Top 8 Reasons to Train with Kettlebells

These two gentlemen are our expert trainers and kettlebell kings at the Metcalfe location. This week they shared their Top 8 reasons to train with Kettlebells.

Metcalfe Trainer - Andrew Younis

Andrew Younis, Level 1 Agatsu Kettlebell Coach. Certified personal trainer and fascial stretch therapist at our Metcalfe location.

Metcalfe Manager - Sean Rodgers holding 2 kettlebells

Sean Rodgers has 10 years of kettlebell coaching experience and a certification from Jason Brown – Kettlebell Athletics. He’s taught workshops from kettlebell basics to kettlebells for runners. He is the manager of the Metcalfe St. location.

What Is A Kettlebell?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the kettlebell, it is a round weight with a flat bottom and a handle at the top (Sean is holding two of them in the picture above). Kettlebells are typically made of iron and weigh anywhere from 2kgs to 60kgs.

Humans have been using tools with a similar shape to kettlebells for years, but their popularity as a training tool began in the 1700s in Europe. It was a popular piece of equipment in Russia and became an important part of the strongman competitions as the sport evolved.

Today the kettlebell is a piece of equipment found in most gyms and with good reason. It is versatile and an exceptionally effective workout when used properly. So why should you consider training with a kettlebell? Here are the top 8 reasons from our kettlebell experts, Andrew Younis and Sean Rodgers.

Reason 1: Kettlebell training is excellent for improving balance

One of the most commonly known moves with the kettlebell is the kettlebell swing. You take the kettlebell in both hands, push the hips back while lowering the kettlebell. When you’re ready to start the swing you pull the kettlebell between the legs, and quickly drive the hips forward, pushing the kettlebell up to about shoulder level. You can see this exercise being demonstrated below:

The shape and the distribution of weight in a kettlebell results in a dynamic center of gravity, or a center of gravity that is always changing. Because of this, your core muscles around the spine, pelvis, and ribs, are required to adjust and react at a very rapid rate.

The constant changing centre of gravity pushes the body to constantly reshape and adjust, replicating those forces we see from daily tasks or even sporting events” – Sean Rodgers

In the real world, this translates to faster reaction times to things like slips, trips, and being pushed or forced in an unexpected direction. Think about skating on the canal: you hit an extra slippery patch, and now your smooth skating rhythm has been interrupted. Consistent kettlebell training will teach your core muscles to react to this quickly, correct the movement, and help keep you upright.

Reason 2: They provide both strength and cardio benefits

The strength training benefits of the kettlebell go beyond core training. Metcalfe Trainer, Andrew Younis, finds that the kettlebell bridges the gap between strength and cardio “which results in faster and more sustainable results.”

In the world of strength and conditioning, resistance circuit-based training, or RCT, is the standard. Trainers will use a sequence of exercises completed with very little rest between them to improve their client’s power, strength, and aerobic capacity (cardio). 

Kettlebells are an excellent tool for RCT. A study in 2015 found that when female soccer players incorporated kettlebell training 3x/week for 4 weeks, they had a 6% gain in their oxygen uptake. This is a considerable gain from just 1 piece of equipment. 

Reason 3: Kettlebells are incredibly versatile

Building upon reason 2, kettlebells are able to achieve power, strength, and cardio goals because the range of exercises that are possible is wide and impressive. As Andrew puts it “you don’t need 500 different pieces of equipment because of the kettlebell’s versatility.”

In exercise there are 6 foundational movements – push, pull, knee dominant, hip dominant, unilateral, and core. We’ve already covered the kettlebell’s ability to strengthen the core, but it can also train the 4 remaining movements. 

The handle on the kettlebell allows for many different grips or hand positions on the kettlebell. You can hold the kettlebell with 1 hand or two hands, swing it, use it for rows, press it overhead, or even use it for powerlifting movements like cleans and snatches. This infographic below only covers some of the exercises that are possible with a kettlebell.

Training with Kettlebells: infographic of possible kettlebell workouts for upper body, core, back, and lower body

Reason 4: Enjoy an efficient and effective workout (with 1 piece of equipment).

Reason #4 ties together reason 2 and 3. If 1 piece of equipment has so many different uses and can achieve both strength and cardio goals, then you’ve found yourself the perfect piece of equipment. Instead of changing between multiple machines, bands, and dumbbells – although these all have their place in a workout – you can use just the kettlebell and get through every phase of your workout. As Sean says, the kettlebell is the best bang for your buck.

