Kettlebell 101: Is it Right for You?

by Edward Gemdjian

We’ve all seen them at our gym, some of us may even know that they come from Russia. But the truth is, even though they have been in the main stream, kettlebells remain a relative mystery to most.

Kettlebells are actually the predecessor to dumbbells, the first one was literally  a cannonball with a handle welded to the top of it. It was first used by the Russian army and later all over the world. When dumbbells were invented, with the handle at the center of the weight distribution, kettlebells were thought to be obsolete and were more or less forgotten by main stream fitness.

It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that kettlebells came back into the public eye, through the functional training movement in the late 1990s. Because the Kettlebell’s center of mass extends beyond the hand, it allows for more ballistic types of movements. Exercises that combine the use of power and inertia become possible, causing greater core and lower back strength as well as increased neuromuscular control. This is very advantageous to any athlete looking for non specific conditioning.

Most ballistic KB exercises such as swings, cleans and snatches also require a great cardiac output. Using light kettlebells for an extended amount of repetitions can be a great substitute for conventional cardio and has been shown to burn a massive amount of calories.

So why doesn’t everyone just switch over to using kettlebells?

Just as any other form of exercise, kettlebells do not solve the entire fitness puzzle. Most importantly, very few KB exercises are safe for beginners, and when learning any ballistic exercises, one should be very closely watched by an experienced fitness professional. Furthermore, because of the great load placed on the lower back and core, kettlebell training can only be effective with a relatively injury free individual with minimal postural and muscular imbalances. In other words I liken KB training to running:

“You must learn to walk first.”

In the coming weeks I will take you through various kettlebell training techniques, from beginner to expert and back, so you can seamlessly incorporate this new skill into your regime.

Edward Gemdjian is a NASM certified Personal Trainer and Holistic Lifestyle Coach. Team Awesome is his response to the myriads of misinformation about health and fitness in the media. He currently sees clients exclusively at Equinox Fitness in Chelsea, New York.

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