Kettlebell Fitness Training
To prepare for his role as King Leonidas in the film “300,” Gerard Butler trained with kettlebells to develop his physique. The exercise technique is quickly gaining popularity as a way to strength train and get in a high-intensity cardio session at the same time. Instead of spending hours at the gym, find a certified kettlebell trainer to try out this all-in-one workout.
Kettlebells date back to the 1700s in Russia, where they were traditionally used as counterweights at markets. After noting the benefits of tossing around the heavy objects, Russian strong men as well as the Russian military began training with kettlebells to improve strength, balance, endurance and flexibility. The 1980 Russian Olympic track team swept gold in the throwing events after kettlebell training, and to this day the Russian military tests fitness with the kettlebell snatch as opposed to the push-up. Coach and nationally ranked kettlebell lifter Pavel Tsatsouline brought the training technique into the mainstream fitness world in the United States.
The kettlebell consists of a heavy iron orb with a handle attached at the top. You can purchase the equipment in a variety of weights, or poods. A pood is a Russian measurement equivalent to 16 kg or around 35 lbs.
The exercises in kettlebell training involve total-body movements where you swing, press or pull the heavy weight. The momentum-driven swinging motions combined with the handle placement at the top of the iron orb forces your stabilizing muscles around your back and abdomen to engage to counteract the momentum of the kettlebell. In addition to motions specialized for the equipment, ACE suggests performing deadlifts, lunges and shoulder presses with a kettlebell instead of traditional weights.
The equipment itself is compact and relatively inexpensive. You can work your entire body with a single, small kettlebell to save space and money on a larger set of equipment. According to the Northwestern Health Sciences University’s wellness program Healthy U, regular kettlebell training can help reduce your risk of injury by strengthening your back and rotator cuff, improving your grip and conditioning your body for the quick starting and stopping common in many sports. Researchers at ACE found that the calorie-burning potential of kettlebells can only be matched by quick uphill cross country skiing.
Because the handle of the kettlebell is placed away from its center of gravity, the quick movements place greater stress on the wrist than the same motion with a dumbbell would, says Fitness Magazine. Start with a lighter kettlebell and work your way up as you learn to control the movements. Healthy U suggests seeking the assistance of a certified kettlebell instructor before performing the exercises on your own. Always be aware of your surroundings when working with the weight. Make sure the area around you is clear, and work over a surface that can handle having a heavy weight dropped on it. If you begin to lose your grip on the handle, push it away from you and move back out of the way.