Kettlebells 101

Kettlebells have been trending harder in the fitness world than anything we’ve seen in ages. The Eastern European weights have been talked up as being the big revolution in strength and weight exercises, but there’s an alarmingly lack of talk about what they can do, how they’re best used, and why they’re so great anyway. That’s why we’re going to take a look at kettlebells and see just what the big deal is anyway.

What are Kettlebells?
Kettlebells are weights, made of solid iron, and they’re for some real tough customers. They came from Russia in the 1700s, though nobody’s totally certain who invented the first ones. The Russian army uses them to build strength, and since the 1960s, kettlebells have been their own weightlifting category in Russia.

These days though, most higher end gyms have a few in stock, and you can pick them up from most sporting goods stores, in a variety of weights and sizes.

What Makes Them Better Than Free Weights?
They’re not better per se, but they work a slightly different set of muscles, and require a slightly different type of exertion than free weights. In particular, kettlebells put a huge strain on your core, so people with recurring back problems, or weak core muscles should be careful. The added focus on core strength also helps develop your explosive strength – a useful asset on the basketball court.

It’s best really to slowly add kettlebells to an established weights routine, to help give you something new that works several muscle groups all at once, in addition to the ones that are usually worked out during free weights.

What Can’t Kettlebells Do?

They won’t make you any bigger or stronger. That might be a weird thing to say, but studies comparing traditional weightlifting to kettlebells saw the guys using traditional weightlifting making bigger gains in how much they could lift. They also saw bigger growths in weight they were able to lift. However, the guys working kettlebells saw more gains in stamina, in addition to the ones made in strength.

How Do I Get Started?

You can go out and buy kettlebells and an instructional DVD at any fitness store, but you’re just as likely to pull a back muscle and spend a week in bed that way. Instead, head to a gym, and see if they have a certified kettlebell instructor on deck. If not, see if they have anybody familiar with lifting with kettlebells.

Form is critical to kettlebell exercises, because of both the explosive nature of the snatch lifts, and because of the strain it can potentially put on your back. Guys with back problems of course, should consult a doctor first.


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