What benefits can the Kettlebell bring for us and can it help fulfil all goals in the gym?
Q. What components of fitness is Kettlebell training most suitable for?
Owen: Based on the “10 components of fitness,” and in no particular order, the kettlebell can be used to develop:
- Strength – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply force.
- Flexibility – The ability to maximise range of motion at a given joint.
- Power – The ability of a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units, to apply maximum force in minimum time.
- Speed – The ability to minimise the time cycle of a repeated movement.
- Coordination – The ability to combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
- Balance – The ability to control the placement of the body’s centre of gravity in relation to its’ support base.
- Accuracy – The ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.
Q. What fitness goals do you work towards using the Kettlebell?
Anetta: Achieving healthy, lean and strong body, slim is just not enough! It gives me a good training regime. I combine this with good diet. It means tighter skin, less cellulite and less visible stretch marks. And last but not the least clear mind and fantastic quality of sleep.
So the Kettlebell is clearly a crowd winner! But are there any downsides to the Kettlebell?
Please list the limitations
1. Developing maximal strength – sorry, but the barbell is king! The load you can lift and, therefore, force production will always be greater under a bar. However, if you are a female or male not lifting to that of maximal strength then Kettlebells could also have the desired effect if the loads you are lifting are near your 100%, this could be 32kg Kettlebell front squats for example, or a 10kg shoulder press.
2. Developing hypertrophy – yes, you will see gains in muscle mass using Kettlebells but if you are chasing large increases in lean mass you will need to train more like a bodybuilder.
Q. The Kettlebell is used a lot in CrossFit. Owen, as an extremely talented CrossFit athlete yourself, what are your views on using it under high intensity and high fatigue?
Owen: Kettlebell swings in Metcons were always a good movement for me. High intensity and fatigue should only come once the movement pattern is dialled in. The key with the swing, as with most movements, is to stay relaxed, set a good pace and break big sets where you need to… make a plan and stick to it! Swings can seriously rinse your grip and once you’ve smoked your forearms it makes for a long workout!
The age old argument, East Vs West, Russian or American!
Q. Do you favour the Russian or American swing? If you do, any reasons?
Owen: We use both but American swings see the Kettlebell travel through a greater range of motion (ROM). If your athlete has mobility issues when going overhead this can lead to shoulder and lower back problems. Russian swings eliminate the overhead demand and therefore reduce those injury risks. Also, due to a reduced ROM, Russian swings can utilise higher loads, requiring higher force production. For our field and court based athletes we utilise the Russian swing to compliment the hip thrust in speed development.
Can the Kettlebell be used by young athletes or is it just for adults?
Q. Owen, as head of Athlete Development at Hartpury College, how would you programme Kettlebell training into your athletes’ sessions?
Owen: As I stated earlier, we use them to load sumo and goblet squats and the hip hinge patterns. We also like to use them for unilateral carries and bottom’s up pressing as part of our injury prevention program. I think my absolute favourite is a double front squat or carry. It needs to be done with a proper front rack, not supported on your shoulder.
Q. Anetta, would you suggest Kettlebell training to other females with similar goals?
Anetta: Absolutely! But only to those that strive to have that strong lean physique, be fit, healthy and very mobile!
How do beginners start using Kettlebells?
Q. Can you give your top tips for people new to Kettlebell training?
1. Get a coach – you need someone with a trained eye to teach you how to perform the swing, clean and front rack properly
2. Start small – low load, low volume! The swing has a high eccentric element, going too hard and too heavy too early will give you tasty hamstring, glute and lower back DOMS!
3. Practice, practice, practice – given the nature of the movements and the shape of the Kettlebell, it can take a while to feel ‘at one’ with it. To increase efficiency and therefore increase work output you can the Kettlebell should be one seamless unit. The Kettlebell shouldn’t be dragging you around the gym floor like you’ve got a bullmastiff on a lead!
Anetta: Instead of trying to choose the heaviest Kettlebell possible with no technical background and struggle, start with lower weight and before moving to heavier one. Make sure your technique is correct! Get a personal trainer to instruct you or teach you correctly! Doing the exercise wrong with too much weight will do more harm than good. When it comes to training sometimes less is more and the Kettlebell is a perfect example - we're working with the whole body without sophisticated expensive machines.