This is a guest post by Ron Matty, certified personal trainer. Ron is a highly knowledgeable trainer, complete with at least one kettlebell certification under his belt. However, you can imagine how it goes when a guru gets on a roll–some of the information is a bit overwhelming, especially for someone with limited training experience (or even limited kettlebell experience for that matter). At any rate, scan the following headings, pick up some inspiration, pick up a kettlebell, or sign up for that Groupon deal you’ve been considering!
The Kettlebell Training Advantage #1: A Four-Dimensional Tool-
First of all, I consider kettlebells to be a four-dimensional tool. When you hold a dumbbell in one hand, it can move in three dimensions simultaneously. A kettlebell, on the other hand, also has an offset center of gravity, which leads to the unique feature of flipping over and creating a sort of a “pocket.” You could feel the same “pocket” of energy when you grab a vertical flag pole with one hand on the run and swing around it changing your direction. That “pocket” is that “fourth dimension” of a kettlebell.
The kettlebell’s fourth dimension leads to a whole new level of movement complexity which builds superior coordination and overall athleticism. It also makes the movement very smooth and circular in nature (provided that it is performed correctly), which is more natural and efficient.
The Kettlebell Training Advanage #2: Ballistic Kettlebell Exercises
The flipping motion (present in many ballistic kettlebell exercises) creates the need to absorb ballistic shock and forces you to do it correctly which builds strong tendons, ligaments and fascia. The skill of proper shock absorption is a must for any contact sport athlete (or anybody for that matter). But it does not end there, when performing ballistic kettlebell exercises, after absorbing the shock, you need to redirect the force immediately. Those skills are some of the cornerstones of athletic ability.
When doing ballistic kettlebell exercises you are constantly accelerating and decelerating the kettlebell at the end of a your arm (essentially creating a lever), which develops torque forces. This forces your muscles and connective tissues to work extra hard, accomplishing more with less weight.
The Kettlebell Training Advantage #3: The Handle
The kettlebell’s offset handle and the ability to flip creates a unique opportunity for a large array of juggling exercises which would be impossible or impractical with most implements. Kettlebell juggling is one of my favorite training modalities, it’s fun, promotes great coordination and athleticism, dynamic grip strength, total body strength and conditioning with a focus on the legs, hips and core as well as the heart and lungs.
The offset weight distribution of the kettlebell keeps your core constantly engaged in a dynamic battle to pull the weight in (to keep it from falling off to the side), where a dumbbell would “rest” on your bone structure. This engages the body on yet another level, accomplishing more with less yet again. Every exercise with the kettlebell becomes a total-body drill, even when focused on lower body exercises.
Most kettlebells have thick handles, which is great for building grip strength. Any exercise with a kettlebell automatically turns into a grip exercise. High rep kettlebell ballistics, like Snatches, Long Cycle Cleans and Jerks, or Rotational Split Cleans and Split Push Presses have to be experienced to appreciate how they work the grip and the whole body in general.
The Kettlebell Training Advantage #4: Conditioning
The heart and lungs get an amazing conditioning workout with kettlebells. If you still think that weightlifting and cardio are two different things, try any ballistic kettlebell exercise! Even low rep kettlebell grinds (lifts performed with constant tension and no momentum) make you huff and puff due to their total body involvement. When you do high rep kettlebell ballistics (lifts performed with selective tension and momentum), it sometimes becomes a cleansing, out-of-body experience, as you work harder and harder to complete the set.
The Kettlebell Training Advantage #5: Mental Toughness
This leads us to another natural “byproduct” of kettlebell training: mental toughness. Even if you have all the physical attributes, without mental toughness you will fall apart under pressure. High rep kettlebell ballistics and kettlebell exercises in general build mental toughness in generous amounts. It is no mistake that the U.S. Secret Service chose a ten minute kettlebell Snatch test with 24kgs as a standard test of physical and mental strength and stamina.
The Kettlebell Training Advantage #6: Resistance Variation and Grip Considerations
Another interesting point about kettlebell design is that the same size kettlebell could provide different levels of resistance, despite being one solid piece (as opposed to another implement like adjustable dumbbells). The same kettlebell could work in a group that is diversified in terms of their level of physical fitness. All you need to change is the way you grip the handle: you could hold it with two hands bottom down, two hands bottom up, two hands on the ball of the kettlebell, one hand bottom down on the outside of the wrist, one hand bottom down on the inside of the wrist (thump grip), one hand with kettlebell’s bottom to the side (inside or outside) or one hand with kettlebell’s bottom up. A change in the grip could scale the exercise up or down in the level of difficulty, as well as change the angle and/or focus of the work. One kettlebell could deliver dozens of variations of the “same” exercise.
The Kettlebell Training Advantage #7: Sport-Specific Kettlebell Drills
Many general kettlebell exercises are sport-specific to many activities due to kettlebell’s unique design and four-dimensional features, which naturally lead to smooth circular movements. But combined with the in-depth knowledge of a particular athletic activity, a kettlebell lifting coach can come up with a battery of sport-specific conditioning movements that will promote an outstanding level of activity-specific conditioning.
The Kettlebell Training Advantage #8: Kettlebell Benefits and Endless Possibilities
The sheer amount of exercises and objectives you can accomplish and perform with a kettlebell or two is staggering. Strength, power, endurance, conditioning, coordination, grip strength, mental toughness, and hundreds and hundreds of general and sport-specific exercises to keep you interested. An athlete could be all set for life with just a couple of kettlebells and his own bodyweight.