Kettlebell training is a great way to build strength and incredible conditioning.
If you don’t even know what a kettlebell is or why you should be using them check out this kettlebell article to get started.
But on this page I want to talk about the numerous ways you can train with kettlebells and the advantages of each.
Kettlebells can be used for almost any exercise that dumbbells are used. In this regard they are very similar. But there are some differences when doing so. The offset center of mass makes certain exercises different then when done with dumbbells. Here are a few examples.
Presses – The press is much the same. The difference is in the bottom or starting portion of the lift. Dumbbells are somewhat awkward to hold in a cleaned position. Kettlebells are made to be held there for lengths of time. So while the press is largely the same, it comes with a different feel. Here is a 97lb. kettlebell press. It’s a bit of a sidepress but this was the first time I ever had done this weight.
Curls – Many times when people first pick up a kettlebell they try to curl it (because that’s the only lift most people know). The problem is kettlebells aren’t very curlable. And yes I realize that’s not a real word. Again the offset center of mass makes this so. You can do bottoms up curl but you’ll need a light bell to do so and strong hands. If you do want to curl kettlebells run a towel or rope through the handle.
Windmills, Bent Press or Getups – With the mass of the weight lower and on the back of the arm, the kettlebell tends to be easier on these exercises, and in many cases help people get into a better position.
In many cases you would be better off with a dumbbell if for no other reason then they’re usually a lot more progressive then in the big jumps in weights in solid kettlebells. That being said many people I know just plain enjoy lifting kettlebells more, like myself.
I mentioned bottoms up kettlebell lifting when talking about curls. That is another unique kettlebell movement that taxes the grip and stability. This is usually done with presses but can be done many other ways.
The real beauty in kettlebell training comes in the ballistic exercises. These include the swing, clean, jerk and snatch. I made it my goal to break 300 reps (where 200 is considered great) in a ten minute snatch test with the 24kg bell. It was a long hard road but this video shows it being done.
Once more the offset center of mass actually make these exercises more effective. With a longer swing arc more force is produced with each repetition.
Kettlebells are best used in high repetition ballistic exercises. This is where the biggest benefits can be found. Also the kettlebells can easily set in the rack or overhead, which further lends them to repetition lifting. You can work fast and long building your explosiveness and conditioning.
With the ballistic kettlebell training you also have one of my favorites, kettlebell juggling. This simply cannot be done with any other training tool (with the semi-exception of stone locks). Here is a video of me playing a game of “HORSE” with strongman Andrew Durniat at the Atomic Athletic Oldtime Strongman Picnic.
Kettlebell Sport (also known as Girevoy Sport) involves this high repetition kettlebell lifting. The two main exercises are the snatch and the jerk. There is also the long cycle, which is a clean and jerk, and other auxiliary lifts sometimes done in competition. The emphasis in the sport is to get as many reps as possible in one go in a 10 minute time frame. This sport takes tremendous strength-endurance as well as mental toughness.
With kettlebell training you can gain strength, build muscle, get incredibly conditioned, lose fat, increase explosiveness and flexibility. It really matters in how you structure your kettlebell training that counts. And of course I share a lot of information on how to do that here on this site. Check out all the recent posts I’ve done about kettlebells by clicking here.