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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Training with Kettlebells. Is it for you?

I know I've mentioned before that I train with kettlebells. When I mention this to people, most people say, "kettle what?" So while kettlebells have been catching on lately, they are still unknown to many people. Let me tell you a little about kettlebells so that you can decide if you might benefit from training with them.

What are kettlebells?
According to Wikipedia, a kettlebell is a traditional Russian cast-iron weight looking somewhat like a cannonball with a handle. They've been around for decades, but are now gaining popularity in the U.S.

How do kettlebells work?
Most kettlebell exercises are based on the concept of functional movement. Functional training involves the entire body in the movement, engaging the core and giving you a total body workout. They build strength and stability, giving you a great workout in a short, efficient burst of activity. My trainer likes to call them a "portable gym."

Who can benefit from working with kettlebells?
Although kettlebells got their start as an exercise tool for muscle-bound Russian strongmen, they can provide a fantastic workout for a wide range of people at different levels of fitness, including:
  • Men
  • Women
  • People looking to lose fat
  • People looking to build muscle
  • Bodybuilders
  • Military/Firefighters/Police
So you can see that they can really do something for everyone, even people at the early stages of their fitness journey. You can use them for building strength, and also do fast circuits of the larger movements to replace traditional cardio. It's quick, fun, and fat-blasting!

What kind of results might you get from Kettlebells?
I can share a few things I've seen or experienced myself from my kettlebell workouts. First, I've seen and heard about women and men who start working out with kettlebells, and without even trying, they go down a size or lose weight. For instance, two women I know have been working with our trainer since February. Both of them went down a size within the first 6 weeks of starting their workouts.

Then there's the cardio benefits. I went for a 2.5 mile run in February. It took me 25:30 to finish. After doing my normal weight training workouts and using kettlebell circuits for my cardio for two months, I went for another run. I had not run over a mile since February. I ran at a pace that felt easy, and when I finished the 2.5 miles, it had taken me 24:30. I shaved a minute off my time, without sport-specific training or even pushing myself. With stronger legs and a body trained to use oxygen more efficiently during my killer kettlebell circuits, I was able to gain benefits in an entirely different form of exercise.

There are dozens of amazing kettlebell success stories on the Dragon Door site, here.

How can I get started?
If you think kettlebells might be something you want to try, then you'll want to know how to get started. The basic movement is the kettlebell swing, and it's what you'll want to learn first. While I did start with the kettlebell swing based on videos I watched, I have since found there is no replacement for in-person training with a professional. You certainly can start with DVDs or books, but even one session with a trainer could get you doing a proper swing in no time. I've also seen people work without a trainer and get too ambitious, trying advanced moves without being able to check their form. This can lead to injury, so please train safely!

If you do go with a trainer, choose one who is specifically certified to train kettlebells. Any trainer will not do. You might have seen Jillian Michaels demonstrate a kettlebell swing on The Biggest Loser this season. As much as I love Jillian, I'm sorry to say that even she was doing the moves incorrectly, simply because she didn't know any better. I work out in a small group with a certified Russian Kettlebell Instructor, or RKC for short. You can find out whether there is a RKC certified trainer in your area by checking here.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Liz!! Lots of great info for a Kettle Bell newbie like me! Thanks!