strength. The dynamic movements of KB training build more resiliency with less impact than even less dynamic activities like jogging.
- Builds strength/endurance – Often times it is not how strong you are when you are fresh but how strong you remain once you become winded and have expended a lot of energy that determines the outcome. In a martial arts or fighting context, “enduring strength” is a very important skill. Maximal strength is very important as well, but the well rounded fighter must be prepared to deliver multiple strikes in combinations. This requires tremendous strength/endurance. Kettlebell high repetition snatches, for example, develops a strong work capacity and anaerobic threshold.
“Functional training is about getting stronger at compound movements that you can use in real life. This leads to making you more efficient and prevents injuries. Implementing a Kettlebell practice as a functional training tool towards greater strength opens a world of opportunity for Muay Thai fighters.” – Damali Fraiser, StrongFirst Certified Instructor