Kettlebells 101: What, Why and How

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What is a kettlebell?

The kettlebell can best be described as a cannonball with a handle. This unique design allows you to dynamically swing, clean, snatch, press and squat your way to Uber-fitness. Originally an official unit of measurement used to balance the scales in 18th-Century Russian markets, the girya (Russian for "handleball") was found to increase fitness in Russian military when used as a weight to lift, and eventually developed as a competitive national sport, which tests the power-endurance of the athletes.

 Years later, at the start of the 21st Century, kettlebells found a place as a new, highly-effective fitness phenomenon in America and has since spread across the world as one of the most valuable pieces of equipment in functional fitness training. The portable nature of this weightball-with-handle allows the user to bring it home, to the office, to the beach or to the park, making it extremely versatile and adaptable either as a stand-alone fitness program or when combined with other tools and methods, such as barbell, dumbbells, suspension training and yoga.

Why use kettlebells?

The reason Kettlebell training works so well for so many people is that it combines the muscle-building benefits of resistance training with the cardiovascular conditioning of aerobic exercise. Because it allows you to exercise both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems of the body, kettlebell training is an efficient and complete fat-burning and muscle-toning workout that can be performed in as little as 20 minutes per day, or a few hours per week.

Further, since most kettlebell exercises are ground-based and have you standing, there is none of the bouncing or pounding of the joints that is often associated with other forms of aerobic fitness such as running or step-based fitness classes. Even if you are currently de-conditioned, you can start with kettlebells and safely build your fitness.

As an added benefit, kettlebell training is built upon functional movements, which are similar  to many of the common, daily, habitual movements that are part of human existence, such as squatting, bending, balancing, pushing, pulling or twisting. It is common after a few weeks of kettlebell training to see improvements in how easy some of your habitual movements become.

Kettlebell training is safe, effective, and efficient. You don't even need a gym membership to get started. All you need is one kettlebell, safe practice guidelines and some basic exercises.

How do I get started?

  1. Read “The Kettlebell Commandments” and Kettlebell Training: Lesson 1 through Lesson 5 to be familiar with mindset, posture, breathing, best practices, and safety guidelines. 
  2. Start with basic exercises of Goblet Squat and 2 Hand Swing to build a solid structural foundation. Read the articles on Goblet Squat and 2 Hand Swing for detailed instruction of those starting exercises
  3. Find a gym that has kettlebells available to use or purchase your own kettlebells for training at home
  1. Develop a regular practice, at least 2-3 times per week
  2. Monitor your frequency, volume and intensity with a journal 
  3. Believe in yourself and invest in your own health and fitness
  4. Enjoy the process, take a long-term approach and don’t give up 

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