Tinkering with Kettlebells


You’ve probably spotted someone training with kettlebells at your gym recently. Kettlebells aren’t novel–they first appeared in a Russian dictionary in 1704–but they are new as a gym phenomenon, being touted by some trainers as the top tool for overall fitness.

A kettlebell, or girya, is a traditional Russian cast iron weight that looks like an iron bowling ball with a suitcase handle. They come in 8lbs, 12lbs, 18lbs, 26lbs, 35lbs, 44lbs, 53lbs, 70lbs, 80lbs, 88lbs, 97lbs, and 105lbs increments.

Although you can use kettlebells to perform standard weight training exercises such as bench presses and rows, their true advantage is for use in ballistic training, including snatches, swings, cleans, and jerks.

“Kettlebell handles are much thicker than dumbbells and will give you a vice grip in no time. Also, the off centered weight of a kettlebell will force you to use more stabilizer muscles and work the targeted muscles through a longer range of motion,” explains kettlebell instructor and strength coach Mike Mahler. “For combat athletes and anyone else that likes it tough, the ballistic shock of kettlebells teaches you how to absorb shock efficiently which is critical for combat sports such as: wrestling, MMA, football, and Hockey.”

But Mahler also points out that kettlebells shouldn’t be your sole form of training. “They’re not the end-all, be-all. I love doing barbell, dumbbell, and body-weight stuff, too.”

So why not try incorporating kettlebell training into your current exercise program? Mahler offers some tips on getting started.

Men just getting into training should start off with a 35lb kettlebells, Mahler suggests. But guys that can do 50 pushups, 10 pull ups, and 100 bodyweight squats should start with the 53lb kettlebells.

Women, meanwhile, can usually start with 18lb kettlebells. Stronger women start with the 26lb bells. Most importantly, learn proper technique before moving on to the heavier bells.

Check out Bill Mahler’s Aggressive Strength website for tips, tutorials, workouts, and more.

Why does this matter to you? Because kettlebell training is effective for fat loss, strength training, and building muscle. Adding it to your weight training regimen is a great way to vary your routine. And participating in activities that are outside your comfort zone every now and then is a good way to prevent burnout.