What Are Kettlebells?
By Vishwanthar on Training
July 15, 2010
In my previous blog entry I had written about kettlebells briefly. I had provided very less information about them, for I have here tried to furnish more material on kettle bells, and I have tried to explain how we can benefit training with them.
Kettle bells or girya is a cast iron which looks like a basketball with a suitcase handle. It originated from Russia, though it is prominently popular in the US since many years. The one man who stands out in popularizing this tool is Pavel Tsatsouline. He is a Master in Sports, and is the author of a number of best selling fitness books. A former Soviet Special Forces instructor, Pavel was nationally ranked in the Russian ethnic sport of kettle bell lifting and holds a Soviet Physical Culture Institute degree in physiology and coaching. He teaches his low tech/high concept fitness approach to US military and law enforcement agencies and conducts national kettle bell instructor certification courses.
Let’s see what the Master trainer states about the benefit of kettlebell lifting and how exactly they are superior in comparison to dumbbells and barbells. Pavel says, “When you curl a dummbell or barbell the resistance quickly drops off near the top of the movement; the forearm bones are supporting the weight. The kettlebells centre of gravity, however, is removed by a good foot from the body at the completion of the curl. That means that your biceps will have to work hard through a longer range of motion and consequently get better growth stimulation than with a barbell or dumbbell. Ditto for the pectorals (chest). Bodybuilders love chest training-dumbbell presses and flies are on the top of the list of their favourite exercises. Muscle magazines reasonably advise that you squeeze your pectorals as you complete each rep because the resistance falls off near the top. With kettlebells, your pectorals get overloaded even at the lockout, because the KB’s hang off the sides, rather than rest atop your vertical and locked arms.” I have felt that the resistance kettlebells provide to be very unique, so I endorse the above statements by Pavel, as they work in the same pattern as stated above.
In addition, kettle bells are a highly effective tools for strengthening the connective tissues, especially in the back claims the kettlebell master trainer Pavel tsatsouline. Rightly so, because repetitive swings, snatches, and standing presses all work the back making it thick and rock solid. In addition, I have personally felt them to work wonders on the stabilizers, tendons, and ligaments. Especially it works well to stabilize the shoulder joint. I have been having nagging injuries in my shoulders since many years, and now after training with kettlebells my shoulder strength and flexibility have improved to a great extent. It is because pressing the kettlebells seems so natural that it cannot harm your shoulders.
Acknowledging all the above stated reasons on the benefits of kettlebell lifting I have earnestly involved kettlebell lifting at Ironcult, for I would really love to see my clients train injury-free. Any body with shoulder injuries will be very happy to train with the kettlebells, as it is very easy on the shoulders yet provides ample difficulty for the stabilizers resulting in excellent shoulder strength and health, so the workouts may seem difficult but it actually makes you strong from inside-out. I have, after years of lifting, come to the conclusion that possessing healthy shoulders are of paramount importance to continue weight training for many years to come by, for any upper body movement involves shoulders and even squatting with a barbell involves your shoulder, as many have critically injured their shoulders just because of squatting . Joint strength is of great importance if you are concerned about lifting for many years. Ironically, today’s gym coaches give lot of importance to muscle building and not for the much needed strength to joints, bones, and subsequently muscles. Weight training based on free weights which involve dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells work in unison to build a strong and powerful body by strengthening the bones, joints and muscles. Whereas, machines belittles this possibility, as machines were the primary reason to ruin my shoulders, for I started my weight training relying more on machines because of inaccurate information The problem as we should know is that machines work in a 2 dimensional plane thereby limiting the body to move freely, for our bodies move in a 3 dimensional plane. Machines inhibit the natural movement thereby causing pattern overload and thus cause strain to soft tissues. Soft tissue damage usually occurs when one is involved more in machine training. Gym coaches promote machines over free weights as they assume the former to be safer than the latter. This is false in every sense. Free weights strengthen the much required stabilizers where as machines never do this. Kettle bells are still better than the barbells and dumbbells because of their awkward shape and the unique kind of safe and stable platform they provide to the shoulder joint.
In addition, another typical feature of a kettlebell is that it can develop strength and flexibility at the same time. Try doing a kettlebell Turkish get up or a windmill and see how it develops both the above mentioned characteristic. Also, the kettlebell is one of the best grip and forearm developers in existence. You want to test how good they are on the forearms then try doing a bottoms up clean and press, as you will know for yourself the importance of these tools to develop hand strength.
After years of lifting weights I really think what matters the most is not lifting heavy, not to break personal records, not to prove somebody wrong, not to please someone, but the defining factor according to me is how long we can continue to lift? I mean the question of longevity. Thus I would love to be lifting till my ripe age rather than try to goof up and ruin my lifting years because of some brainless and puny matter. Of course, I would love to lift heavy and break my personal records but it will never be more important than to lift safe for a longer time. Continuing to reap the benefits of weight training is the hallmark of a Wiseman.
PS: Stabilizers are muscles that hold the joints together properly to improve movement efficiently, prevent injury, and promote stability.
Train heavy but train safe and smart