I discovered kettlebells just a few months ago. In fact, it took me a few weeks to realize that they were called kettleBELLS and not kettleBALLS. Despite my ignorance, I kept running into these things and I got curious.
Kettlebells present an awesome opportunity for a unique strength building workout. They are more versatile than dumbbells in that you can use them for a wide variety of exercises, using real-life motions to target just about any muscle group. In fact, some kettlebell movements will target several muscle groups at the same time. Strength, balance, flexibility and even cardio benefits can be found in a kettlebell workout. The most recognizable KB exercise is probably the kettlebell swing but there are many moves that you can work into your fitness regimen along with other exercises or do an entire kettlebell routine.
Kettlebells were developed in Russia and used by the Soviet army for physical training and conditioning. Like dumbbells, kettlebells come in a variety of weights from 5lbs. To 70+ lbs. The larger bells are often measured in poods, a Russian metric. (1 pood = 36lbs.)
The great thing is that you don’t need to go hardcore on the weight to benefit from the exercises. Some KB exercises are better suited to a lighter weight and for some, like a dead lift, a heavier bell would be more appropriate. For that reason, it’s best to have access to a few different weights. My home gym includes 5, 10, 15, 36 (1 pood), and 52 pound bells and I use them all.
More gyms and training facilities are including kettlebells in the standard equipment arsenal and I’ve even seen several hotel gyms keeping them right along with dumbbells. If you’re looking to purchase your own set, you can find a starter set somewhere like Sears or Sports Authority for around $50. You may have seen me post photos of my Primal Bell and Zombie Bell from Onnit. They’re like a functional piece of art if you ask me. They are not cheap but they’re really well-made and really cool.
If you’re on the south side of Chicago, check out the Academy of Self Defense in Evergreen Park, IL. They offer a 45 minute kettlebell class on Saturdays for $10. You’ll be sore (in a good way) after that.
As far as workouts go, some of my favorite kettlebell moves are the swing, goblet squat, row and figure 8 but there are many more. Here are a couple of links to set you on your way. Give it a try – I bet you’ll get hooked.