A kettlebell is a cast-iron weight that resembles a cannonball with a handle. The unique way the weight is distributed allows for momentum and many total-body dynamic exercises. Total-body dynamic exercises have been shown to burn the most calories during and after a workout session.
Kettlebells are nothing new. In the 1700s, kettlebells were used as counterweights for Russian farm equipment. As Russian farmworkers began working with them, they realized the possible as a fitness tool. The kettlebells popularity spread throughout Russia and, by the 1940s, lifting them would become the country's national sport. Russian power lifters were not the only ones using them. It wasn't long before the Olympic team, military and Special Forces began training with kettlebells. In recent years, various athletes and public personalities have helped spread their popularity along with several different certification bodies including the Russian Kettlebell Challenge and the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation. Although Kettlebell training has stood the test of time, there is limited research to back up the claims of increases in strength, flexibility, cardiorespiratory endurance and decreasing body fat.
In order to better understand the metabolic demand of kettlebell training, researchers at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse Health and Exercise Department, tested the kettlebell snatch. The Kettlebell snatch is a total body move that swings the kettlebell overhead. The subjects, men and women between the ages of 29 and 46 years old, continuously performed kettlebell snatches during a 20-minute period. The study funded by the American Council on Exercise found that, "In terms of calorie burning, these results are equivalent to running a six-minute mile pace, or cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace." The authors went on to state that, "Overall, kettlebells use can produce remarkable results, which is what virtually all fitness enthusiasts look to get from their workouts. Kettlebells not only offer resistance-training benefits, they also will ultimately help people burn calories, lose weight, and enhance their functional performance capabilities."
The reason I like to use kettlebells isn't so much as to the supposed effectiveness, but more for the ease of use. Because of the handle, the weight is much easier for most of my clients to hold. Also, for trainees not accustom to lifting weights, kettlebells can be less intimidating and allow people to work harder than they might otherwise. Recommended starting weights for recreational weight lifters beginning kettlebell training are 18 pounds for women and 35 pounds for men.
If you are not familiar with the kettlebell exercises, seek someone who is and learn the proper form to avoid injury. The kettlebell has made a resurgence in recent years and for good reason, it works. If you want to mix things up, or have never exercised before, kettlebell training may be a viable training option.
- Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS is a personal fitness coach at Sierra Athletic Club and in the homes of clients in the greater Lake Tahoe area. He graduated with a bachelor of science in exercise physiology and a minor in nutrition and earned the most prestigious certification in the industry, the NSCA certified strength and conditioning specialist. For more information visit www.KCstrength.com.