How do you Train with Kettlebells?

How do you Train with Kettlebells?

Today, we’re going to look at the benefits and exercises of Kettlebells training, how they differ from conventional dumbbells, and what you can do with them.

What is a Kettlebells?

Kettlebells are a type of dumbbell (not exactly) formed by a cast iron ball with a handle located at the top. This results in the weight not being evenly distributed, which causes the need to produce counterweight to balance and stabilise during use or training.

What are Kettlebells?

Today, kettlebells are part of the lifting equipment along with weights, barbells, dumbbells and discs.

Where did the Kettlebells come from?

The first mention of this term may date back to 1704, where it can be found in the Russian dictionary under the name “Girya”, the English translation of which is Kettlebells.

Kettlebells training was popularised back in the 1800s by Russian physicist Vladislav Kraevsky, who is considered the founding father of Olympic weight training: he opened one of Russia’s first weights training facilities, where both kettlebells and barbells formed the central part of the facilities’s training routine.

Kettlebells Origins

Olympic weightlifters in Russia used kettlebells to improve their technique, while soldiers used them to improve their conditioning in preparation for combat.

In 1985, the first Soviet Union national championship kettlebell games took place in Lipetsk, Russia.

Types of Kettlebells

We can find kettlebells models in all sorts of materials, shapes and sizes: cast iron, steel, rubber-coated, filled with soft sand, adjustable, plastic…

Models of kettlebells are identified by their colours and associated weight. The “base” measurement is the Russian pood (16.38kg), from which the multiples and submultiples are derived.

Kettlebell Colours

For much heavier models, the dimensions become quite important (models above 50kg!)

If you’re going to start with kettlebell training, my recommendation for buying kettlebells is:

  • If you’re a girl, buy an 8kg kettlebell.
  • If you’re a boy, buy a 16kg kettlebell.

Once you’ve mastered the exercises you can add new weights, or double the weights you have for dual training.

You can also find different sizes, especially in fitness or training rooms and centres; but all competitive kettlebells usually have the same dimensions, and the only thing that varies is the weight.

What are they for?

They are an option within weight training, just like dumbbells, but due to the way they’re constructed, they allow for other types of different stimuli.

In this sense, they offer us the possibility of performing functional movements, as their handling requires the activation of various muscle groups (activation of the “core”…) to counteract the imbalance produced by their handling.

What are Kettlebells used for?

Among the exercises kettlebells are used for are Metabolic Circuit and Strength modes.

  • They are a great way to include metabolic circuits in our routine;
  • Increasing calorie expenditure and fat burning (kettlebell swing);
  • Boosting aspects of our performance (endurance, grip strength…);
  • Adding new exercises, such as Olympic movements (kettlebell snatch, press…);
  • Substituting conventional exercises performed with barbells (deadlifts, bench presses…) by adding new features.

Functional Training

In any well-equipped sports centre, Kettlebells are a great bet, and we’ll be able to work an infinite number of metabolic circuits or “functional” type training.

It’s a type of exercise aimed at developing actions that we carry out in the activities of our daily life.

Click here to learn about the Benefits of Functional Training.

Benefits of training with Kettlebells

Go for it And try Kettlebells

Go for it and give kettlebell training a try!

What are the advantages of the kettlebell compared to dumbbells?

The main difference is undoubtedly the way it’s constructed. With the kettlebell, the weight is not distributed evenly, resulting in the centre of gravity being displaced from the handle, which isn’t the case with the dumbbell.

The kettlebell is associated with ballistic movement: they keep moving after the initial push; they can be accelerated to generate more power…

Differences between Kettlebells and Dumbbells

Grip is one of the main differences compared to dumbbells.

Although this doesn’t limit the range of movements that both can do: curls, press, rows… nevertheless, kettlebells add a new component: ballistic movement, perfectly reflected in the swing and snatch.

Differences

In principle, we can perform any exercise just as we would with dumbbells, working both unilaterally and with both hands simultaneously.

In this sense, with kettlebells we would work: bicep curls, the military and bench press, squats, deadlifts, rows…

Below we describe the main differences at a functional level that we can obtain when using these weights compared to dumbbells:

Muscle Strength and Endurance

Kettlebells can help us in two ways: gaining strength or increasing our strength-endurance.

These two components are linked because to move towards one extreme or the other, it’s as simple as varying the weight of the kettlebell and intervening in the different energy pathways (phosphagen, glycolytic or oxidative).

Stabilisation

Of course, as has been mentioned, the functionality of the kettlebells works well with respect to working our body’s stability and balance (especially in overhead movements).

Power

However, this isn’t exactly their aim. They place greater emphasis on movements where a large number of muscle groups are involved, with Olympic movements and swings being particularly interesting.

Rack position using two kettlebells

Rack position using two kettlebells.

Strengthening the grip

In terms of grip, kettlebells also help in two ways: they increase grip strength, and for those with limited wrist mobility, it can be an advantage when training certain movements (front squat…) as the handle allows for a greater range of movement.

