By MH Staff - Posted on 28th October 2013
Your workout – saved by the bell
“Both styles provide a huge increase in cardio endurance and stamina, and because it’s always a total body workout, your metabolism speeds up and fat burns away,” says Gerstner. The shape of the kettlebell means you can move from one exercise to the next without putting it down, and this “flow” results in a better metabolic burn and more muscle in significantly less time.
With this kind of Russian hardware, the weight actually shifts while you swing, lift and press the cannonball. In that way, it's like many of the objects you lift every day (squirming kids, overstuffed briefcases, over flowing shopping bags), so it provides real world strength. The added inertia of the kettlebell also means that the body has to recruit more muscle to direct and control that momentum and the acceleration, stabilisation and deceleration of the kettlebell. These cast iron bombs are not like dumbbells as they don’t make you stronger in just a few isolated movements that focus on only one joint at a time. “With the benefit of having the centered away from your hand, it creates a harder and more forceful workout pathway than you would get with a dumbbell,” says Temple. “Kettlebells allow you to build strength as a function of mobility as they work in multiple planes of motion where dumbbells are a classic tool for building muscle in specific movements,” explains Temple. Kettlebells increase your strength mobility which in turns improves your balance and the stability of your ankles, knees, hips and shoulders. “So many stabilisers are recruited, core switched on and prime movers and joints utilised with kettlebells that it beats traditional circuit-based machine work every single time,” says Cross. Another unexpected benefit is that it develops dynamic grip-strength endurance, so your wrists and forearms will become much stronger – which will be revealed when doing any kind of daily task.
“Your work capacity will increase dramatically, especially within fluid style,” says Cross. Your body will be able to work at higher levels without succumbing to limb-stopping fatigue and these changes will happen quickly. “Athletes who use kettlebells in their exercise program can potentially increase aerobic capacity in a short amount of time,” says Jonathan Falactic in his Master’s Theses The Effects of Kettlebell Training on Aerobic Capacity. Consider it your power endurance, no longer will you be forced to stop and breathe before the sets are over. Train properly with kettlebells, and you’ll power through your workouts.
“It’s really just a piece of cast-iron – nothing else, yet I can achieve so much; mobility, stability, strength, flexibility and endurance,” says Cairns. “All exercises in a circuit can be performed with a single piece of portable equipment, which means you’re not restricted to working indoors.”
“Think of it like a car, the stiffer the chassis, the better the car performs” says Gerstner. “So if you have a tight body framework with a strong core, it means you’ll perform better in every physical activity.” Floppy midsection? Means you’ll be the motoring equivalent of a Russian Lada. Even better, you’ll sit straighter. Bad posture will be banished faster than you thought possible.
“When using free weights and especially kettlebell training where each limb needs to be controlled independently of each other, there’s a higher recruitment of muscle, greater display of athleticism and lower risk of injury than with using gym-based machinery (provided you know how to do the exercises correctly and your form does not deteriorate),” explains Cairns. “Most machines place the athlete into pre-determined movement patterns based on an ‘average’ person’s body shape – if this doesn’t fit your body shape then you will be compensating (read straining) somewhere else to perform the move in the prescribed groove.” Even though Cairns admits that most machines can be set up to best fit you, it does take time and experience – which isn’t always available. “Kettlebell training is also low-impact, which is good for the joints and support structures,” says Cross. Both Cross and Gerstner swear that the stiffness is not as bad after training with the bells, but after doing a extensive workshop with them, I beg to differ. Stiffness is still very much part of a beginner’s experience. “The risk to reward ratio is a lot better for KB that it is for other types of training,” says Gerstner. Kettlebells are also safe for almost anyone to use, even if the flexibility is a problem as it doesn't require as much wrist, shoulder, or upper-back flexibility as barbells and dumbbells do. And kettlebells aren’t only safer to train with, they’re also good for rehabilitation work. International Journal of Athletic Therapy and Training recommends that injured golfers use the Turkish Get-up (with kettlebells) as part of their rehab program. If done right, the TGU can injury susceptibility, and because you need to maintain your spin alignment while moving the KB to an overhead position, it makes it an ideal move for improving sports skills that require core stability and transfer of force from the core to the extremities.
“The broader your GPP (General Physical Preparation) base is the easier it is to reach those higher levels of training required for your sport,” says Cairns. “Unfortunately most people want to start specialising their training to their sport before they have achieved any acceptable level of GPP – you need to master the basic movement patterns (squat, hip hinge/bend, lunge, push, pull, twist/rotate, gait, and carrying), make them stable and then make them strong.” First focus on improving your overall GPP, and you’ll be greatly rewarded regardless of what sport you participate in. Temple trains a few of the Natal Shark rugby players in their free time, and he focuses on building up their strength and mobility using kettlebells. “Inherently the human body operates in the same way, so I make sure that I focus on building up strength in the posterior chain: squats, front squats, swings, heavy swings and sleds,” explains Temple. “The Sharks have a world class training facility available to them that caters to nearly all their needs at the Shark tank, so I specialise in working mainly on strength endurance, grip strength and key focus areas that players want added to their regime.”
“You can have a very effective session in just 20 minutes,” says Gerstner. “This time efficiency and the fact that you don`t need a lot of equipment to do a kettlebell session makes it extremely convenient and accessible.”
“Working with a light to moderate weighted bell with a lot of unilateral and total body movements will help to balance out any imbalances that have been created due to traditional strength training,” says Cross. “Used effectively, kettlebells can be used for prehab and rehab work, shoulders being a common cause for concern and lower back issues.”