This is a Whole9 guest post by Peter Hirsh, a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years.
I don’t know of any experienced kettlebell practitioner that doesn’t utilize other tools and gain from their various benefits as well. However, kettlebells can provide certain benefits that nothing else can and are a great tool to include in your regular workout routines.
It is my goal to help continue the authentic teaching of the kettlebell while also providing some insight as to why it is great for just about anyone. I would like to note that many other tools can provide you with excellent results, such as bodyweight, dumbells, and barbells, when used as a full body tool.
You may have already seen some of the other posts I’ve provided for specific kettlebell instruction here on the Whole9 blog. So far we have covered Kettlebell Training For Beginners and The Four Basic Kettlebell Movements. Now, I would like to discuss why you should go out there and start kettlebell training.
The biggest obstacle I encounter in my career is people who think they are too old or injured to train with a kettlebell. There seems to be an overall assumption that kettlebell training is only for athletes. A lot of people think that as they age sticking to the machine based training is the safer way to strength train; nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is that as you age, or after you have recovered from an injury, this type of training is far more appropriate for you than machine based training.
The exercises involved in kettlebell training are the basis of human physical interaction with the real world. Think of muscle isolation exercises and intense cardio sessions, commonly performed in gyms, as specialized training designed for bodybuilders. Kettlebell and other functional training is training for people who want to move better in the real world without tightness.
These are the basic concepts behind kettlebell training that I would consider to be the most beneficial:
1. Learn how to lift with your legs and not with your back for real-world strength.
This is one of the reasons that this kind of practice becomes more appropriate as you age. As you age, the functionality of your joints become far more important to you than the size of your muscles. Your flexibility, balance, and stability are the key components to avoiding injury and being able to move gracefully as you get older. This concept of lifting with your legs rather than your back helps teach your body how to pick anything up off the ground properly.
2. Build core strength in a way nothing else can.
A study recently performed by ACE (a personal training certification) received a mention in Time magazine sharing that “Kettlebell classes led to 70% more core strength than training without them.” I am not entirely sure how they came to this conclusion, however, I can attest to kettlebells unmatched potential at developing core strength after ten years of practicing and teaching. Every kettlebell movement engages your entire core to stabilize and you are therefore constantly getting a core workout, as well as working the rest of your body, all at the same time!
3. Create flexibility where you need it the most.
Tightness in your hips is the biggest cause of back and other chronic pain due to improper posture and motor patterns. Kettlebell training is about gradually developing the flexibility in your hips and shoulders to make you stand straighter and get rid of chronic joint pain.
4. Unify your mind and your body
You will constantly be developing and fine tuning your motor patterns as you learn how to use your body more efficiently after each kettlebell session. After you have taken the time to master a certain lift, you can progress to a more challenging one and continue to learn and grow. When you are kettlebell training your mind is being forced to think about moving your body properly. This is something that most modern day exercises, such as running on the treadmill or bicep curls, don’t do for you.
5. Build muscle and train your cardio at the same time
Full body weight lifting puts a significant demand on your ability to supply oxygen to many working muscles. You can increase or decrease this effect based upon your goals and abilities. By moving from one exercise to another you can train higher cardio and by taking short breaks you can turn your training into interval training.
6. Develop strength evenly from side to side
Unlike many activities or exercises that allow you to develop a greater degree of strength on one side of your body than the other, kettlebell training develops you evenly. Generally speaking, as we age we will see a bigger variance in our range of motion (and therefore strength) from one side of the body to the other. One hip, or shoulder, becomes much tighter than the other causing all kinds of compensations. This ultimately leads to chronic pain and a diminished quality of life. Kettlebell training will prevent this, and can go a long way to help reverse it if it has already begun.
One thing is for certain about functional weight lifting of any kind, it is something that you must learn and continue to learn with every practice. I always tell people you are never actually kettlebell training, you are only practicing. You must experience kettlebell training to fully understand the benefits it can provide. I urge you to take the time to try.
Keep in mind that you are not alone if you initially feel intimated by kettlebells. I assure you that kettlebells may look a lot more challenging than they truly are. I have worked with and taught hundreds of people how to kettlebell train and almost 90% of the time my clients tell me that it was nothing like they expected. I currently have a 61 year old client who works with me on a regular basis and has been for the past year. She is now able to swing a 35 pound kettlebell and deadlift 106 pounds.
Of course this took time and practice to get her to where she is today, but the benefits she has seen are tremendous. After five years of not being able to play tennis without shoulder and knee pain she is able to play pain free on a regular basis. That is only one of the many examples of kettlebells changing peoples lives and health. I can’t recommend them enough. If you follow the basic progressions, the deadlift, the swing, the clean&press, and the snatch, you will undoubtedly see the immediate benefit.
Peter Hirsh is a nationally certified personal trainer and kettlebell instructor who has been teaching and training with kettlebells for over ten years. Peter has dedicated his life to the enrichment and well being of others and currently owns Peter’s Personal Training where he teaches classes and trains students one on one in San Diego, California. Wanting to reach a larger number of people with his teachings, Peter started Kettlebell Movement, a website dedicated to maintaining the authentic teachings of kettlebell training and promoting a simple and effective holistic lifestyle anyone can follow. Connect with Peter on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or Instagram.
(Photos supplied by the author.)
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