Functional Training with Kettlebells

If you don’t have enough grip strength (although it will be trained if you keep using kettlebells), there’s a chance of dropping the kettlebell in the middle of the circuit…

Exercises as typical as the bicep curl can become something else entirely when using a different kind of grip.

Mobility

Therefore, they will require greater coordination and agility, as well as excellent shoulder mobility, especially when working on overhead exercises, and ankle dorsiflexion, when working on the lower body (front squat, goblet squat, lunges…) as great squat depth is achieved.

Kettlebell Exercises

We can work on these exercises both at home and in the gym.

Normally, we can include them at the end of our training routine, whatever the type of training (full-body, torso-leg, daily muscle group…), or, if we dedicate single training sessions to metabolic circuits, they’ll be a fantastic tool for:

Improving our cardiovascular capacity, strength, strength-endurance, achieving a reduction in fat percentage, and even favouring muscle mass gain.

There are a large number of movements you can do, but here’s a sample of the most powerful:

KB Clean

KB Clean

The clean is one of the “essentials”.

KB Jerk

One Handed KB Jerk

There’s also the “Push Press” in which you don’t have to do the second “dip”.

KB Snatch or 1-Handed Snatch

KB Snatch

The other “essential” and fundamental movement for mastering kettlebells.

Dual KB Snatch or 2-Handed Snatch

Dual KB Snatch

This is one of the most demanding kettlebell exercises there is.

Thruster

Thruster one Arm

A combination of a Squat + Press.

Gorilla Row

Gorilla Row Kettlebells

A pull exercise.

Alternate Press

Press

A vertical push exercise.

We can train by means of what are known as barbell “walks”:

Dual Waiter’s Walk

Waiter's Walk

You need good shoulder mobility for this one.

Dual Rack Walk

Front Rack Carry Kettlebells

In both the overhead movement and this one, we have to keep the core active at all times.

Walking lunges

Lunges

Other variations would be to perform the lunge static or alternating each leg but staying in the same place.

Around the World

Around the world

An exercise that requires coordination skills.

Figure Eight

Figure Eight

A little “more complex” than the previous one.

We can always chain different moves together to create our own “complex”:

Kettlebell Swing

The Swing is an exercise in which you balance a load, in this case the kettlebell.

The movement is carried out in a pendulum fashion, causing the load to exert centrifugal force, which we have to fight against at all times.

As you can see, there are variants, among which we’ll highlight the following:

Russian KB Swing

Kettlebells swing

This is the quintessential kettlebell exercise, and for which we need to have good hip (joint) mobility.

Although this movement is performed in the sagittal plane, we can emphasise other planes such as the transverse depending on the variations we use.

1-Handed KB Swing

One handed KB swing

It can also be practiced one-sided.

Dual KB Swing

Dual KB Inside Swing

“Inside” style, inside the legs.

Dual KB Outside Swing

“Pistol” style, or outside the legs.

For example, if instead of using two hands we use only one, or instead of staying in the same place we perform lateral or frontal displacements, the sum of forces will mean we have to call on more muscular systems to stabilise ourselves.

Do kettlebells burn more fat?

Without a doubt, as soon as you grab the kettlebell and start performing the movements, your heart rate will skyrocket.

It’s quite interesting in terms of boosting calorie consumption and fat burning

Swing

Combining kettlebells with other exercises (push-ups, squats, pull-ups…) is a great way to burn calories while improving your fitness.

In fact, the cardiovascular work associated with strength training is amazing, and we can try it “in situ”: try doing 20x Swings in a row with a 24kg kettlebell… And if you multiply this by 5 rounds with 60″ of rest, you’ll have a fabulous routine to finish the workout and increase calorie expenditure.

If you’re short on time, that’s no problem. Don’t you believe it? Check out the video below and see how you can burn extra calories:

Recommendations to avoid possible mistakes

The primary recommendations is don’t underestimate them.

Even if we’re very used to dumbbells, and we use high weights, here things are different. It’s important to emphasise the fact that the way it’s constructed means we have to continually maintain weight stability.

From this, it follows that we shouldn’t start with high weights, and should be moderate.

On the other hand, unlike isolated movements performed with dumbbells, with kettlebells it’s hugely important to have good mobility, otherwise we run the risk of injury.

Correct technique

It’s important to know our limits, and not to want to start too fast at the beginning…

Newbie mistake: bending the wrist in the rack position. It should be kept straight.

How to take a Kettlebell

Avoid wearing a prominent watch or bracelet that could breaks or cause damage when the weight is resting on you.

Learn the correct technique. You’ll need to practise and practise before you get stuck into a metabolic circuit. Keep your workouts short but intense.

Related Entries.

  • Why you should train with weights. Go now.
  • If you want to start CrossFit training, I recommend reading this article.
Review of Kettlebells

Functional movements - 100%

Calorie Burning - 100%

Performance Enhancement - 100%

Muscle Mass Gain - 100%

Fun Training - 100%

100%

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About Javier Colomer
Javier Colomer
Under the motto “Knowledge Makes me Stronger”, Javier Colomer clearly expresses his intentions to share his knowledge and experience within the world of Fitness. His BPT training system is proof of this.
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