August “Scary” Equipment Series – Kettlebell
Against the back wall in the corner of the gym is usually a menacing rack full of black metal balls with handles on them. If you look around you don’t really see many people using them. You may even find a thin layer of dust covering them. You might think to yourself, “these must be for the advanced members.” This alone can make them intimidating. Let’s take a closer look at how kettlebells were created and why they became tools for exercise.
It would be easy to think that the kettlebell is made from leftover metal scraps but in fact the kettlebell has been in existence for over 350 years. It was first used in Russia as a counter balance to weigh out dry goods. So in a way, yes, they are pieces of scrap metal. An interesting fact: kettlebells are weighed out in “poods” in Russia. A “pood” is 16.38kg or 36.11 pounds. In 1948 the modern style of kettlebell lifting became the National Sport of Russia. Around 1970 it became popular in the United States and in 1985 national rules, regulations and weight categories were finalized. Also in 1985 the first National Championship took place in Lipetsk, Russia. (Source: Kettlebellusa.com)
Now you can find them in all kinds of sizes, weight, and styles. Even covered plastic ones that seem less frightening like the ones above. No matter what kind you choose, make sure you pick the correct weight for the exercise. Play around and have fun. But hold on tight so they don’t fly out of your hand(s)!
Weights of this nature were used throughout history and by many cultures. They often mimic “functional” movement of these cultures. Another “scary” word. Using kettlebells properly will get you to use your entire kinetic chain to lift the weight.
Using kettlebells recruit more muscle fibers, creating more gains or burning more calories in an efficient manner. Once you utilize and master the three basic lifts (the swing, the clean & press and the snatch) you will be well on your way to kettlebell training mastery. But there are so many ways to utilize kettlebells in your everyday training.
Each week over the month of August we will show the diversity that the kettlebell can add to your training. Today we start with the kettlebell swing.
The kettlebell swing engages muscle groups from the legs, core (front and back) and arms. The swing isn’t about moving the weight around. “Wait? What?” The kettlebell is supposed to react to the movement of your body.
Today we will master the Kettlebell Swing!
These are the traditional Russian kettlebell swings, which stop at chest height or slightly above (the American swings go overhead and can hurt your lower back and shoulders if done incorrectly).
Stand with feet about shoulder distance apart and hold the kettlebell handle with both hands facing you and arms straight. Bend knees and go into a half squat, hinging forward slightly so the kettlebell lowers and goes back between your legs. To drive the kettlebell up, engage your abs, tighten the glutes, and thrust the hips forward as you straighten your legs and swing the kettlebell up with straight arms.
Do not use your arms; the power is coming from the glutes and hip thrust. Your arms should never bend, and the swing should never be too fast or uncontrolled. Continue this motion smoothly for about 12 swings. Carefully slow the motion down and squat to place the kettlebell on the ground.
What is your favorite kettlebell exercise? Share with us in the comment below!