About Kettlebells

About Kettlebells


Kettlebells have been around since the 6th century B.C. and were used by the ancient Greeks to train athletes and soldiers

Popularized by the modern world in the 1700’s by the Russians and have been used to train athletes and Special Forces soldiers

Best form of training because it incorporates muscle building, aerobic conditioning, fat burning, and endurance and strength gains (Manocchia, et. al., 2013).

Kettlebell lifting burns 20 calories per minute which is equivalent to running a 6 minute mile pace. 600 calories can be burned in a short 30 minute workout (Warner, 2010).

Kettlebell lifting has been shown to increase flexibility as well as increase core strength. Core strength is important because as we age, a decrease in core strength increases the risk of falls. An increase in core strength will also decrease back pain (Jay, et al., 2013).

Kettlebell lifting increases bone density, ligament strength, and tendon strength thereby decreasing risk of bone breakage and soft tissue injury.


Improves Physical Performance
Whether you are a middle age weekend warrior, play football, basketball, soccer or practice mixed martial arts, adding kettlebell movements will improve your performance.

Promotes Total Body Flexibility
When performing the ballistic movements, you will improve range of motion, movement patterns and flexibility of the hips, back and shoulders.

Improves Functional Strength
All of the core kettlebell movements; swing, clean, snatch, press, deadlift, squat, renegade row and Turkish get-up are compound movements that require the body to work as a unit. The key to functional exercise is integration. It’s about teaching all the muscles to work together rather than isolating them to work independently.

Improves Endurance
Kettlebells are frequently used in circuit training, high intensity interval training and for single sets that may exceed 5-10 minutes in duration.

Reduces Body Fat
It’s a proven fact that resistance training using explosive full body movements and high intensity is the most efficient fat burning protocol. In a recent issue of Health Magazine Jillian Michaels called kettlebells the “Ultimate Fat-Burner” She went on to say…”This workout is metabolic, so it burns a ton of calories.” “It incorporates explosive movements. It’s core based, so it will make you stronger. And it forces your body to use multiple muscle groups simultaneously, which burns more calories.”

Rehabilitates and / or Prevents Injury
The acceleration/deceleration of kettlebell movements strengthens connective tissue (tendons, ligaments, cartilage) and increases shoulder mobility strength and flexibility. Many people have made huge improvements in their back strength and resiliency as a result of using kettlebells.

Time Efficient
You can get an amazing strength and cardio workout in 30 minutes. If you don’t believe me, let’s schedule 30 minutes together sometime soon.

Anyone Can Use Them
Most people think kettlebells are only for elite military forces, college and professional athletic teams and mixed martial arts fighters. Sure these people use kettlebells because their livelihood demands them to be in peak physical condition. I have taken Kettlebell classes in many major US cities and find that most of the class attendees are women. I will anticipate the next question from the ladies… no kettlebells won’t make you bulky. They will give you a very lean, tone and athletic look.

Most people find Kettlebell training fun. You can use them for strength and power training. You can use them for long endurance or fast paced interval training. You can use one or two bells at a time. Some people throw them. Some people like to practice juggling them. Of course there are about 10 core exercises, but there are many more if you let your imagination take over.


One of the most common questions I get from people who are not familar with kettlebell training or who have only seen them in action  briefly is, “Dont those things hurt your back.”  Here is some info from Dr Stuart McGill who is known as the #1 spine biomechanist in the world and also Dr Vladimir Janda from the Czech Republic who have both done extensive research on kettlebell training and it’s effects on the body.

The Top Five Reasons Kettlebell Training Is GREAT for Your Back

1. Kettlebell exercises strengthen the glutes.
The late Vladimir Janda, MD, from the Czech Republic observed that people with low back dysfunction often exhibit”gluteal amnesia.” And if not overcome with proper recruitment pattern practice, it is likely to lead to more back problems, since the back has to take over the lifting task of the powerful glutes. The glutes are strongly emphasized in kettlebell training.

2. Kettlebell exercises stretch the hip flexors.
In Janda’s research, weak glutes were associated with tight hip flexors. The RKC system is second to none in promoting hip flexor flexibility.

3. Kettlebells develop back extensor endurance.
Professor Stuart McGill, PhD, the number-one spine biomechanist in the world, concluded that while lower-back strength surprisingly does not appear to reduce the odds of back problems, muscular endurance does (Luoto et. al, 1995). I dare you to find a better developer of the back extensors’ endurance than the high-repetition kettlebell swing or snatch.

4. “Bracing” is superior to “hollowing” for spinal stability.
Misinterpreted research has lead to the currently popular recommendation to “pull your navel in toward your spine” to protect your back. Dr. McGill has demonstrated that “bracing” the abdominal wall is the superior technique. For more on this, get your copy of his breakthrough book, Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance, from backfitpro.com. The RKC system of kettlebell training teaches many innovative techniques to improve your bracing skill.

