In recent years, the popularity of kettlebells has exploded as more and more people have discovered the incredible benefits of using them in their workouts. Whilst they have been around for many years, the explosion of CrossFit and the increased desire for functional training have put kettlebells at the forefront of free weight training.
What are Kettlebells?
A kettlebell is a cast iron or cast steel ball with a horn on top that forms a handle. Along with dumbbells and barbells, kettlebells are regarded as free weights, which refers to a ‘free’ object used in training that isn’t attached to anything like a cable or machine.
A unique difference between kettlebells and the other free weights is the weight distribution. For dumbbells and barbells, the weight is distributed evenly across the handle, with the user’s hands positioned directly in the centre of the weight. On the other hand, due to the kettlebell’s handle being positioned away from the centre of the mass, there is more emphasis and control required in order to maintain grip.
This extra level of complexity is a large factor in why the kettlebell has been so widely adopted by groups that are focused on functional training, such as CrossFit, which aims to include movements that mirror the actions we perform in our day-to-day lives.
There is a range of other features that make kettlebells such a great option, so we have condensed many of these into three key benefits to in incorporating them into your workouts.
Full Body Conditioning
Kettlebells are the perfect all-in-one piece of gym equipment, capable of providing a full workout hitting all the key areas of the body. Whether you’re looking to target specific muscle groups or train your entire body, there is an abundance of kettlebell exercises and workouts that can provide all you need for a great session. This allows for a simplified approach to training, requiring less space and equipment whilst still managing to tick all the boxes. Additionally, this allows for your workout to be portable and not location restrictive.
A key benefit of kettlebells is the ability to train in all three planes of motion (sagittal, frontal & transverse) when using them. Unlike other free weights, kettlebells allow users to train forward and back, side-to-side and twisting movements. This further contributes to their effectiveness when adopting a full-body training approach, and the requirement from ligaments, joints and muscles allows for improved mobility and flexibility training, as well as more emphasis placed on balance. Additionally, this pattern of movement is great for replicating movements of day-to-day life, and also common movements that are required in different sports.
Kettlebells also allow for a greater range of motion than other alternatives. Having the ability to train across all three planes of motion, allows for an increased range of motion over exercises that are performed in one plane, such as a squat or bicep curl.
Increased Core and Grip Strength
A final feature of the kettlebell that distinguishes it from alternative free weights is the increased requirement for core and grip strength. Many kettlebell exercises require an increased level of stability in order to perform them, which stimulates the core muscles and maintains this stress throughout the entire movement. This means that even exercises that are not designed to specifically target the abdominal muscles still require a huge contribution from them for stabilisation. Additionally, training across all three planes of motion forces you to work your core from all directions and angles, forcing you to work undertrained areas of the core such as the obliques.
As mentioned previously, the kettlebell has a unique off-centre weight distribution due to the positioning of the handle. This makes it more difficult to control as the weight is not balanced in your hand, leading to much more work from your forearms and wrists just to keep the kettlebell steady. Grip strength is an area that is often undertrained and undervalued in training too, which makes it all the more important to start using kettlebells.