Reason 5: The Kettlebell is cost-effective

On that note, kettlebells are great for your wallet. If you’re looking to have something at home to help fill in the gaps between training days with your trainer, the kettlebell is an excellent choice. Although things like bands, small exercise balls, and dumbbells can be inexpensive, they lack the versatility of the kettlebell.

On the other side of that, buying things like squat racks and cable machines can be incredibly expensive and require a lot of space in your house. For those of you who want something you can do in a small space without sacrificing your access to a wide range of exercises, then the kettlebell is the perfect piece of equipment for this.

The Treadmill Factory has great deals on kettlebells for those of you who are interested.

The following 3 reasons are the more advanced reasons to train with a kettlebell. This, once again, speaks to the versatility of the kettlebell. It can be an excellent tool for beginners but also has many uses for more advanced clients and athletes.

Reason 6: Great for Grip Strength

One of the easiest ways to assess someone’s strength with grip strength. Without great grip strength, exercises like the deadlift become very difficult to progress. Grip strength is the measure of one’s hand and forearm strength and is an indicator of overall strength.

The kettlebell is able to strengthen these muscles and therefore improve grip strength because of the way a kettlebell is held. This makes it one of Andrew‘s favourite ways to train grip strength. You do not simply hold a kettlebell handle. If you hold a kettlebell without creating some tension in the arm, you end up with a weak movement – no matter what the movement is.

A common exercise for improving grip strength is the farmer’s carry/farmer walk. A kettlebell is a great piece of equipment for this. You can see this being demonstrated below by world-renowned trainer, Paul Chek:

Reason 7: Kettlebells allow you to train through greater ranges of motion.

In the weightlifting world, accessing the full range of motion means more potential force production. In the everyday world, training through the full range of motion means healthy joints and more balanced muscles around those joints.

“Kettlebells cross the bridge between strength training and cardiovascular training, as well as pushing you into extreme ranges of motion something completely lost with most modern people” – Sean Rodgers

The kettlebell is capable of both of these things because of how we use the kettlebell. As we move, so does the kettlebell, which means that when we are swinging a kettlebell (For example), we are not only having to accelerate and decelerate our bodies, but we are also accelerating and decelerating the kettlebell. 

In simpler terms try thinking about swinging your arm back and forth beside you. You know how to swing the arm forward, how to slow it down, and then swing it backwards. This is something we do every day without even thinking about it. 

Now think about swinging that same arm, but now you have a briefcase in your hand. As you swing forward, you’ll notice that your arm travels a little higher as the weight of the briefcase keeps moving in that direction. The same is true as you swing the briefcase backwards. 

This phenomenon is rooted in physics and Newton’s first law of motion: objects in motion stay in motion until acted on by an opposing force. When we train with a kettlebell, we add an additional object with its own individual mass that requires additional forces to slow it down. This translates to our bodies having to go further into their range of motion to allow for the kettlebell to slow down and change directions.

Reason 8: Stretch Reflex Recruitment that Amplifies Power

The final reason is Sean Rodger’s favourite reason for training with kettlebells. In our bodies, we have something called the stretch reflex. Like an elastic band, the further you stretch it the harder it snaps back.

Building upon reason 8 and the greater range of motion achieved with kettlebell training, this also engages this stretch reflex. By training the stretch reflex and training the body to recruit this reflex with greater efficacy, we are able to amplify the power of our movements. 

Power is the result of both speed and strength. If you can move something very heavy, very quickly, you have power (hence, powerlifting). As we train with the kettlebell, we are training further into our range of motion. The further we go into our range of motion, the more we are able to lengthen and contract the muscles. The speed at which we can go from lengthening to contracting is where the prowess of power movements lies. 

If you incorporate more kettlebell training into your routine, this stretch reflex recruitment will improve. This has applications not just for powerlifters, but also sprinters, swimmers, and boxers. Any activity that would benefit from the “elastic” to snap back quickly and with great force can benefit from kettlebell training.

With great power comes great responsibility

A kettlebell is an incredible tool. From it’s versatility to its potential for strength, cardio, and power improvements, the kettlebell can do it all. Because it is able to do so much, it does require some training in order to use it safely and to use it correctly. Both Sean and Andrew have the experience and certifications to help you train with kettlebells safely and effectively. If you’d like to get in touch with them to learn more about training, you can email them at the Metcalfe location.

Author: Riley Pearce
Director of Social Media and Marketing

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