Why did I choose Kettlebells? About 10 years ago I found an article on the swing in one of the popular fitness magazines. After reading about it, and seeing this big iron ball with a handle, I had to try it. So I found RKC online at www.drangondoor.com, and ordered a 16kg kettlebell.
I then started searching for more information about kettlebells and started to incorporate them into my routine. I found it very interesting that while I could do 3 sets of 10 with 225 lbs. using a barbell on a benchpress, I was struggling to do a floor press 10 times with this 16 kg iron ball.
What was the reason for this? My thoughts are like this: the kettlebells’ center mass is at one point versus being evenly distributed across a bar and it forces you to use more stabilizer muscles. To sort of give you a visual, imagine an airplane with all the cargo loaded in one area. Will the plane fly steady and level? Probably not; especially if the weight is loaded toward the front. Now take that same weight and distribute it evenly between the front & the back, the plane will now fly level.
After this I completely changed my entire routine and stopped lifting with plates, dumbbells, and machines. Ten years later, I’m closing up a gym where I work sometimes, & someone left the barbell loaded with 135 lbs. I said to myself let me see what I can do. I pressed it 10 times easy, then I jumped up to 185 also pressed it 10 times easy, then I put on 205 8 repetitions no problem, I then loaded the bar to 225 and I was able to do 6 repetitions. I was pretty amazed, that after 10 years of not even training with a barbell, I could still put up that much weight when I’ve only been training with kettlebells that weigh 52 lbs. Is it due to muscle memory? Is it due to the fact that there was constant stimulation throughout the years that allowed me to maintain my strength? Or does it attribute to the fact that kettlebell training will transfer over to other training, but conventional weight training will not transfer to kettlebell training? Numerous studies have been conducted on this subject by Soviet scientists; one study is that of Voropayev in 1983. He took two groups of college students, one group he had practice on the events that they were going to be tested on, and the other group solely trained with kettlebells. The group that had trained with kettlebells outperformed the group who trained the events they were to be tested on.
Why is that? I’ll tell you what my thoughts on the subject are. The one reason I previously gave, the entire weight load is centered at one point vs being evenly distributed across a bar, making it seem heavier and more dense. Next, the exercises themselves; take the Get-Up for example: you’re lying down, and standing up multiple times with the weight pressed overhead, and your muscles are undergoing isometric contraction the entire time. Not only does this take physical strength, but it requires a greater mental capacity and determination then your typical exercises with weights. True the exercise may be performed with a dumbbell or barbell, but it’s become one of the staple kettlebell exercises. Then if you look at the other exercises, like the snatch or the swing, they’re compound movements that incorporate the entire body which are ballistic in nature, and when you have majority of the mass centered at one point then factor in speed and force that 52.8 lb kettlebell actually weighs a lot more. Again these exercises can be performed with a barbell or dumbbell, but they have seemed to fall out of that arena in your typical gym, and now have been picked up by crossfit trainers & trainees. Which really isn’t anything new other than a name. Let’s face it the Great Sandow himself was performing these exercises back in 1893, while he used a barbell, he still loved his kettlebells. The main thing is that everyone should find routines and equipment they enjoy to use for a healthy and strong well being. If you’re achieving your goals and you like what you’re doing, no reason to change. On the other hand if you hit a wall so to speak, change your routine or equipment, and if that still doesn’t work, contact a certified trainer to help or assess the situation. That’s what we’re here for, we love fitness and want to help others find that love as well. Additional thought: Simply put, kettlebell training offers real usable strength that carries over into everyday life.
Yosef Kaplan ISSA CFT Personal Trainer.