Roughly five years ago, I was introduced to the kettlebell. My first thought to myself (of course I didn't share this with the friend who was showing me some swings with a bell), was "Oh my god, why are you swinging that thing around, you're going to kill somebody!" To humor him, I decided to give it a try and I was horrible. I used to struggle a lot with keeping my back straight and firm, so it was a nightmare trying to do basic swings with the kettlebell.
Awhile later, after reading a lot more into the benefits of the kettlebell, especially how it could help me as an MMA athlete, I decided to give it a proper shot and learn how to do the basics well. The results were amazing. A long story short, the kettlebell spiced up my entire S&C routine and I am now a huge advocate for them, which is why I am writing this blog. I will go over the advantages of using a kettlebell, some basic pointers on technique and a couple of workouts at the bottom, so skip ahead if you already know how to use a bell.
Why The Kettlebell?
Kettlebells are the jack-of-all-trades. From lifts you're familiar with, both pulling and pushing, to whole body dynamic movements, there's something for everyone with kettlebells. The most basic move, the kettlebell swing, incorporates cardiovascular work with resistance training. The handle and ball-shape help give a two way approach to training, with slow or explosive movements. The biggest advantage of kettlebells is that you get a full body
strength and conditioning workout all at the same time.
One time investment and a space saver
If space or money is an issue, one correctly weighted kettlebell will last you a long time, with a huge variation of exercises. The average male should start with a 16KG bell while the average female should start with a 8KG bell. Preferably, having a range of weights allows you to do different kind of workouts and lifts but is not necessary at all to get started. For example, when starting out, you might be able to do 16KG swings but not 16KG Turkish Get-ups and if you had a 12KG bell you could, but you can just replace TGU's with push-presses to help you build up to being able to do them instead of buying a lighter bell.
Kettlebells are a great space saver as you only need enough space for a full swing, in both directions and a mat to protect your floor (if your kettlebell base isn't padded). No need to worry about gym memberships and travelling there. I'm not saying you shouldn't go to the gym if you can, but if you can't this is probably the best fix to that.
Hulk Forearms And Grips
If you are a martial artist, like a lot of my readers are, then this part is for you. Because of the way the handle is built and how you swing the kettlebell, there is a lot of training to your forearms and your grip strength. This works as a great S&C program for BJJ competitors and hobbyist, not only can you hold on better to the Gi now, you also have better cardio and strength.
Beachs Abs And Bum
A big part of kettlebell swings is driven from the hips. This works your core and posterior chain. Imagine that, working your abs, back and bum all at the same time with one time effective exercise.
Tips to making your workouts a little easier and more effective
When you start out using a kettlebell, you might feel nervous about the bell slipping out of your hands and this can lead to too tight a grip and burning your forearms out before any of your other muscles are tired. A couple ways around this, make sure your thumb is secure over your index and middle finger before swinging and relax your forearms. If you have sweaty palms and feel the handle moving a lot, burning your palm, either have a towel near you to wipe your hands dry occasionally or lightly chalk your kettlebell handle(be careful not to make a mess!).
The swing is called that for a reason, it is not a front raise. Starting out, before you find the feel for being able to use your hips, you might end up doing a lot of front raises instead. Try and concentrate on the hip hinge and the timing of pushing your hips forward as the kettlebell is below you. To hinge your hips, pull your hips back and release like a rubber band.
Controlling your breathing can make the difference when trying to get through that final round. Using the same rubber band theory, when pulling on the band(bringing the bell back to you and hinging the hips), breathe in. When you let go of the band(popping your hips to push the bell back), explosively breathe out.
Form before weight. There is no shame in having to drop weight to perfect a swing or lift. If you don't feel comfortable with the weight you're using before you have good technique, drop weight, slow it down and master that first. You can either ask an experienced friend to watch you or video yourself and watch it later to look for mistakes.
If you don't know how to do any of the exercises, click the name of the exercise and it will link to a YouTube tutorial.
The beginner, intermediate and advanced brackets are only suggestions and guidelines, if you feel like you can do more advanced stuff, try them, using a safe weight. Also, just because you can do everything in the advanced section, doesn't mean you shouldn't do the two other workouts.