A 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.
Let's Look at some of the benefits of kettlebell training:
#1: Kettlebell Training Boosts Power
By performing classic lifts like 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.
#2: 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.
Testosterone 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.
#3: Overall Health Benefits
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 in stroke volume in the heart at rest and during exercise
- Reduction in blood pressure
- A decrease in oxygen consumption at submaximal 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 submaximal intensities.
- Increase in the rate of oxygen delivery from the lungs to the bloodstream
- Improved endurance of respiratory muscles
#4: 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.
#5: 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 backside of the body is often ignored or undertrained.
However, the backside of the body is as equally important for functional fitness and for looking good. Kettlebells train both sides 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
#6: Reduces Back Pain
Over 75% of the Western population during their lifetime 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.
#7: Strengthens Your Glutes
Kettlebell training engages your glutes and this stops the erector spinae from overcompensating when performing everyday lifting functions.
Working your glutes offers plenty of other benefits too. For example, due to their size, building your glutes will burn a large number of calories both during and after a workout.
A strong butt also helps to increase performance and strength. Your knees will be better protected and you will be able to lift more and run faster.
#8: Promotes Flexibility of the Hip Flexors
Your hip flexors are a group of muscles that run down the front of your hips and thigh. They attach to your spine, pelvis and femur and allow you to lift your knees towards your chest.
Due to the fact we spend a large proportion of our lives sitting we end up with shortened hip flexors, which can lead to a host of issues, including lower back pain.
Kettlebell training aids hip flexibility and helps to strengthen your core. This produces a pelvic tilt and this decreases pressure on your lower back.
#9: 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.
By strengthening this muscle group you can reduce lower back pain.
#10: 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.
#11: 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.
Strength training helps to keep the muscles that surround your joints strong. It also helps to lubricate the joints and can help decrease bone loss. Strength training like kettlebell training can help to control joint swelling and associated pain.
#12: Strengthens The Multifidus Muscle
The Multifidus muscle is a thin muscle that fills up the groove on either side of the spinous processes of the vertebrae. It plays an important role in stabilising the joints within your spine.
A weakness in this muscle has been linked to back issues and kettlebell training can strengthen this muscle.
As you can see there are plenty of benefits to be gained from using kettlebells in your training.
Perhaps it is time for you to stop ignoring these benefits and incorporate them into your own regime.