All about kettlebell training

All about kettlebell training

Thanks for all your post requests. I love hearing what you guys want to read about, because that’s the main reason I write this blog – to help you! So let’s get the ball rolling with the first reader request.

Letizia asked: I was wondering if you could write something about kettlebells? My gym is offering a 4-week kettlebell training class starting in a couple weeks, and I was thinking about trying it out. However, I don’t know anything about kettlebells. Do you think it’s a good kind of training for someone trying to build muscle?

Great question! In the almost two years I have been blogging, I can’t believe I’ve never devoted an entire post to kettlebell training!

For those of you who are unfamiliar, kettlebells look like cannonballs with a single handle on top. They range in weight from 4lbs to 105lbs. Kettlebells have been around since the 1700s, but have increased in popularity in recent times.

KBs

 

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Kettlebells are different to regular weights in that their weight is distributed off-centre, which requires constant activation of your core muscles (abs, back, glutes) to control as well as providing a longer range of motion for the weight to move through. As they have a thicker handle than dumbbells, kettlebells will also improve your grip strength. You can work your entire body using kettlebells with very minimal space or other equipment.

I use kettlebells in my own training once or twice a week. My favourite kettlebell exercises are swings, goblet squats, single leg deadlifts, walking lunges, one arm snatches, cleans, and farmers walks. I typically do higher rep kettlebell circuits (workout below!) as a more exciting form of cardio. In fact, the first weighted exercise I ask almost all of my clients to do is a goblet squat with a kettlebell.

KB squat

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The only problem I have with kettlebells is when certain trainers go completely ga-ga over them, and think every single exercise has to be done with a kettlebell. Kettlebells are just one tool in the toolbox, and should therefore not be used in isolation.

At the end of the day, kettlebells are a weight just like a dumbbell or barbell, meaning that they will challenge your body by forcing it to become stronger. Many of the benefits kettlebells provide can also be obtained through regular weight training; for example, increased muscle mass, improved strength, stronger bones, better posture, and fat loss.

While I would prefer that a beginner start out by performing a mix of bodyweight, dumbbell, barbell AND kettlebell exercises, an intensive kettlebell class can serve as a great introduction to weight training. All kettlebell exercises have transferability to dumbbell training.

Kettlebell workouts are traditionally more cardio- and endurance-based, as they usually involve higher repetitions. If you haven’t already done so, I would suggest mastering the basic barbell exercises – the squat, deadlift, bench press and overhead press. They are the exercises key to building muscle, while higher rep kettlebell exercises serve as accessory movements.

KB swingSource

I would recommend anyone that trains with kettlebells to first learn proper form by either taking a class or booking a session with a trainer who has been specifically certified with kettlebell training. There are subtle differences between handling a kettlebell versus a dumbbell, and it is easy to fall into habits of bad form. The kettlebell swing, for example, is one of the most butchered strength exercises in existence – so it’s great to have someone to teach you proper form right from the get go.

One of my favourite things to do is pick a time (usually 5 minutes or 10 minutes) and see how many swings I can perform in that period. Here is a workout you could use as an intense HIIT-based finisher (use the same weight for all exercises, except farmers walks where you should carry the heaviest weight you can):

KB circuit

Do you train with kettlebells? What is your favourite kettlebell exercise?

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