Bring your training plan to the boil with this underrated piece of kit, championed by Elite Trainer Tim Joseph
This blissfully simple, but highly effective, cannonball with a handle began popping up in gyms in the late ’90’s. Since then it has revolutionised training plans and, far from being a passing fad, their use a tool in building your best-ever body has continued to grow and diversify.
Every gym of note is equipped with them, most fitness magazines you open show images and articles about them, so here is a reminder (if you need one) as to why you should be including Kettlebells in your fitness routine.
The benefits of kettlebells are so diverse that no matter what your goals are, there is a place for them in your training plan. They are cheap and portable, and provide a mode of training that can be adapted to fit your training needs. Whether it’s high-rep swings to target your posterior chain and burn fat, or heavy Turkish get-ups for full-body muscle, you can tackle any physical goal from improving sports performance to speeding rehabilitation.
Traditional strength training consists of slow muscular contractions, but many KB exercises require fast force production – think contracting your glutes to swing the weight to shoulder height. Reps numbers also tend to be high, which combines power with endurance and helps develop your ability to sustain fast muscular contractions over an extended time period. This sounds complicated, but it essentially boils down to athleticism. Being powerful and having the stamina to maintain it will benefit all of your workouts and crossover to sports performance, too, whether that’s MMA training or that horrible bouncing segment you do in spin class.
Because so much muscle tissue is working to fire through every rep, and the exercises are done with speed, your cardiovascular system is pushed to its limit. It’s why when your trainer cajoles you through a set of swings you’re sweating buckets within minutes. With the right exercises and rep numbers max heart rate can be reached, so you can get super fit whilst simultaneously doing your strength training. Talk about efficiency. Your time poor excuses for skipping a workout just went out the window, sorry.
Many KB exercises require lower and upper body to be working together to achieve the lift; this is how your body is designed to work rather than as separate entities. Do a heavy barbell curl and you’ll see how much your body is telling you to use your lower back/legs/shoulders to help. Traditional bodybuilding protocols will tell you to isolate the muscle, but if you want to train in a more holisitic, whole-body way, rather than focusing on big biceps, then KBs should be your go-to kit. KBs call on all your muscle tissue to complete the rep, so you are working with your body’s intuition, not against it.
Core & Shoulder stability
The very definition of core stability is to hold the spine in neutral alignment and resist movement, despite forces being placed on it. And the KB swing is one of the most effective stabilisers out there. With a weight traveling at speed, trying to pull you out of shape, you are resisting by stabilising your mid-section. Progressively overload this exercise with either more reps or heavier weights and bingo, you will achieve greater core stability. The fact that this also unveils a set of much-coveted abs is a welcome side-effect.
A moving kettlebell will also drag your shoulder joint out of position, but by forcefully resisting that and keeping the joint packed and intact you will be developing all of the stabilisers that surround what can be a very unstable area. We require so much movement from our shoulders, both in daily life and in the gym, caring for them is important. They are susceptible to injury, but shoulder press and lateral raises will do little to protect them. It’s by activating the smaller, supporting muscles with instability that you can bulletproof your body.
Depending on the exercises selected, KB’s can be used to improve the range of motion around your joints, and the length of the tissue surrounding it. This will help to stop the aches and pains associated with sitting at your desk all day, while also improving performance across your other lifts.
In most cases this stretching is done under load (that means holding on to a weight and using gravity to extend a stretch – example being, the overhead carry for shoulder mobility). This is now commonly accepted as the best way to improve mobility because strengthening stretched tissue means your central nervous system will trust you to go there and will more readily allow you to move to that range. In effect you are strengthening the flexibility you are creating, protecting yourself from injury in your increased ranges as you go along. That’s extra points for two-in-one efficiency, again!
Need we say anymore? Thought not.