Kettlebells: What Are They?

They look like cannonballs with handles. They come in different “poods”; one pood being 16 kilograms or around 35+ pounds. The “Beast” weighs around 3 poods or 48kg = 106lbs; a real monster. They come from the Highlands of Scotland and a Russian dictionary dating back to 1704 calls them “girya”. We call them “Kettlebells”.

The first time I heard of a Kettlebell, was through a fellow Tai Chi practitioner in Long Island, Mike Pekor. He spoke of them as a powerful tool to develop the much sought-after explosive hip power.

What I have found so far in my studies and practice of Kettlebell training, is that while it does indeed develop powerful hips, so crucial in martial skill, it is also a tool for complete body conditioning and an excellent piece of equipment for rehab in the hands of an experienced therapist.

Most important for me, is that Kettlebells, unlike most equipment found in a gym, are fun to work with. And as long as proper form and technique is employed (kettlebells are not very forgiving when used improperly), the drills that can be created are only limited by the imagination of the athlete.

Kettlebells have gained a great deal of popularity amongst fitness professionals because the tool produces much more than a well sculptured and toned body in their clients; benefits include fat loss, strength, endurance, flexibility, balance and core strength.

Equally important for the trainer, is that kettlebell training skills are transferable. In other words, through the use of kettlebells, a trainer can design a program to improve a boxer’s punch, a golf swing, a backhand in tennis, or a swimmers back stroke. It is no wonder that professional sports teams are now including kettlebells in their training program designs, and sports greats such as Lance Armstrong have crossed trained with kettlebells.

As in Russia’s army, where kettlebells have been a staple of their gyms for years, the United States Armed forces has included kettlebell training and the practice is now popular amongst law enforcement agencies ranging from the CIA to local police gyms.

Hollywood has also taken notice of the bowling balls with a handle. Stallone used them on his last Rocky Balboa film as well as the late Bruce Lee; Jennifer Lopez keeps her assets in good form swinging kettlebells. These are just but a few among the many celebrities who have discovered the cast-iron body shaper.

Working out with kettlebells is not without risk. Unlike dumbells, the kettlebell’s center of gravity is displaced while in use, and although this feature is what makes it an ideal tool for functional strength development, it is also what demands from the user proper body alignments. The reader should also be aware that there are several exercises such as the box squat, that should be learned and practiced prior to swinging kettlebells. This is crucial if benefit from practice is to be realized.

Pavel Tsatsouline, the man who has brought international attention to his homeland’s treasure, the kettlebell, admonishes anyone wishing to incorporate kettlebell training into their regime to first “practice” using the kettlebells. And after a period of practice, then think about “working out” with kettlebells.

Kettlebells are not toys.