- 1 What is a kettlebell?
- 2 Kettlebell: A History
- 3 The Shape of a Kettlebell
- 4 What are kettlebells used for?
- 5 How do you use a kettlebell?
- 6 What muscle groups do kettlebells target?
- 7 Benefits of using kettlebells
- 8 Drawbacks of using kettlebells for workouts
- 9 What kind of body will kettlebells give you?
- 10 Are kettlebells better than dumbbells?
- 11 Best kettlebells for beginners
- 12 References:
Picture this: you are at the gym, and you are working out, trying to improve your grip, your strength and endurance in your lower back, legs and your shoulders. You want to do some ballistic exercises, combine that with cardio, strength and flexibility training. What kind of equipment do you grab?
Yup, a kettlebell.
What is a kettlebell?
A kettlebell is a cast iron or a cast steel ball-shaped weight training equipment with a handle attached on top. It is a bell-shaped dumbbell with a sturdy, arched handle at the top to allow for a firm grip.
Over the last decade, the kettlebell has been increasingly used in weight and endurance training, but when did it all begin?
How did the kettlebell become so popular, where is it from?
Kettlebell: A History
The most popular theory of the origin of kettlebells goes back to eighteenth-century Russia, where the kettlebell or girya as it was originally called, was used as a metal weight to weigh crops down. It was used by farmers who passed time by swinging the primitive version of today’s kettlebell.
It was a form of ‘folk exercise’ among them.
This slowly evolved into an event where kettlebell swinging and other displays involving kettlebells were staged. Then, sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s, the kettlebell became an official sport.
Each country has its own tale of how the kettlebell first came into existence. In each case, the function of the kettlebell varies, from a tool to an apparatus, to a piece of equipment, a prop used in competitions and during a performance. Even its shape varies slightly from one place to another, depending on which capacity it was used in.
The Shape of a Kettlebell
We discussed how the shape of a kettlebell evolved and varied from place to place, depending on its function.
Today, the standard kettlebell has a hard mass of metal shaped like a ball, with a rounded curved bottom. On top is a handle that is shaped like, you guessed it, a tea kettle’s handle.
The handle is arched and is meant to improve your grip, as well as allow you to practice swing movements, all with the added benefit of grip, wrist, arm, and core strengthening.
What are kettlebells used for?
Kettlebells are used in fitness and strength training, to
improve your overall strength, core power, balance, flexibility, grip and coordination.
It can help you work on all of that, while simultaneously helping you melt that
extra fat and sculpt lean and healthy muscles.
The following are some of the types of training you can work on using a
- Flexibility training
- Aerobic training
- Strength training
- Core training
- Endurance training
How do you use a kettlebell?
The basic practice of using the kettlebell is to grip the
arched handle, wither with one hand or both, depending on the type of exercise
and training you are undertaking, and go through a series of exercises like a
one-arm lift or one arm swing, a two-arm lift, a two-arm swing, the loaded
carry, the snatch, and the high pull, to name a few.
When you swing the kettlebell, the momentum will create
centrifugal force, and focus more attention and intensity on the muscles that
are used for deceleration and stabilization.
The multi-dimensional movements you perform when you use a
kettlebell loosely mimic the movement of swinging a suitcase and then storing
it in the overhead compartment, for example.
Some movements have you changing the kettlebell weight from
one hand to another as you swing the weight up or as you move laterally. This
allows you to stabilize your body while engaging your core. Another move
requires that you use your legs and hips to power your movement and support the
You can coordinate these movements and exercises, combine
kettlebell lifts with squats and kettlebell dips, all to get the best possible
workout, targeted at exercising and sculpting whichever part of your body you
It is, essentially, a full-body workout, if you manage to
incorporate all aspects of weight training, cardio, and endurance
What muscle groups do kettlebells target?
Kettlebell exercises that target the core include squats, crunches, and lunges to name a few. These exercises will work your abs and other core muscles.
Workout exercises like single-arm rows and shoulder presses will work and hone your arms, reducing fat and sculpt your biceps. Any kettlebell exercise will also invariably help to work out your wrists and improve your grip.
When you combine kettlebell exercising with lunges and squats, your legs, too, get a complete workout.
As with working out your legs, kettlebell lunges and kettlebell squats will tone and lift your glutes.
When you use a kettlebell to perform a dead-lift, it will help you tone your back muscles, giving your entire back and glutes a complete workout.
Benefits of using kettlebells
We’ve discussed what areas you can target with kettlebell workouts, as well as full-body kettlebells workouts. Here’s a complete list of the benefits of using a kettlebell.
1. Enhances body awareness and coordination
When you are performing the movements involved with using a kettlebell— like swinging it around, swinging it over your head, to your side, in between your legs, from side to side—you are completely aware of your body and you tend to focus your concentration on the mind to muscle connection and coordination that is slowly developing.
This will lead to improved proprioception, as well as stabilize your body’s balance, helping you focus on working out your core.
