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Kettlebells ‘Ring’ True

By Paul Chek

 

 

 

I must say over the years in the fitness industry I have had several mentors. Paul Chek being one of them and this article reflects a man who knows his craft and walks the talk. For those who do not know him might find his articles a little technical. However in the area of functional training he is the top of the tree.

Adrian Burton
 

Kettlebellseminars senior instructor    

 

Kettlebells are round cast-iron balls with a fixed handle that are now becoming more frequent in gyms and sports training facilities. Like dumbbells, however, kettlebells have been around a lot longer than anyone reading this article. Fans of the Strong Men of the late 19th and early 20th century will recall that these amazing athletes trained with kettlebells. They were also very popular in Russia from the mid-1700’s through to the present day. The use of kettlebells as a training tool could be considered ancient wisdom worthy of modern realization.

 

Why Use Kettlebells?
Why use kettlebells? Well to be honest, entire books can be written to answer this one simple question alone. However since we only have a few pages dedicated to this amazing training tool, I will do my best to illuminate the most important benefits that kettlebell training offers.

 

To begin with, kettlebell training systems in general are highly functional. Functional exercises are one which improves a person’s ability to cope with the demands of their work or sports environment. The functionality of any exercise can be rated based on its biomotor richness. “Biomotor” means “life movement” and so biomotor abilities are those abilities that are necessary for functional human movement in any environment where you must maintain your own center of gravity over your own base of support. In short, any environment where you have to support a load, without external support, while standing on your own feet. Dr. Tudor Bompa, Professor Emeritus from York University in Canada lists the biomotor abilities as:

 

  • Strength
  • Endurance
  • Speed
  • Coordination
  • Flexibility

 

In addition, the combination of strength and speed results in power, while the combination of coordination and flexibility produces agility.

 

Good performance in sports and injury prevention in most work, sports or recreational environments depend upon meeting and exceeding the biomotor demands of that particular environment. It follows that our training should prepare us to withstand these demands by using exercises that activate and improve the required biomotor abilities. This is where kettlebell exercises give you a lot of “bang for your buck!” Let’s do a biomotor comparison between a Smith machine squat, an Olympic bar squat and both standard and advanced kettlebell squatting:



 

Smith Squat

Olympic Squat

Kettlebell Squat

Advanced KB Squat

Strength

+++

+++

++

++

Endurance

+++

+++

+++

+++

Speed

+

++

+++

+++

Power

+

++

+++

+++

Coordination

½ of +

+

++

+++

Flexibility

+

+

+

++

Agility

0

0

+

++

Total Biomotor score

9.5/21

12/21

15/21

18/21

 

Table 1 - Rating Biomotor Abilities among Different Squats

 

Key: 0 = no development, + = mild development, ++ = moderate development, +++ = excellent development of that given biomotor ability.

 

This clearly shows that the Smith machine squat offers the least biomotor richness of all these exercises. You can’t go too fast on a smith machine unless it is one of the very expensive ones used by some professional sports teams, therefore developing speed and power is a challenge. The load is balanced and supported by the machine’s runners and so there is no chance of developing functional flexibility nor agility, since you are performing a supported movement that is poorly applicable to any work, sports or recreational environment!

 

While an Olympic bar squat is a fantastic exercise, it is still a far cry from even a standard Kettlebell Squat (Figure 1) in terms of biomotor abilities. This is because unlike an Olympic squat, where the bar rests nicely on your back and your hands and arms simply keep the bar from sliding around, the Kettlebell squat requires that each arm work independently to both balance and stabilize the load, dramatically increasing the biomotor demand, and therefore the capacity to carryover functionally to a greater number of possible work, sports or recreation environments and challenges.

