The list of kettlebell benefits keeps growing. If you’re looking for a way to lose weight fast while also building muscle and improving your athletic performance, then you should definitely consider kettlebell training as an option.
Many writers such as Tim Ferriss (author of the Four Hour Body) and Pavel Tsatsouline consider this to be one of the most powerful tools in your weight loss arsenal. Let’s take a look at why and at how you can incorporate them into your own training.
What is Kettlebell Training?
Kettlebell training is basically a form of training that utilizes kettlebells. No surprises there! A kettlebell meanwhile is a heavy iron ball with a handle on the end. The handle can then be gripped with one or two hands in order to swing the ball or curl and press it like a dumbbell.
But there are some distinct differences to note when you compare a kettlebell with a dumbbell or a barbell. Most significantly, kettlebells utilize an asymmetrical distribution of weight. While dumbbells weigh the same across their body and can be balanced by holding them in the middle, kettlebells are always heavier where the ball is which will tend to be above or below the hand. As you swing or curl the weight, the relative angle of the ball changes and this changes the force being exerted on the body. As such, you then need to use your supporting muscles in order to balance your body and to maintain a steady speed.
Another benefit of this is that it means the kettlebell can swing and move like a pendulum. This thereby creates momentum, which in turn means that you can maintain constant movement while at the same time working with or working against that locomotion.
In practice, this means that you can use kettlebells as a form of resistance training as you would with other types of weight but it also means you can use them for cardio by maintaining that consistent movement. This in turn means that you can use kettlebells in order to burn fat and calories which makes them useful for fast weight loss.
At the same time though, kettlebell benefits your cardiovascular system as well. This training simultaneously incorporates resistance training which makes it a form of ‘resistance cardio’. Resistance cardio simply means cardio performed against some kind of resistance and another example is riding a bike through mud, or doing aqua aerobics. Studies show that resistance cardio is one of the best ways to get rid of belly fat because it requires more work and output from the body and at the same time, it is also useful for protecting the muscle during exertion so that the body doesn’t cannibalize it as a source of energy.
Then there’s the fact that kettlebell training is highly ‘functional’. Because the weight is uneven and constantly moving, the body constantly has to adapt to changes in angle, pressure and momentum. This makes this form of training much closer to the kind of challenge you might face in the real world during sports, climbing or fighting. In reality, curling dumbbells or shoulder pressing is much more static, much slower and generally much less challenging – this then doesn’t transfer as well to real-world, useable strength.
Types of Kettlebell Training
Kettlebells are also highly versatile and can be used for all manner of different types of exercise. On the one hand, you can curl a kettlebell just as you would curl a dumbbell and this will allow you to use it in the place of many other popular types of training equipment.
But the most effective ways to use the kettlebell take more advantage of its unique properties. Often you will use it to perform goblet squats, deadlifts, one handed presses or even kettlebell swings. All of these are much more compound movements in that they utilize multiple large muscle groups in the body all at once.
The ‘Turkish get-up’ is one of the most popular examples of this. Here, you simply hold the kettlebell directly above you with a straight arm while lying flat on the ground. Then, you just get up using your other hand and your core strength!
Any exercise that incorporates the legs and core will burn more fat and cause more of an ‘anabolic response’ triggering the release of testosterone, growth hormone and other muscle-building hormones. That’s because the legs are the largest muscles in the body and the more muscle you hit at once, the bigger the effect. The kettlebell is ideal for using in this capacity because it will allow you to perform leg exercises that would normally require a barbell. Of course a barbell is large, awkward and difficult to use in a small space if you live alone!
But the most popular move of all has got to be the kettlebell swing…
Performing the Kettlebell Swing
To perform the kettlebell swing, you simply stand with your legs slightly apart and slightly bent and the kettlebell hanging in front of you, gripped with both hands. You then squat down by bending the legs and allow the kettlebell to hang between the legs and swing behind you as you do.
Next you stand up. As you stand up, you are going to use the thrust this creates in the hips and let this push the kettlebell up and away from you. As you stand up, the kettlebell will swing upwards with your arms straight from the momentum alone and with very little help from your shoulders. Then you simply allow the weight to follow its natural arc, coming back down and through your legs again as you squat.
Keep your back straight at all times and remember to use the hips and not your arms to swing the weight. If you do this correctly, then you can keep going indefinitely and this kind of training is ideal for burning calories as it allows you to consistently exert yourself against resistance. What’s more is that it can build leg strength and core strength at the same time.
This is much more intensive than running on a treadmill and builds power in the legs for jump and running. It can burn calories in no time at all and without you needing to take up a lot of space. Women in particular will find that this is perfect for creating the kind of toned physique that is commonly desired. On the glutes in particular, this has the same defining effect as squatting!
In short, the kettlebell offers a huge range of amazingly effective training options and is something that you should definitely incorporate into your own routine and your own weight loss!