What Is A Kettlebell & How Do You Use One?
If you're looking to switch up your workout routine and add a new method of weight training, incorporating a kettlebell may be the change you've been looking for. Aside from being a relatively low-cost weight, kettlebells are also extremely versatile, easy to use, and readily available for retail purchase. Kettlebells are a staple at gyms across the country, so why not make a kettlebell weight the newest addition to your arsenal of home workout equipment?
Kettlebells are as exciting as they are exhausting. When used properly, kettlebells can provide you with a unique combination of heart-pounding cardio and fatigue-inducing muscle burn that tones and tightens, unlike any other weight-based strength training workout.
Kettlebells were once a tried and true training tool that has experienced a modern renaissance. While many attribute the comeback of the kettlebell as a kitschy tactic used by CrossFit gyms to sell more memberships, the reality is that the kettlebell is a multipurpose tool that can be used to complete a multitude of incredibly rigorous and challenging workouts.
If you were going to choose one type of weight to serve as the basis for your next full-body workout, you would be hard-pressed to pass up the kettlebell as the number one option. Aside from the barbell, the kettlebell may be one of the most commonly overlooked tools in a lift enthusiasts' arsenal. Whether you plan on amping up your strength training routine, glute muscle training regimen, or simple cardio circuit for fat and weight loss, kettlebell benefits are endless. Use a kettlebell in your home gym, in your designated workout area, or anywhere you go really. An adjustable kettlebell proves our point that you can work out any muscle, anywhere. You can also opt for a cast iron kettlebell in different weights for your home gym.
With any luck, this article will help you realize all the potential that a kettlebell workout holds and encourage you to grab one and start swinging!
What is a kettlebell, and what is it good for?
The kettlebell is a bottom-heavy weight with a sturdy handle. Typically kettlebells are made of solid steel and are slightly bulbous in shape. Kettlebells have a flat bottom, so they are capable of sitting flat when you set them down, and they are wide enough to grip with two hands which comes in handy for things like kettlebell swings.
Although it is a weight used for a variety of purposes throughout the gym, the kettlebell is a tool primarily used for resistance training. Resistance training is any exercise that uses weight or other forms of resistance to build and tone muscle.
Due to its unique shape, the kettlebell can be used for almost any exercise that a dumbbell is used for, and it can even replace your medicine ball for certain abdominal exercises.
Above all else, what the kettlebell really offers is a stable base and a firm grip. The handle of a kettlebell is unique because it is wide enough for two hands, even though its bottom-heavy shape allows for one hand to be sufficient.
Whereas a dumbbell is limited in what it can offer due to the placement of the handle, a kettlebell can excel with exercises that require a more stable grip, like tricep presses. Similarly, the kettlebell is easier to grip while performing things like Russian twists or crunches with a toe touch making it an excellent alternative to medicine balls.
Nothing Burns Fat Like A Kettlebell
Not to oversell it, but the kettlebell is the ultimate fat-burning tool. The addition of a kettlebell to your workout routine will ring in a new era of sculpting that will have you questioning why you didn't incorporate this incredible weight sooner.
Obviously, in order to reap the benefits of the fat-burning potential of a kettlebell, you have to do the work. But what workouts optimize the potential benefits of the kettlebell? How can you be sure you're maximizing your full potential while the kettlebell is resting in your hands?
The answer is simple: HIT training and circuit training are the two types of workouts that truly maximize the benefits of any kettlebell movement.
What type of workouts involve a kettlebell?
There are a few ways to incorporate a kettlebell workout routine into your circuit training. The traditional method of using kettlebells is employing the kettlebell in HIT (also known as High-intensity Training). This type of training requires an athlete to use weights in a way that creates a rigorous cardiovascular effect while still toning muscle with resistance. HIT gives an athlete the cardiovascular flush of a more traditional cardio workout like running or biking with the added benefit of resistance training.
Kettlebells are also commonly used in circuits which is an exercise plan that involves moving from exercise to exercise in a specific amount of time. Most often, kettlebells find their way into circuit training via kettlebell swing, squat, and press, or a more complex version of standard exercises like the row or curl.
