First, let's start with what a kettlebell actually is:
A kettlebell is a cannonball with a handle. Plain and simple. The kettlebell has been around since the 1700's and some recent findings show that the Romans trained with what could possibly be considered the first primitive form of a kettlebell. So this is a tool that has been around a long, long time. Kettlebells range in size and weight, promising a challenge in every workout.
As the 1986 Soviet Weightlifting Yearbook put it, “It is hard to find a sport that has deeper roots in the history of our people than kettlebell lifting.”
So you're asking yourself, 'Are kettlebells dangerous? Am I too young or too old?' Only 8.8% of top Russian lifters, members of the Russian National Team and regional teams, reported injuries in training or competition (Voropayev, 1997). A remarkably low number!
These were not normal gym goers; not the Ken and Barbie type who only care about the aesthetics, but elite athletes who push their bodies to the edge. That does not give you an excuse to lift kettlebells haphazardly. Any type of strength training can be dangerous if you use bad judgment.
As for age; at the 1995 Russian Championship the youngest contestant was 16, the oldest 53! We are talking elite competition; the range is wider when you are training for yourself and not the gold!
Kettlebells are great for:
- Increased strength and power output.
This is probably the best reason to train with kettlebells. Traditional kettlebell lifts cannot be done slowly and require a lot of power in order to perform them optimally. This delivers a special quality called power-endurance, or conditioning. This is not your average cardio. There is a difference between fast and slow twitch muscle activation and this is where the differences really show!
- Improving the cardiovascular system.
This goes in line with power output above. Using the kettlebell properly forces the muscles responsible for breathing to play an even larger role the execution of the lift. In the explosive movements of the kettlebell, the muscles responsible for assisting the breathing pattern are also engaged during the muscle activity, NOT in the respiratory process. This process plays a significant role in the bigger power-endurance picture.
- Increased flexibility and mobility.
Flexibility and mobility are not the same thing. Flexibility is how far you can drive your car; Mobility is the route you take. Some routes are better than others and some routes enable you to drive farther. It is all about efficiency in movement. The kettlebell helps improve the route and the distance your body can travel.
- Improvement of the mind-body connection.
The mind-body connection is what enables someone to know how to touch their toes, sit in a chair, perform athletic movements, etc. As we age, these connections will often become diluted or turned off completely. The kettlebell helps reawaken those connections for improved quality movement.
- Muscle development.
Please don't confuse this with muscle hypertrophy. The more you move, the more you lift. The more you lift , the stronger you become. Size does not equate strength. However, if muscle development is your goal, you can easily see how kettlebells help to accomplish that.
- Increased athleticism.
Improving the mind-body connection; improving mobility and flexibility; improved endurance; all of which carries over to athletic ability. You can be a golfer, swimmer, baseball player - it doesn't matter! The carry over from kettlebell use is universal.
- Overall improved quality of life.
The list of benefits is long. We measure our quality of life by how well we move. We have to be strong to move. Moving better and getting stronger is what we are all about. And that translates into a longer, more fruitful life.
Kettlebells have been shown to burn fat and calories faster and more efficiently than traditional weight training and cardio. Training with a kettlebell bridges the gap between strength training AND cardio. The internet is flooded with research showing 15 minute kettlebell workouts burning, on average, 250 calories or more.
Anyone can benefit from training with kettlebells, from Olympic lifters and professional athletes, to working professionals and stay at home moms, the fitness enthusiast and people just looking to get in healthy shape.
“Not a single sport develops our muscular strength and bodies as well as kettlebell athletics.”
- Ludvig Chaplinskiy in Russian magazine, Hercules in 1913.
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