ASK A TRAINER: 'Are Kettlebells Just a Fad?'
Hello everyone. I mention Kettlebells a lot. Mike from Texas wants to know why.
"What's the deal with Kettlebells? Where did they come from? Are they another fad fitness product like the NordicTrack or the ThighMaster? I've seen them at my gym but they freak me out. And then you said one of your clients that's trying to lose fat does Kettlebell swings and that got my attention. Tell me more."-Mike H., San Antonio, TX
Did the ThighMaster ever really reach fad status? Was there a time when late night orders for the NordicTrack swept the nation? I'm just busting your chops, Mike. Those references made my day. Thanks for making me chuckle. Not only is Kettlebell training not a fad, it dates back to the 18th century. They were first used in Russia as part of the army's strength and conditioning program. Their popularity in the United States is a fairly new phenomenon. The first Kettlebell certification stateside wasn't established until 2001.
The most common Kettlebell exercise is a Kettlebell Swing. Please don't attempt the Kettlebell swing based on my overly simplistic description. Before integrating Kettlebell work into your program, learn the proper way to use them from a personal trainer or fitness professional. I am simply using the Swing as an illustration as to why working with Kettlebells is so effective. (In June, I'm going to start shooting short fitness videos to be posted online. One of the first ones I have planned is about how to properly perform a Kettlebell swing. Stay tuned on that.)
Disclaimer out of the way, this is essentially what a Kettlebell Swing is. You would stand in a deadlift position with your torso long and your core engaged and would swing the Kettle back between your legs as if you were hiking a football as you throw your hips back. Bringing your hips forward to create momentum you would bring the bell forward in front of the body. Although it appears as if someone doing a Kettlebell swing is raising the Kettlebell in front of them by transferring the bulk of the workload to the arms and shoulders, the momentum is actually created in the lower body and the forearms are kept relaxed as the handle is gripped.
So why is that kind of movement so effective? The fact that you can move them quickly over a period of time makes them an excellent cardiovascular tool and, since they are weighted, they are also an excellent means of building strength. Furthermore, rather than isolating one muscle group, most Kettlebell exercises recruit multiple muscle groups and uses multiple energy systems at once. Also, you need to engage your core if you want to maximize the benefits of any Kettlebell exercise (and in order to perform them safely). Most Kettlebell exercises mimic day-to-day movement so they're awesome for functional fitness. In short, Kettlebells are an efficient way to build strength in multiple muscle groups, work the core, improve functional performance and burn calories both anaerobically and aerobically at the same time.
I definitely reccomend working with Kettlebells. But I also DEFINITELY reccomend finding someone qualified to teach you how to use them first. I say go for it on both!
Send your questions to Askthebwwtrainer@gmail.com or Tweet @BuckleyBodyGuru. Until next time, have a great workout!