 

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

 

Looking at the Advanced Kettlebell Squat (Figure 2), you can see an entirely new level of complexity emerge; here you must have excellent flexibility, balance, agility and coordination through which to apply your strength and endurance! When a kettlebell is held bell-end up (Figure 3), it becomes extremely unstable and requires significantly greater strength, balance, coordination and agility to manage. Some kettlebell exercises like the lateral swing (Figure 4A - C) demand tremendous agility, while drawing heavily on all other biomotor abilities as well!

Figure 4A

Figure 4B

Figure 4C

 

Research from Russia in the 1980’s showed the multiple benefits of a kettlebell training. At the famous Lesgaft Physical Culture Institute in Leningrad there was a very high correlation in the physical improvements of two groups of athletes, as tested with a battery of specific tests such as grip strength, pull-ups, 1000 meter run and balance testing. One groups trained with just kettlebells and the other group trained for these specific testing events only. It is rare to find an exercise modality that has such a high carryover into such a number of physical abilities.

 

Other Kettlebell Training Benefits:

·         Total body exercise is an undeniable fact of kettlebell training. If you do any kettlebell exercise standing on your own two feet, no muscle escapes the training experience!

 

·         Strength and flexibility (and agility!) are developed together with kettlebell training, and to a level that can only be matched by the clubbell or Indian club - another ancient training tool that is making a comeback.

 

 

·         An excellent calorie-burner! - Metabolism is quickly elevated with kettlebell training due to the fact that it is so biomotor rich. Multiple muscle groups and your entire neuro-muscular system are active when using kettlebells. In just a short time you can get an excellent workout and keep your metabolism raised for a good while after you finish your training session, thus burning calories during and after your workout!

 

·         Time efficiency is almost guaranteed with kettlebell training. Due to the tremendous demand on your nervous system and the number of muscles used in each exercise, most people are finished with their kettlebell workout in as little as 15-25 minutes.

 

 

·         Easy to transport – As you can see from the pictures, kettlebells can be used to workout anywhere with little other equipment needed. I carry them with me in our car on vacation and work out anytime I feel like it!

 

·         Kettlebells are excellent training tools for women and children. Kettlebells come in all weights, and the light, rubberized ones are perfect for women and children. The nature of kettlebell training makes it excellent for weight loss and body-shaping – two common goals in females – and also for preventing obesity, which is a growing problem among children today. We’ve got to get people off all the aerobic machines and fixed axis machines and into some real (kettlebell) exercise.

 

Precautions with kettlebell training
Because of the instability of the kettlebell when turned bell-end up, the novice user can easily get hurt! There is also the reality that when swinging a kettlebell, fatigue or loss of grip can result in the need to remodel your living room, replace your nice flat-screen TV, or worse yet, may cause loss of pets! The solution is, AT MINIMUM, to study a good course on DVD or to learn kettlebell technique from a qualified instructor. There are a number of good alternatives available in both formats. Among the rising number of kettlebell experts,  

 

In addition, kettlebell training requires significant core strength, which can only be developed through kettlebell training if your core musculature is functioning correctly from the beginning. Today, the grand majority of people attempting what they think is functional training have core deficiencies that pre-dispose them to injury when they perform such challenging and biomotor-rich exercises as those typically performed with kettlebells. If you do not know how to assess and restore the function of your core, find a qualified exercise professional or refer to the resource section.

 

Conclusion
Kettlebell training is excellent for anyone who already has good baseline conditioning. Because it is an extremely biomotor-rich form of exercise, guidance by a skilled professional is highly recommended until your kettlebell skill-set is developed. With intelligent use, kettlebells are excellent for women and children. They are also ideal for anyone with limited training time because you can get a fantastic workout with them in as little as 15: minutes. When you experience proper kettlebell training with your own body, your fat cells will run for cover!

 

  1. Author Bio
    Internationally acclaimed speaker & consultant Paul Chek NMT, HHP draws upon over twenty-two years of experience in corrective and high performance exercise kinesiology. Author of numerous books, DVDs and training programs for health and fitness professionals, he is the founder of the C.H.E.K Institute in California. www.chekinstitute.com.

  

 

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