Enhancing Athleticism with Kettlebell Training

Marlon Byrd, Cincinnatti Reds. ESPN

There is a growing trend among high-level athletes from various sports who are taking a liking to kettlebell training and responding favorably in the carry-over benefits from the time in the gym with kettlebells and their performance on the field of play.

It can be difficult to pin down what exercises exactly result in improved play. In other words, can it be proven that a squat or a swing or a deadlift specifically makes an athlete run faster or jump higher or increase lateral quickness?

Not necessarily, however one things that is clear is that the focus on  movement patterns that kettlebells improve are more important than the individual muscles being exercised.

When we look at the types of movement skills involved in athletics, we can see some common factors:

On your feet

While there are some sports like rowing, swimming, cycling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and events such as gymnastic rings and pole vaulting that do not involve standing on 2 feet, in most athletic endeavors the player is on her feet. Every play takes place with the athletes on their feet in sports such as football, baseball, softball, soccer, boxing, volleyball, hockey, cricket, netball, rugby, Olympic weightlifting, track and field, and the list goes on. 

The ability to move well on one’s feet is a fundamental quality that carries over into virtually every possible athletic endeavor. To be better on your feet is one sure way to be a better athlete.

Whether that means speed, quickness, range of motion, coordination, balance or a blend of all of them together, the goal is to move better and bring that better movement into the skills of the game. 


An athlete has to be balanced with the center of mass distributed over the base of support. The weight has to transfer at the correct time and that requires core control in order to maintain control of the hips and midline of the body.

The great thing about kettlebell training is that most of the exercises originate from a stance. You are stable on every rep, maintaining balance and core control, otherwise called posture—on every rep. An athlete will carry this postural control into other athletic movements, like fielding a position.


A key performance aspect of breathing is to maintain a balance between parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. That is to say, to regulate the muscles, nerves, to keep a stable heart rate, all occurs through the regulation of breathing. The close attention to breathing in kettlebell training is necessary to perform high repetitions. Excessive tension, or bad breathing habits such as breath-holding will always restrict movement and therefore performance. To be great with kettlebells you have to master the breathing and this breath mastery carries over into every other physical performance. The breathing also has to do with the mental adaptation. Staying calm is an important advantage for all sportsmen.


Work Capacity

The deep conditioning to be able to sustain strength and energy over a long competitive season may be the most difficult task for a conditioning program for athletes. For example, a major league baseball athlete has a season that lasts 6 months or more. It requires a lot of endurance and stamina to stay sharp day in and day out over such a long season. The work capacity that kettlebell training develops offers a lot of carry-over into in-season conditioning. Furthermore, the mobility and flexibility benefits from training with kettlebells help to keep the athlete resilient and injury-free. 

The benefits of kettlebell training for improving athletic performance is changing the way athletes prepare for the rigors of the competitive season. 

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