I know, it’s a bold statement, the GREATEST training tool on Earth. However, I do not jest! Diversity is uber important but that doesn’t mean there is not a place for consistency and focus, for taking the time to truly master something and to pursue advancement of your skills.
Kettlebells are literally just that awesome. Why? What would make me proclaim such a bold statement? In a word: versatility.
The pillars of your health are strength, cardio, stability, and mobility (I consider flexibility to be a primary component of mobility because in order to be mobile you must be adequately flexible). In order to adequately train each of these pillars has traditionally been considered a full-time job and I think this is what has caused people to shy away from fitness. It can be daunting to start exercising when you think you have to dedicate 2 hours a day in order to fit everything in!
The truth is that this is not necessary!
Enter the versatile kettlebell.
In a single training session, nay, in a single exercise flow, you can effectively target EVERY pillar of your health. You can build strength, increase cardiovascular ability, create stability, and improve your mobility. Additionally, kettlebells are cheap, take up almost no space, don’t require much space to use, and with the diversity of exercises possible they will last a lifetime.
Now exercise purists are going to say that this is not possible, that we must train each individual aspect of our health separately in order to maximize how well we can develop. If you are an Olympic or professional athlete I might agree. You are not. So there is no need to train that way.
The goal is to be strong, healthy, and fit to accomplish life. And that is truly where the kettlebell excels.
This is pretty simple actually. Make your body move heavy things and it will get stronger. Seriously, it is actually that simple.
The kettlebell very easily accomplishes this objective. They are heavy and can be made very very heavy! You move it around. Mission accomplished: you will build strength.
Oft forgotten is the versatility and variety of kettlebell movements. Dumbells and barbells stay in a very fixed position throughout movements and if you are training on exercises machines movements are completely fixed. With kettlebells you can perform these fixed position movements but you can also let things get really awesome and let the kettlebell do what it was meant to do: move!
The ability to swing the kettlebell through a variety of arcs means that you can really play with physics and give your body a far better workout than with traditional barbells and dumbells. Without getting too technical it is all about levers and moment arms. As the kettlebell moves around you the forces on the body are constantly changing which adds a huge amount of work to the body, the result? You get even stronger.
You do not have to run or cycle to build cardiovascular health. In the research shows time and again that short bouts of high intensity exercise builds better cardiovascular health than long bouts of steady state exercise.
Get off the elliptical and start swinging a kettlebell.
Most ketllebell training is done in circuits, meaning you put multiple movements together to make an exercise vs. the traditional one movement training of dumbells, barbells, and machines. Add to that the fact that kettlebell work is best done in intervals as opposed to sets and reps and you have a cardio blasting machine.
If you have never done 5 minutes of kettlebell swings or 2 min intervals of kettlebell clean and press you don’t really know what cardio training is!
Our joints need to be stable and there are dedicated muscles surrounding each of them to provide this stability. There are two ways to train this stability, 1) isometric, and 2) resistive.
Isometric stability is stationary. Grab something heavy, stand up, and hold it overhead. Just stand there holding it until you are too tired to hold it anymore. THAT is isometric stability. You do this all the time carrying your child, or a purse, or groceries. A static position where your joints need muscular support to keep them healthy. Without this support the joints themselves take on the job and wear out faster.
Resistive stability (this is my own term FYI, scientifically it would be called proprioception) is joint stability during movement. When we walk, throw a ball, jump, pick up something or lift something heavy, we are thinking of the specific task at hand. Getting the ball across the field or picking up that box of supplies. You are not thinking about each and every joint and which muscles must turn on and work to make that movement happen.
You throw the ball but are not thinking about what your hip and ankle are doing!
Kettlebells create dynamic movement in a way that is much more similar to the things you do in daily life or during sports and physical activities. This in turn trains all of those ‘other’ things that you aren’t thinking about!
How much range can you move through? Can you sit down on the floor and get back up? Can you reach overhead? Can you shoulder heck while you drive? Can you pick up your dog? Can you carry your dishes across the room and put them away?
This all requires mobility. Every joint you have has ranges of motion that they are designed to go through and kettlebells challenge them all! These ranges are dynamic and very rarely happen in exactly the same path twice. The nature of moving kettlbells aroud directly mimics this and keeps your body mobile and stable in much more natural movement patterns.
What about flexibility? If your joints are mobile enough then they are flexible enough. There is no need for a static stretching program when you are doing the right kettlebell movements. In fact, if you become flexible without developing the stability in those positions you can do far more harm than good!
We now know kettlebells are awesome. Here are my top kettlebell exercises that you SHOULD be doing regularly.
The Turkish getup. Literally a full body mobility and stability master. Do it with weight and you get strength, do it quickly and boost your cardio. There is no better all around exercise in the world than this!
WAY harder than they look. A fantastic exercise to improve back mobility and shoulder stability at the same time. You NEED to do these properly and might have to do some work before attempting them if your back is not currently flexible!
You want some serious strength? This is your jam! Either one side at a time or get crazy with a double clean and press, this is the exercise to really work at moving heavy loads! Master the swing first!
A great combo of strength, cardio, and stability, with a side of coordination built in! This is an advanced exercise that will challenge every muscle and system in your body. Like the clean and press can be done one sided or two at a time!
Getting the legs working is important! Holding kettlebells in the racked position ensures that the core is challenged while you go through the movements. Don’t get stuck in one direction! The best way to leverage these exercises is by varying the direction, load, and depth on a regular basis!
Simple as the name sounds. Pick up kettlebells and carry them. Overhead (waiter), at your chest (racked), or by your side (farmer and suitcase), are the main ways to carry the ‘bells. Mix it up between one kettlebell and two kettlebells and don’t get stuck with boring walking. Go forward, backward, sideways, up and down stairs and hills, over obstacles, around obstacles, mix it up ALL the time!
I love kettlebells. You should too. They are awesome and they will take care of every aspect of your health and fitness.
Get a great coach to make sure you are doing it right and to build you some programs. Even better, join my online training platform where I have an entire kettlebell training program!