By Della Powell, owner of True Grit Kettlebell Gym
As the owner of a kettlebell gym, The most common question I am asked is “What makes a kettlebell workout different?”.
If you don’t know what a kettlebell is, don’t feel bad. The second most common question I get is “What is a kettle-ball?”
A Russian kettlebell looks like an iron cannonball with a handle. Kettlebells originated in Russia over two hundred years ago, where strength has always been highly regarded. The kettlebell was the most accessible and low-cost means for developing strength and endurance. In times past, strength was required in order to survive and thrive.
Strength was needed to defend against enemies, endure and work in harsh and rural environments. Unlike in America today, where we enjoy a family barbecue on holidays; for centuries Russian folk festivals and national holidays have been centered around fist fighting, wrestling and weight lifting. Even Russian folk dancing is a feat of strength and endurance.
In fact, kettlebells were and still are juggled as a display of strength and endurance.
Girya is the Russian word for kettlebell. Gireviks are athletes who lift kettlebells. The handle simply made it easy to carry in rural areas where competitions and displays of strength were common place. Kettlebells were not only used by Russian strongmen, they were also used in the army and navy. History tells us that the Russian army walked carrying their tactical equipment and supplies in WWII, as compared to western armies that required motorized vehicles.
Kettlebells hit the U.S. when they were introduced by Pavel Tsatouline in 1999, and are gaining in popularity, and for good reason. Kettlebell sport entered the U.S. in 2011. Kettlebells can be used for general fitness, or as a competitive sport. Kettlebell Sport is the national sport of Russia. www.aka-sport.com
One thing you can be assured of, kettlebell training is not an unproven fad. In fact, kettelbell sport has been institutionalized in Russian schools, because time and research has proven that when children perform these functional movements with weight, grow into very strong adults.
So now that you know what the kettleBELL is and a bit of its history, the question remains, “Why kettlebells?”
I will give you seven reasons why I changed my business name from Grace and Grit Fitness to Grace ’n Grit Kettlebell Gym!
When I first decided to become a certified kettlebell trainer, I knew very, very little about them. I was simply attracted to the simplicity. I saw the potential for fluid graceful movements with weight and wasn’t intimidated by it.
#1 Nothing Will Reshape the Body Like a Kettlebell Workout
The kettlebell is literally capable of reshaping your body, assuming proper technique is utilized. (I will share some videos in the future to help with technique.) It will give you the best body you are genetically capable of. I have an athletic figure, which is a nice way of saying “no curves”. When I was young, my sister would tell me I had the figure of a pencil, and she was spot on! Knowing I will never ever have that “coveted” hour glass figure, I am thrilled with the results of my kettlebell training.
I have to clarify, I didn’t train for the figure. I simply wanted to get strong because I saw the benefits of strength and endurance in my personal life; but I must admit it is the icing on the cake. With kettlebells, I don’t have to worry about bulking up. Strong and muscle mass often don’t correlate. My goal is to be as strong as possible, at the lightest possible body weight.
Consistent kettlebell training will give you some unexpected curves. Ladies are notoriously weak in their upper body. With kettlebells anyone can build out and define slumping shoulders and develop a strong, tight core. You will notice everything is tight and flat without having to put in thought about sucking it in. Ok… any curves in my hips comes from four pregnancies, not kettlebells. However, if there is a concern about the over forty flat butt, kettlebells come to there rescue again.
Your body will be its own work of art! sculpted and lean.
#2 A Kettlebell Workout Offers Maximum Results in Minimum Time
How valuable our time is. Often time means more to us than money. The single biggest factor that keep people from exercising is lack of time. With kettlebells, less is more. To begin with, after a warm up you are ready to go. No need to set up weights. The best part however, is their efficiency. They are amazingly effective in short work-outs.
What is the secret of their efficiency? Is it hype? propaganda? Hardly. Anything that gives us more bang for our buck, should get our attention. It’s the off-set center of gravity. Let me explain. Barbells and dumbbells are time tested excellent training tools. However, when you lift a barbell, it is balanced. Once the lift is in motion, momentum is able to do some of the work for you. The kettlebell is different. As you swing the kettlebell, the weight of the bell shifts, requiring our major muscles, stabilizers and connective tissue to work hard for the entire lift. You’re body is required to work harder in the same lift. It’s that simple!
#3 Kettlebell Workouts are All About Functional Fitness
Functional movements train movement patterns rather than individual muscles. They are efficient and effective. The useless, oversized commercial gyms have expensive machines that often work isolated muscles. There are two main reasons this is not a good idea. It takes too long to get your workout done. Working isolated muscles is not efficient, but more importantly, we need to think of the gym as our training, for life and the unknown. We need to move in the gym, the way our bodies are designed to move in life. These movement patterns will protect us from injury because we are prepared for the unexpected. One of my favorite mottos from Tactical Athlete is “Ready in season and out of season because there is no off season.” Functional movements strengthen both our major muscle groups, our stabilizers and our connective tissue. Kettlebells are your best rehab tool and your best injury prevention tool
A lesser known, benefit is that functional movements, regardless of the training implement used, provide tremendous neuro-endocrine response to make strength gains that isolated movements cannot.