2. High level fat-burning workout
Kettlebell workouts offer a ridiculous calorie-burning potential, which means you are burning fat quickly. Swinging a kettlebell will burn around 20 calories a minute. That is 400 calories for a 20-minute workout. To burn that many calories, you will need to run at a 6 mile per minute race. Do the math.
Additionally, losing fat while using a kettlebell is a high-intensity workout, which means you have an after-burn effect as well, called EPOC: excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. You’re essentially burning calories long after you finish working out.
3. Develops hip power and speed
What this means is that when you use a kettlebell to perform a kettlebell swing, you are essentially learning to produce speed and force from your hips. The kettlebell swings train your hips to produce force in both strength and speed.
Hips play a pivotal role in many athletic and training activities, so it is important to know how to maximize your hip force when you are training for speed or power sports.
4. Builds lean muscles, a strong posterior change and improves posture
Using a kettlebell will not bulk you up. Instead, it will build lean muscle and increase lean muscle mass, as opposed to bodybuilding. They help you build dense muscle, achieved by higher repetitions and shorter, yet intense workout. These metabolic workouts are known to boost your testosterone.
Additionally, kettlebell swings are ballistic movements that you perform from a hinge position. This will work your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and middle back. It essentially helps you improve your posture in the long run.
5. Improves joint health
Kettlebell exercises require deliberate control over your body to execute every movement. This means that every joint in your body, from your wrists to your elbows to arms, to your knees and legs is worked out, improving their flexibility and mobility.
In the long run, you will be working to keep your joints healthy, develop more elasticity in the tendons and ligaments, and help build resilience to injury or strain.
It is a low-risk exercise—unless you drop the kettlebell on your toes, something that I strongly advise you not to do—with a high reward, as it is safer than heavy barbell squats, bench presses, and deadlifts.
Drawbacks of using kettlebells for workouts
As there are pros, so must there be cons, and the kettlebell is no exception to that rule. As with any weight training exercises that involve equipment, there is always a chance that you will injure yourself. It is important to get a good grip on your kettlebell, and not let go of it.
Wearing appropriate gear like weight-training gloves to help you get a firmer grip on the handles is vital.
There is also the risk of injuring your body, like throwing out your back or pulling a muscle that can be expected with all exercises. Understanding how to perform each exercise and working on your stance, form and grip will go a long way to help you avoid any of these injuries.
What kind of body will kettlebells give you?
The kind of physique that kettlebells can give you is versatile, one that you can decide to work on. Primarily, using kettlebell will help you build lean muscles, help you burn fat and tone your muscles.
What it will not do is bulk you up.
For that, you’ll be better off at the bench press, or doing barbell squats.
Kettlebell exercises build strength quickly while allowing you to focus and target on exactly which part of your body you want to tone. Do you want sculpted glutes? Kettlebell squats. Firm, toned arms? Kettlebell swings. Shed that pesky back fat? Kettlebell lunges are the way to go.
Are kettlebells better than dumbbells?
While kettlebells use momentum, deceleration, and stabilization, dumbbells use slow controlled movement that avoids momentum, where the center of gravity is in your hand. With kettlebells, the center of gravity is external and targeted, intended to build endurance and power, as opposed to bulk muscle and strength like dumbbells.
Best kettlebells for beginners
1 . BowFlex SelectTech Kettlebell 840
This kettlebell is a bit oversized but if you have large hands this BowFlex fits solidly in your hand. The ability to adjust from 5 to 40 lbs is a great feature to have for the different kettlebell exercises. This is one of the kettlebells that I own and use.
2 . Onnit Kettlebells
Onnit offers a range of exercise equipment, of which the Primal Bell collection is the front runner, targeted at both beginners looking to wet their feet, as well as for experienced trainers who want a full-body, high powered workout.
3. Yes4all Kettlebells
Yes4All’s Vinyl coated kettlebells are available at a multitude of weight options, from five pounds to fifty pounds. This kettlebell is a great beginners’ equipment, sturdy, solid, and dependable.
4. Cap Kettlebells
The Cap Barbell enamel-coated, the cast iron kettlebell is versatile and offers a firm grip, allowing beginners and pros alike great momentum to work on their form, flexibility, and core strength.
5. Dragon door Kettlebells
Advertised as the ‘personal, hand-held gym,’ Dragon Door’s kettlebells, as well as the various other weight-training equipment they offer, are built to give you sustained and superior endurance without compromising on safety.
6. Kettlebell kings
The best feature that Kettlebell Kings offer is weighted plates in their range of kettlebells that can be easily unlocked and removed, to adjust the weights to up to 40 pounds.
7. Titan Fitness kettlebells
Titan’s kettlebells include six drop cast iron plates that can be used to alter the weight of the kettlebell to up to 40 pounds. The kettlebells have a wide handle, with a 1.5-inch diameter, made of black powder-coated cast iron to make it durable and sturdy.
8. Rogue Kettlebells
Rogue Fitness offers a veritable slew of kettlebells to choose from, along with several other strength training equipment, weightlifting bars, plates and straps, and all that you’ll need to get a full-body workout, without having to worry about safety or quality.