The Benefits of Kettlebell Training You (Should) Actually Care About
“Why kettlebells?” I get asked this a lot, along with “can I do some personal training with you, but not hurl around those kettlebell thingies?” Yeah, true story.
There’s really an obvious reason why I hurl these kettlebell thingies around – it’s just cool AF.
Ok but in all seriousness, there are just so many benefits of kettlebell sport – improvement of form, extremely low level of injury (if done under the guidance of a good trainer or training program), inexpensive, builds core strength, enhanced body awareness… I can keep going, but I really want to zoom in on three.
Mental Toughness and Softness
To hold and move a bell for several minutes at a time, the body has to be soft and relaxed, yet focused on breathing properly and moving efficiently.
Oftentimes, especially as a beginner, our stress reflexes kick in when lifting heavier kettlebells or when performing an exercise we aren’t familiar with. Our shoulders lift, our muscles tense and without realising it, we’re holding our breath, and holding ourselves back from reaching optimal performance.
Over time, proper kettlebell training teaches us to get comfortable in uncomfortable situations. During long, intense intervals or when lifting heavy, knowing how to stay relaxed yet focused is key to sustain the movement and protect the body.
Sure, some guys have big chest and guns, but in sports performance, these muscles paint a small part of a much bigger picture.
Kettlebell sport is about utilising the body – yes, the whole body – and utilising it efficiently. There’s just no way of holding up and hurling around 75% of your body weight for minutes at high repetitions without using the body and its muscles in an intelligent way.
Ironically the muscle groups most used in kettlebell sport are the ones that are mostly neglected in conventional fitness…
Postural muscles (your back bro): Perhaps the muscle group most neglected in conventional fitness. It’s why you see gorillas walking around the gym and old people stooping forward. Strengthening the lumbar erectors is the biggest single step you can take toward having a healthy back – for life.
Glutes and hamstrings (ze booty): The muscle group that stabilises the knee, ankle and hips increases explosive power and damn well fills out a pair of jeans or hot pants in all the right ways. This group of muscles is hard to work without free weight. Notice plenty of yogis with sculpted arms, legs and abs, but a booty that won’t fill out? You guessed it – it’s a kettlebell swing deficiency.
Grip: If you do Jiu-Jitsu or rock climbing, you’ll know that this is one of the first things to give out. There was a point in time where my forearms measured bigger than my biceps… yes I was a real life Popeye.
Cardio and conditioning: With enough time and effort, you’ll be able to reach near-maximum heart rate lifting kettlebells – I know of lifters who can get to over 190bpm. So no, you don’t need a treadmill or stationary bike for cardio – stop going off information from the 80’s.
A firm, round booty, a tight midsection and the right balance of top to bottom and front to back firmness – that’s what kettlebell sport gives you ladies.
If you’re a dude who more than loves his beer, kettlebell sport is the best way to bring your midsection in for the amount of time spent. In other words, it is the most time-effective fat burner I’ve come across.
If you’re skinny and are hoping to build bulk, kettlebell training won’t quite do that for you (hear that ladies? You’re not going to get bulky!). It does, however, work well as an assistance training. Adding kettlebell snatches, clean and jerks and swings to some old school barbell lifting will add a whole new dimension to your size and strength.