What if I told you that you could get faster, stronger and leaner by swinging around some bells, would you do it? Well, get ready to start. But you won’t be swinging around random cow bells. No comrades, you will be swinging your way to your hard body using kettlebells.
Kettlebells clearly don’t resemble the traditional weights found at the local gym or sports club. These weights, also known by their native Russian name of girya, have handles attached to a cast iron cannonball shaped body. The exact origin of the weight is still a bit of a mystery. According to Kettlebellusa.com, the word “kettlebell” appeared in the Russian dictionary in 1704 although it can be traced back even further. The kettlebell originally served as a counterweight on Russian market scales, where the standard unit of measure for weight is in “poods”– one pood equals 16.38 kilograms (kg) or approximately 36.11 pounds (lbs.). Only later was its use expanded from a functional tool to a form of entertainment and lifting by Russian strong men. Any man driven enough to train with a kettlebell was referred to as a girevik or “a kettlebell man.” It wasn’t until 1948 that kettlebell lifting became the Soviet Union’s national sport. It hit the U.S. in 1998 when an article written by Pavel Tsatsouline, a former Soviet Forces training instructor, appeared in MILO magazine. It described some of Russia’s favorite pastimes and kettlebell training made the cut.
Today, much like traditional weights, the loads vary greatly from 4kg (9 lbs.) to 48 kg (106 lbs.) and beyond. Kettlebells traditionally came in the following weights:
- 16Kg – 35lbs -1 pood
- 24 Kg – 53lbs – 1.5 pood
- 32 Kg – 70lbs – 2 pood
The kettlebell is also no longer limited to the cast iron body. They are made in a variety of materials, including steel, rubber and even gender specific designs.
Why So Special?
So, you may be wondering what is the difference between a kettlebell and your standard barbells/dumbbells. More so, how can a kettlebell workout even help me? Traditional gym weights have their mass evenly distributed along an axis. This means the average gym-goer is constrained in terms of range of movement (customarily they have to arch the weights in a single plane). Kettlebells, however, have their mass centered in a sphere and a handle for gripping. This extends the weight just past the hand and provides freedom to perform a range of movements such as a swing, release, catch and other variations such as rotations. This freedom of movement is important. The basic philosophy behind non-traditional weight training is that functional training doesn’t happen with static resistance or under static conditions, but rather when you train in unstable and non-linear motions where the body is forced to react to directional changes. Reacting to the acceleration and deceleration of the weight is what can simulate the real world experience such as those required in sports, labor intensive jobs and even daily living. The swings, catches and releases can help in building strong core muscles, grip strength and yield a sharp decrease in reaction time.