Many times HIIT training involves some circuit work, though the two don't have to involve each other. The biggest difference between HIIT and Circuit is that circuit requires a specific amount of exercises to be done in a set time frame, whereas HIIT is in the vein of a classic x amount of sets with y amount of reps per set. Nonetheless, a kettlebell exercise can be incorporated into different workout routines whether it be high-intensity intervals or circuit work.
How are kettlebells different from dumbbells?
Kettlebells are unique because they can be used in lieu of dumbbells, but often it does not work the other way around. Thanks to the unique shape of a kettlebell, they can be held and gripped the same way you would hold a dumbbell. The major difference is that the weight of the kettlebell is below your hand, whereas with a dumbbell, the weight is on either side of your hand.
The position of the handle on a kettlebell gives the kettlebell more versatility than a dumbbell. With a kettlebell, an athlete can spin, twist, and even carefully whip the weight around in the hand, creating innumerable complexities and variations to exercise that would otherwise be stale and mundane.
There are absolutely those who prefer using kettlebells over dumbbells due to the weight distribution in the hand. Typically a dumbbell requires more forearm strength, whereas a kettlebell involves more muscle engagement from the back of the arm.
If you are looking for a specific type of arm workout that also targets the forearm, then best to stick with dumbbells. However, if you are looking for a generalized arm workout that also targets your back and your core muscles, then a kettlebell may be more suited for your weight training needs.
What is the difference between a medicine ball and a kettlebell?
We already know what a kettlebell is, so let's focus on how a medicine ball is different from a kettlebell. A medicine ball is a weighted rubber ball often filled with sand or some other heavy substance to create weight and density.
The two biggest differences between a kettlebell and a medicine ball are the shape and the functionality. A medicine ball is a perfect sphere and does not have a handle. This means that a medicine ball is harder to grip and is usually a bit more cumbersome.
Kettlebells are made of solid steel instead of rubber like most medicine balls. This means that medicine balls can actually be thrown back and forth between partners, whereas throwing a kettlebell can be a dangerous proposition. In fact, we can say with the utmost certainty that you should never throw a kettlebell!
How heavy should a kettlebell be?
A kettlebell should be as heavy as you can handle safely without risking injury. In the same way, you select heavier weights for bigger muscle groups, so too should you scale your kettlebells to fit the task at hand.
The traditional thinking for kettlebells is that they should be about 10 pounds heavier than the dumbbell you use for bicep curls. For men, this typically leads to a 35-pound kettlebell, whereas for women, a 25-pound kettlebell is more common.
This sliding scale is a general rule of thumb and can be ignored if you have a certain exercise in mind that requires a heavier or lighter kettlebell.
Typically when people are wondering what size kettlebell to use, it is in reference to the aforementioned kettlebell swing (perhaps the most popular of all kettlebell exercises. If you are wondering, “What muscles do kettlebell swings work and how heavy should I lift during this exercise?”, we’ve got your answers, as well.
Your Guide To Using A Kettlebell As A Beginner
Kettlebell lifting is a great way of introducing weight lifting to your routine. If you are new to lifting in general, then we recommend starting with a 10 or 15-pound kettlebell if you're a woman and a 20 to 25-pound kettlebell if you're a man. Remember, you can always upgrade to a heavier weight kettlebell later on, but for now, it is better to start light and get used to the dynamics of using a kettlebell.
If you are new to kettlebell training but not necessarily new to lifting, use the scale above, wherein your kettlebell is approximately 10 pounds heavier than the dumbbell you use for curls.
As is the case with any new piece of fitness equipment, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the proper form. Every exercise requires a specific movement and a unique form, and while there are similarities between using a dumbbell and using a kettlebell to build muscle, a new weight brings its own unique requirements to the table.
Proper form will not only help you protect yourself from injury, it will also help you to progress faster than you otherwise would. Once you are equipped with the proper technique, it's time to grab the right kettlebell from Tru Grit. Use our suggested weights above as a starting point, and then use what you know about yourself as an athlete to choose the best kettlebell for your needs. You'll be a kettlebell pro in no time!