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Many years ago I was introduced to kettlebells when they were first being introduced to the masses in this country. Perhaps as befitting their use by the former USSR as a key training tool for both their athletes and military, I trained on the street. They seemed hardcore, they’re not… although they can be. But what they really are is a great dynamic way to train for sport (and fitness).
The ‘bell’ allows all standard weight training exercises to be completed, such as cleans, squats and shoulder presses, for example. But they also offers some more unique options, such as the ‘Turkish get-up’ (this one takes some mastery and requires you to get-up from the floor from an on-your-back-position, through a lunge, to being stood up, all the time holding the kettlebell at arm’s length).
The ‘swing’ is another key kettlebell move. The exercise is performed with one bell held at arm’s length by swinging the weight up and letting it drop back down between your legs. You ‘catch’ the momentum and by driving your hips boost it into another swing. You also need to move with the weight. It’s a very dynamic exercise and great for extension through the thighs and hips.
Many kettlebell exercises can be performed with two bells, so you could do snatches and cleans with one or two. Today you can get kettlebells in various weights but back in the day they when they were used in the USSR the key weights (called ‘poods’) were circa 16kg, 24kg and 32kg. There were competitions held called ‘kettlbell sport’ (they continue today worldwide) where for example, the total number of swings completed in a given time period – as long as 10 minutes – are counted and attempted to be beaten by the kettlbell athletes.
What’s great about kettlebells?
They have their mass below the handle and it’s this that moves about and creates instability. This results in your body’s myriad of stabilising muscles being called into action to control the movement and path of the bell. Obviously you need to use your larger power producing muscles to move the weight also.
Great exercises for athletes and sportsmen and women include...
The swing, cleans and snatches – these are great for thigh and hip power and the extension that’s required for jumping and sprinting
Jump squats – single- or double-legged, using one or two kettlebells. These add the calf extension to the movement, making for a great synergy between running and jumping.
Farmer’s walks for general leg endurance and strength. Hold the kettlebells at arms’ length and walk with them for a designated distance
Farmer’s lunges – as previous but lunge a designated distance
I have written numerous articles on kettlebells in the past and regularly include them in my own training. Indeed I have a 16kg bell at home. They’re very versatile and a bit of a one-stop-shop workout. Thus great for the time-pressed. I’ll train in the garden with mine of carefully indoors.
Take a look at this video I pulled together for Peak Performance for a special report I wrote on how kettlebells can benefit runners – Kettlebells for Faster Running - indeed with all the exercise descriptions and images of how to do the exercises it would be of great benefit to all sportsmen and woman and indeed for those looking for increased fitness and the knowledge as to how to use these great pieces of kit.