Kettlebells became very popular about three or four years ago. It seemed you could buy them anywhere, even at Canadian Tire or the Superstore. I started training with them then, and now they’re one of the most essential and fun parts of my strength-training program.
When you see them it’s obvious where their name comes from. They are available in a huge range of sizes. They can be used as a weight training alternative to dumbbells. Like dumbbells, they are small and portable, so they’re great to have at home so you can always do a quick workout. They’re also easy to pop in the car if you’re going away for a vacation and want to take your favourite workout with you. (If you’re flying, and using 20kg kettlebells, you might want to reconsider.)
But why are kettlebells better than dumbbells? What are some of the advantages of training with them?
1. Their handles make kettlebells easy to swing, and easy to pass from one hand to the other. You can do a greater variety of exercises with kettlebells than with dumbbells.
2. The handles are perfect for the most basic and essential kettlebell exercises: the double-arm swing and the single-arm swing. These exercises are fantastic for strengthening and toning your butt, hamstrings, quads and lower back.
3. Kettlebells increase your core strength. Many of the exercises require you to stabilize your body using many core muscles as you swing a kettlebell around your body or pass it between your legs from one hand to the other.
4. You can even get a cardio workout with kettlebells! The smooth swinging movements of the exercises allow you to be in constant motion. If you want to do a cardio workout for three minutes, ten minutes or longer, just choose a kettlebell weight that you can handle for that length of time.
I usually incorporate three or four sets of my favourite kettlebell exercises into my weight training sessions at the gym. However, there are enough different exercises that you could do a full workout using kettlebells alone.
Starting to work out with kettlebells
There are thousands of kettlebell videos available online. Click here to see a short video demonstrating ten of the best exercises.
Always keep these points in mind:
- Don’t use kettlebells that are too heavy. Your movements should always be smooth and controlled.
- You will likely use at kettlebells of at least two or three different weights, depending on the exercise. When you’re learning a new exercise, start with a weight that feels easy.
- Correct form is critical; you don’t want to injure your lower back. Watch videos and other athletes; work with a trainer, and ask trainers and other athletes to give you feedback about your form. You will soon get into the “swing” of things. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
For an enthusiastic endorsement of kettlebell training, please read long-time runner and fitness instructor Caroline Crabtree’s comment below!