The kettlebell is a dynamic tool that is used for strength and conditioning which utilises multi joint movements within the body.
However, critics of kettlebell training are dismissing it as a passing fad within the fitness industry. These doubters have not taken into consideration the historical heritage of the kettlebell, its positive impact that it has on overall fitness, athletic performance and specifically the way that it boosts both strength and power.
It differs from other modalities because you are working under a submaximal load whilst performing reps continuously over an extended period of time.
It is time to set the record straight in terms of using kettlebells to improve your overall functional strength and power.
Kettlebell training enhances your power output
By performing classic lifts as the snatch and clean and jerk; you develop power endurance very quickly.
Power endurance is the ability for you to perform movements over a longer period of time, and this is different from strength endurance. Strength endurance enables you to produce a force over an extended period of time.
Power endurance recruits a lot more fast-twitch muscle fibres and this allows you to produce faster muscle contractions over a longer period of time.
Strength and power endurance are both excellent fitness components to have in your armoury but it’s the power endurance that improves athletic performance, fat loss and fitness conditioning.
Research has indicated that kettlebell training does indeed improve muscular endurance, strength and explosive power.
Kettlebells boost your anabolic hormone levels
It taxes both the anaerobic and aerobic system! Kettlebell training with heavy weights at a high intensity using multi-joint exercises and large muscle groups can help to create new and enhance existing muscle tissue.
When executing your kettlebell workouts to failure it recruits your type 2 muscle fibres and boosts your testosterone and human growth hormone levels.
Testesterone and HGH are major fat burning and muscle building hormones that help to control body fat levels and improve your functional fitness.
The boosts of these two hormones along with IGF-1 and the catecholamines have attributed to a longer life span because of their impact on fat levels and muscle mass. Muscle mass is more metabolically active than fat and burns 15 times more calories when at rest.
The body adapts to the constant change of the centre of gravity
The shape of the kettlebell allows the unique positioning of the weight to be above the centre of gravity. This allows you to keep your arms and wrist in a neutral position and it is this concept that allows you to perform more core lifts for a longer duration.
Thus you can perform a greater volume of exercises and have greater conditioning along with many health benefits.
In addition, the centre of gravity of the kettlebell is about 6-7 inches outside of your grip and this replicates the forces that you will encounter during daily tasks e.g. carrying the shopping.
Hence kettlebell training does maintain health and overall fitness and this is attributed to the following physiological parameters associated with training:
- An increase stroke volume in the heart at rest and during exercise
- A reduction on blood pressure
- A decrease in oxygen consumption at sub maximal intensities and an increase in oxygen consumption at maximal levels
- An increase in muscle blood flow which delivers oxygen, nutrients and the fat burning hormones
- An increase in ventilation at maximal intensities and a decrease in ventilation at sub maximal intensities.
- An increase in the rate of oxygen delivery from lungs to blood stream
- Improved endurance of respiratory muscles
Kettlebell training improves your grip strength
As a society we are moving away from manual work and the thicker handle of kettlebells helps to develop forearm strength. The centre of gravity of the kettlebell is usually in motion and this enhances muscular contractions in your forearm which equates to an increase in grip strength.
Kettlebell training also improves your flexibility, it also helps to regain functional and core strength.
This style of training quickly reveals any weakness and weak spots in your body. Many of the exercises are performed unilaterally and due to their multi joint nature your coordination, flexibility and balance are quickly improved.
Improves your Posterior Kinetic Chain
Many people go to the gym and overly train their front side of the body e.g. arms, chest and quads. These are known as the mirror muscles and the posterior or back side of the body is often ignored or under trained.
However, the back side of the body is as equally importance for functional fitness and for looking good. Kettlebells train both side of the body unilaterally and they enhance coordination among all of the major muscle groups in the kinetic chain.
Your posterior kinetic chain is the most important group of muscles, tendons and ligaments that run up the back of your body. They aid with coordination, balance, muscular strength, muscle power and of course posture.
The muscles of the posterior kinetic chain are:
- Erector spinae
- Gluteus maximus, medius and minimus
- Biceps femoris
- Soleus muscles
Reduces back pain
Over 75% of the Western population during their life time will suffer from back pain in various forms, and half of the population have bouts of back pain lasting for 24 hours at some point within the year.
This vital statistic not only impacts on the individual, but also has an adverse effect on the economy with over 60 million days lost per year due to absenteeism.
Back pain may be something that we expect in today’s lifestyle of sitting stationary in front of a computer desk for hours, however with the number of people who suffer from back pain this is perceived as the norm.
Kettlebell training has 6 key benefits in terms of strengthening your core and reducing lower back issues:
Strengthens Your Glutes
Kettlebell training engages your glutes and this stops the erector spinae from overcompensating when performing everyday lifting functions.
Promotes Flexibility of the Hip Flexors
Kettlebell training aids hip flexibility and strengthens your core. This produces a pelvic tilt and this decreases pressure on your lower back.
Enhances Back Extensor Endurance
Kettlebell swings and snatches build strength and endurance in the erector spinae. This is an important muscle group for posture and maintaining a smooth ‘S’ shaped curve in your lower back.
Bracing Helps with Spinal Stability
Bracing or consciously tightening your core muscles is good practice when performing kettlebell exercises. This improves spinal stability and this is important in injury prevention. This will be explained in the safety section
Improves Joint Health
Kettlebell training is highly beneficial to your joint health and can improve your cartilage status along with the cohesion of the collagen.
Strengthens the Multifidus Muscle
A weakness in this muscle has been linked to back issues and kettlebell training can strengthen this muscle.