5. Sensible ballistic loading appears to reduce the odds of arthritis.
Repetitive ballistic loading of kettlebell swings and other quick lifts appears to be highly beneficial to your joints—provided you do not overdo it. In Supertraining, Drs. Yuri Verkhoshansky and Mel Siff state: “Joints subjected to heavy impact are relatively free of osteoarthritis in old age and those subjected to much lower loading experience a greater incidence of osteoarthritis and cartilage fibrillation… as one progresses up the lower extremity, from the ankle, to the knee, the hip and finally to the lumbar spine, so the extent of fibrillation increases at any given age. It appears that the cartilage of joints subjected to regular impulsive loading with relatively high contact stresses is mechanically much stiffer and better adapted to withstand the exceptional loading of running and jumping than the softer cartilage associated with low loading. Thus, joint cartilage subjected to regular repetitive loading remains healthy and copes very well with impulsive loads, whereas cartilage that is heavily loaded infrequently softens… the collagen network loses its cohesion and the cartilage deteriorates.”

Kettlebells vs Dumbells

Why are Kettlebells different from traditional weight training?
Another one ne of the most common questions I receive is “What’s the difference between and kettlebell and a dumbbell?” Quickly behind that question follows “Will kettlebell training carry-over into my activities of daily living more than training with dumbbells?”

• There is a distinct mechanical difference between a kettlebell and a dumbbell and it’s based on the law of levers.

• Kettlebells possess something known as an Extended Moment Arm of Resistance. This simply means that the kettlebell’s center of gravity is outside your grip or palm. Dumbbells do not possess this and have a center of gravity that is fixed or static, always within your grip or palm. A shorter Moment Arm of Resistance makes a movement easier; choking up on a baseball bat is a great example of creating a shorter Moment Arm of Resistance. So technically a dumbbell swing should be easier than a kettlebell swing.

• Kettlebells also possess a Variable Moment Arm of Resistance. This simply means that the center of gravity is in motion or dynamic during an exercise. For example, during the kettlebell snatch the kettlebell will be extended away from your palm, resting on the backside of your wrist and somewhere in between on each repetition. Dumbbells do not have this feature.

• Most objects that you deal with in everyday life have both an Extended Moment Arm of Resistance and a Variable Moment Arm of Resistance. Suitcases, backpacks, children, grocery bags, and six packs all share a center of gravity that lies outside your grip…just like a kettlebell. I hate to say this word but that makes kettlebell training much more “Functional.” Make sense?

The questions are often asked such as “Why can’t I just use a dumbbell to do the kettlebell exercises such as swings, cleans and snatches?” or “What is the difference between working with a kettlebell and a dumbbell?” As a trainer, you will often hear these questions.   We have found that specifically bodybuilders and athletes are very skeptical about the advantages of kettlebell training.
Of course, every training tool has its advantages and so does the kettlebell. But there is a substantial difference between training with kettlebells and dumbbells. Kettlebell training has some very specific advantages especially when it comes to efficiency, functionality, and “defying gravity”.
Most of the confusion between kettlebells and dumbbells comes from a lack of correct instruction on how to utilize kettlebells properly. As a direct result, people make the mistake of thinking they can use dumbbells as if they were kettlebells.

Traditional Weight Training

When lifting a traditional weight, the body is usually in a fixed position while moving weight in a linear manner through a direct line of applied force.  The body attempts not to use any momentum and targets an isolated muscle or muscle group. That is why traditional weight lifting is called a “single-plane static” form of exercise.

Traditional weight lifting builds muscles differently. The goal of bodybuilding is muscle hypertrophy, meaning an increase in muscle mass. Most people unfortunately equate size with strength. Size does not necessarily mean strength. The vast majority of kettlebell exercises engage literally hundreds of muscles at once. This creates profound functional strength without bulky size. 

The reason for this is that the very nature of kettlebell training stimulates greater myofibril density, which causes myofibrillar hypertrophy.  Myofibrils are contractile organisms within the muscle that are directly related to strength.  What the majority of people may not know is that 50 percent to 70 percent of hypertrophy size in bodybuilding is from sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. This type of hypertrophy contributes to very little direct strength and muscular force production.

Kettlebells are also different from traditional weight lifting in that you can use all three planes of motion simultaneously. The transverse plane is largely targeted and this is where 70 percent of all injuries happen.  Kettlebell training is based upon generating momentum, perpetuating it, and then redirecting and decelerating that momentum.  So training in the transverse plane can actually prevent injuries.

In Summary

-  Kettlebells and dumbbells are distinctively different in shape. Dumbbells have equally distributed weight in the center of mass and Kettlebells have a unique extension from the center of mass.

-  The unique “U” shaped handle creates an additional lever arm that increases or decreases the weight and force depending on how it is held.

-  The swinging action that is used in kettlebell technique in combination with the unique shape results in rotational inertia, which in turn requires greater core stability to control the movement – i.e. very functional and effective core strengthening power.

-  Kettlebells require greater strength and demand a refined coordination of the muscular and nervous systems for control. Both acceleration and deceleration are important components that utilize these systems.

-  Kettlebells translate much better into functional everyday activities. There are very few objects in the “real world” that are evenly shaped with a center of mass like a dumbbell.   Kettlebells teach “real world strength”.

-  Kettlebells produce muscles that are incredibly dense and functionally strong without bulky size.

-  Traditional weight training technique utilizes mostly isolated movement.   The kettlebell technique requires full body engagement involving multiple muscle groups.

-  Traditional weight training relies on mostly linear and two dimensional movement whereas kettlebell technique involves movement on all planes in three dimensional movements.