There is perhaps no other piece of resistance training equipment as versatile as the kettlebell.
The unique shape of the kettlebell makes it a powerful tool in a trainee’s program for amazing progress in strength, power, strength-endurance, and fat loss.
Here are the top reasons why you should take the time to learn how to implement the kettlebell in your training.
1. Strength and Power
The shape of the kettlebell makes it perfect for strength and power training. You can gain insane amounts of functional strength by performing any dumbbell exercise with a kettlebell. The thickness of the handle and the way the bulk of the weight of the bell is offset instead of being perfectly balanced like a dumbbell creates the potential for huge gains.
As far as power development is concerned, the kettlebell swing and the kettlebell snatch are arguably the best exercises for true power development. The swing and the snatch both generate huge amounts of acceleration with relatively modest weights, which is the chief stimulus for development of powerful muscles.
Take some time to learn the kettlebell swing first before progressing onto the kettlebell snatch. I would recommend learning the Hard-style Kettlebell swing. There are many places to learn the swing and the snatch, but I highly recommend seeking out a StrongFirst (SFG) or RKC instructor to teach you the finer points of both exercises so you can reap all the benefits of the exercises.
Once you have nailed down your technique, I would add them in at the beginning of your leg or back day workouts to be performed in a series like (2-3-5 reps) x 5 sets for a total of 50 reps if your goal is strength or power.
2. Fat Loss and Conditioning
If you are training for fat loss or conditioning, using a kettlebell is a no brainer. Once you have mastered the kettlebell swing technique, you can start to crank up the number of reps in each set and watch your metabolism soar to new heights. In fact, one university study determined that an intense kettlebell snatch session can burn up to 20 calories a minute! That is the equivalent of running at a 6 min/mile pace!
To use kettlebell training for fat loss and conditioning, train with higher reps per set. I have found that right around 25 reps in a set works extremely well, but I have gone as high as 75 swings in one set. Remember, you are not stuck performing one movement exclusively with a kettlebell.
I encourage you to get creative with your kettlebell workouts. Incorporate bodyweight movements in between sets of swings or snatches, or try creating a kettlebell complex where you perform a certain number of exercises in order for a certain number of reps.
For example, 3 presses – 3 single arm rows – 3 goblet squats – 3 swings without setting the kettlebell down. Perform with the left hand first, then immediately switch to the right hand, now rest. Repeat as many times as you have the heart for.
3. Injury Prevention and Functionality
Training with kettlebells is all about powerful and efficient movement. No matter what your goal is, you will develop these qualities if you train with kettlebells.
Training with one kettlebell forces you to train one side at a time with practically every exercise which will help you develop both sides evenly and eliminate any deficiencies between the left and right side of your body. When you eliminate strength imbalances, you are eliminating potential future injuries and improving the way that your body performs under load.
In addition, training one side of the body is a challenging core workout. You must learn to brace your abs and keep your spine straight and your shoulders square in order to perform well with a kettlebell. This is the best way to train your abdominal musculature because one of the primary roles of your abs is to prevent bending and twisting of your spine. Few people train the abs to perform this function in their workout, and instead opt for some type of crunch or sit up.
Your grip becomes freakishly strong too when you train with kettlebells. I have never had forearm pumps like when I train heavy volume swings and snatches, and grip strength is often the weakest link when performing any type of real world task.
I love barbells and dumbbells just as much as any other gym rat, but when you take an objective look at the differences in movements between kettlebell training and other traditional forms of resistance training, it becomes clear which form of training lends itself to increased ability to express real world strength.
There is no need to cast off traditional gym equipment, but if you are ignoring the benefits of kettlebell training, you are leaving gains on the table.