A cast-iron weight with a handle resembling a cannonball, the kettlebell can appear more intimidating than impressive. It’s not something to grab and swing around at random, that’s for sure. However, with proper technique, this single piece of equipment can accomplish multiple fitness goals.
According to Personal Trainer George Samuelson, RKC II, CK-FMS, there are two main kettlebell training styles: Hard-style and Girevoy Sport. Girevoy Sport centers upon the most efficient use of strength while conserving energy for achieving maximum reps over time in preparation for competition. Hard Style kettlebell training employs the repeated use of power, a near maximal effort of max tension in minimum time, over everything else. Depending on your sport/activity, either style can allow you to master effective exercise strategies for it or even general everyday living.
Personal Trainer Richard Jones, IKFF CKT, elaborates, “Kettlebell workouts of any type involve intense cardio activity.” He compares the results to those of circuit training where participants proceed from one exercise method to the next with little or no rest in between. Rich refers to kettlebell exercises as “loaded cardio” because of their simultaneous resistance and cardiovascular benefits.
Rich was intrigued after learning about the Turkish Getup kettlebell exercise, which he originally practiced using a medicine ball because kettlebells were not readily available. This led him to research and study kettlebells long before their recent surge in popularity. “I’ve been incorporating kettlebells in workouts for all my clients for years, way before they became a trend,” shares Rich. “From the most athletic members to those rehabilitating from knee replacements, each one touches a kettlebell at some point in their training with me.” Kettlebells are adaptable and have something to offer everyone.
Kettlebell’s biggest perk: It’s a simple, effective, one-piece tool with a proven history, which is unique in a fitness world saturated with trendy gimmicks. Rich enjoys its athletic nature; it can be a competitive sport. “There’s skill involved. It’s not isolated weightlifting or cardio reps. One needs to focus on each movement, which provides a great release for your mind while improving your body,” indicates Rich. This discipline helps develop good habits that enhance other types of training. Those who are passionate about Group Fitness classes, swimming, or other sports can improve in these disciplines by incorporating kettlebells in their overall routine. Kettlebells promote the skills and form needed for exceptional fitness in other areas.
Those who use kettlebells enjoy their fun and engaging nature. Successful movement requires determination, focus, and practice. Consider adding this handheld exercise tool to your program. Core work is part of each kettlebell technique, improving strength throughout the body. Results also include increased mobility, stamina, and flexibility. Don’t expect to “kettlebell” overnight though. It takes time and qualified instruction to become familiar with this exercise companion. And plenty of practice!
The Kettlebell Craze
Once you’ve given kettlebells a swing, you may find yourself a fanatic. Rich attests to that. He recently took his passion for the swing to the competition level. At the North Jersey Kettlebell Competition, sanctioned by the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation, he earned first place in the Long Cycle Clean-and-Jerk event. He performed 128 repetitions with a 35-pound kettlebell in only 10 minutes. “Now that I have a taste for victory, I want to compete more often,” Rich chuckles. His goal is to continue to improve technique. Perfected technique increases stamina and allows the most efficient movements, thereby improving your record time.
Competitions are held worldwide and include events in various categories. Participants are grouped by age; gender; and kettlebell weights, which range from about 26 to 70 pounds. “It’s a great challenge and unique in that each routine works your entire body,” relates Rich who is excited to compete and, hopefully, win again in March 2010. Winning with his clients is his first priority though. “I continuously research training methods to improve my own fitness and that of my clients. I keep their workouts new and fresh so they stay motivated.” Ring in the kettlebells!
Please see the Center’s Fitness Manager for more information on kettlebell workouts.
Opening photo: Kettlebells shown with chalk, which is used in competitions to keep hands dry and reduce friction.