Examples of functional movements with weight would be weightlifting/power lifting, i.e., the dead lift, clean, squat, snatch, press. Other types of functional movements are running, jump roping and swimming.
The neat thing about functional fitness is it doesn’t matter what you do in your real world activities. Functional fitness will prepare you. When I registered for my course as a Tactical Athlete Instructor, I was reviewing the extensive training manual. This training is designed for law enforcement, para-military; not my world at all. I began to have serious doubts about my decision. I contacted Jeff Martone, owner of Tactical Athlete, with a few questions. I will never forget his response. Jeff was aware that my background was quite different than his typical clients. His encouraging words have stuck with me, “Della, functional fitness is functional fitness, whether you’re carrying a gun, or whether you’re carrying a baby.” Rather humorous, but so true.
#4 A Kettlebell Workout Helps Develop Flexibility
The buzz word today today is mobility, moving within your God given full range of motion. Whether you say flexibility or mobility, kettlebells do it. If you were to take all the attributes of an athlete, the foundation is based on three things, flexibility, strength and endurance. Kettlebells not only develop amazing strength and endurance, they are also excellent for your joints. They effectively increase joint flexibility, and develop strength in your tendons and stabilizers. Folks that cannot do weight lifting with a bar, due to injury or lack of mobility, can safely lift kettl bells. With kettlebells, your strong side cannot compensate for your weak, therefore, the weak side must strengthen its stabilizers and connective tissue
“High level of special flexibility enables freedom, quickness, and economy of movement.” Sergey Rudnev, 5 time GS (Girevoy Sport) world champion.
#5 The World Is Your Gym
One of the biggest problems on the road back to strength and optimum health, is simply “staying on the road”. Sometimes we refer to it as ‘falling off the wagon”. Today’s world is full of crowded and ever changing schedules. It simply isn’t going to change. If you plan to train, it will work most of the time, but not all of the time. The beauty of kettlebells is that all you need is a 4×4 space and you’re good to go. The value of this is I will never fall off the wagon when the unexpected comes, because we all know it will. As a mother, and a homeschool mom at that, I have found a great secret. Get out of your living room. With kettlebells you can train in your yard, garage or patio where all your tasks aren’t staring at you. A 15-20 min training is ideal, but when I have no time, I have my 4-10 min back ups. It keeps me in the game. I never fall off the wagon. If you have time to brush your teeth and comb your hair, you have time to train. You just need the know how. In future posts, I will share techniques that work equally for the busy mom and the traveling professional.
My favorite place to train is the beach. When we have a weekend get away, I always take my kettlebells with me. I don’t crush myself when on vacation, I just do enough to feel good and stay in the game. Keep it fun and simple. More isn’t always better, sometimes, it’s just more.
#6 Strengthen that Core!
Kettlebells are core based. The core is the center that coordinates all the human movements. Strengthening the core is essential. Strong abdominal muscles are essential to protect the back and spine. Some experts promote full body weight lifting movements only, and avoid direct core training. That may work for day to day, but all powerful moves begin in the core. I believe every athlete should directly train the core. The swing which is the foundation of kettlebell lifting, is actually a dynamic dead lift. It strengthens the entire posterior chain.
Everyone is fascinated with abs. I personally don’t care what my abs look like, but having a strong core is one of the best ways to prevent injury. Every once in a while, for kicks I will ask a lady who is considering kettlebell training to punch me in the stomach. After shrinking back at the thought, they always decide to try. It’s fun to watch their shocked expressions. Those who train with kettlebells are not just toned, they are rock hard. I am just the poster child for kettlebell training, nothing more.
#7 The Best Rehab Tool on the Planet? A Kettlebell Workout
I’m personally not a big fan of all the 5k promotions. If you’re going to walk it, that is great, but if you are using it as a part of your plan to get into shape, it’s most likely a bad idea. I am speaking generally of course, but many people have pounded the payment with an extra 20-50 lb and have injured themselves trying to do the right thing. For reasons mentioned above, I recommend using kettlebells to strengthening joints, stabilizers and core. Kettlebells will help you with those chronic injuries that might be keeping you out of the gym, and get you strong so that you can safely run a 5k or half marathon.
In a nutshell, a kettlebell workout is a safe, simple, time efficient and tons of fun! Why not try one yourself?
About the AuthorDella Powell is a Tactical Athlete Certified Instructor and CrossFit Kettlebell certified. She lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband Ben and is the mother of four children.
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. Her work is dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household. She is a sought after lecturer around the world for conferences, summits, and podcasts.
Her work has been covered by major media including USA Today, ABC, NBC, and many others.