Why Kettlebells Will Improve Your Life

by Florian Kiendl on July 22, 2015

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter
The kettlebell—your universal remedy.

The kettlebell—your universal remedy.

In teaching people of all walks of life, I have observed several distinct effects of kettlebell training. Some are obvious, others much less so…

If you are new to kettlebells you might be wondering what impact this new implement might have on you if you start using it consistently. This article should give you a good idea of what to expect, and it will probably strengthen your resolve to give kettlebell training a try.

On the other hand, if you are already an kettlebell expert or an HKC or RKC Instructor, you may find that you have already experienced or witnessed these effects with your clients. When I first started teaching kettlebells, it was sometimes difficult to convince potential clients or new students that kettlebells were right for them. In following paragraphs I will try to summarize my observations regarding the positive impact of kettlebell training.

Kettlebells Are Perfect For Making You Fit in a Limited Amount of Time

We all know that training promotes physical and mental health. What has changed in recent years is that science has now started to explain why. How muscles impact the immune system, or the effects of aerobic exercise on brain function are somewhat new areas of research. In the past, there was only the subjective experience of people like John F. Kennedy or Jack LaLanne who promoted an active lifestyle many years ago, but today we have profound scientific explanations for why everyone needs to move on a regular basis.

Yet, while medical science has started to understand the importance of movement for our overall health, the reality of our lives has also rapidly changed—and many people are more unhealthy than ever before.

Our lives have become faster and more stressful than in the history of mankind. To cope with this increased speed, we rely more and more on technology—therefore we’re moving less than any of our ancestors. Aside from obvious things like driving wherever possible or using escalators instead of stairs, there are more subtle changes that rob you of the opportunity to move. Internet stores make everything—even kettlebells—available at your fingertips without leaving your house.

We need movement more than ever, but we have less time and fewer opportunities for it. The average gym class or 45 minutes on the treadmill can not compensate for the lack of movement during your work-week—unless you can train several hours per day.

The kettlebell is the perfect solution for this problem. With its off-centered mass, it trains your muscles and your heart at the same time. Exercises like swings, cleans and snatches train your entire posterior chain—the group of muscles, ligaments, and tendons most important for a healthy spine and good postural alignment.

Kettlebells Naturally Improve Your Posture

Correctly swinging a kettlebell activates two muscles that are usually dormant in much of modern society: the gluteus maximus and the latissimus dorsi. These muscles are the two most important players in our posterior chain. Luckily, we can use the kettlebell to get them back into action.

The gluteus maximus (or more crudely defined, your butt muscle) is one of the biggest and strongest muscles in the body. If it functions as it should, it enables you to lift heavy objects from the ground and also protects your lumbar spine. In the kettlebell swing, its role is to forcefully lock out the hips. One of the first exercises I use with beginners when I teach the swing is the shoulder bridge (you lie on your back with your feet pulled toward the butt and push your hips to the ceiling). We start with this exercise for only one reason—so the beginners can experience what it feels like when their glutes are tensed. I rarely have my beginners do more than 30-40 swings during the first lesson and they are still sore the next day—guess where!

Active glutes lead to unlocked hip flexors and allow the pelvis to get into a neutral position, the foundation for a naturally s-shaped spine. The activation of the glutes is why sometimes even a few short kettlebell sessions can lead to an improved postural alignment.

The second muscle group, the latissimus dorsi (or the lats) is mainly responsible for all upper body pulling movements, but they also help with your press if you use them correctly. Additionally, the lats are able to stabilize the upper back and protect the shoulders.

In the swing, the lats are used to keep the kettlebell from pulling your shoulders forward and they also counter rotation in one-arm swings.

Kettlebells Bring Vigor and Youth Back

Have you ever noticed that you can accurately guess someone’s age from fairly far away by watching how they move? An older person is usually more restricted and moves gingerly. On the other hand, children move with mobility and vigor—at least until we make them sit still for hours every day.

For beginners, one of the hardest concepts in Hardstyle kettlebell training to understand is the explosive nature of the movements. We are not just standing up with the bell in hand, but are exploding out of the hinge and tensing the whole body in the top position. Movement of this quality simply does not exist in our every day lives. The average adult unlearned fast and crisp movements. With kettlebells, your body learns that it is not dangerous to move fast, and you will soon start to move as you did in your youth.

After beginners understand this idea and move more dynamically, they usually feel very good and empowered. They break the chains which have restricted their movement for years. It’s a great feeling, and you usually can see it in their eyes.

If you are wondering if this paragraph is dedicated only to a certain age group, it is not! Kettlebell training works for people in their late teens as well as for senior citizens older than 60. The only real difference is that older beginners will have more movement habits to unlearn, and will need to be more cautious in the process. A trusted RKC Instructor can be very helpful in these situations.

There is no age limit for kettlebell training

There is no age limit for kettlebell training

Kettlebells Allow You to Express Yourself

The last aspect of kettlebell training I would like to discuss in this article is breathing. When watching people train, one of the first things you will notice is their rhythmic and loud breathing. Some people, especially the ladies will be slightly appalled when confronted with this for the first time. We raised in a culture where the sounds our bodies produce are considered to be inappropriate—which is kind of weird if you think about it. Therefore we always try to avoid or conceal those sounds, so it can be shocking when you first enter a gym and see a group swinging a kettlebells and sounding like a gathering of steam engines! What a strange sight!

Deep and pressurized breathing has several positive effects on our body. Most importantly, it activates the diaphragm.

Aside from these physical effects, I also observed that we are psychologically effected. It is similar to that of the Kiai, the blood-curdling Tae Kwon Do war cry you can hear during the keykpa (board breaking). Beginners always struggle with it and feel strange to call out this loudly. It is the same with the Hardstyle breathing during a good kettlebell session, you will hear hisses, grunts and even yells. Sometimes the rhythmic sounds you hear from a group swinging and pressing together can sound like a weird kind of music 😉

When you overcome the internalized reflexes of your upbringing and allow your breath—the most fundamental function of your physical existence—to be heard, it seems to flip a switch in your brain which makes it easier to express your needs. It literally liberates you to make yourself heard.

Conclusion

If you are already using kettlebells, you will have experienced the transformative nature of this seemingly archaic training tool. I would be glad If you could find the time to share your own experiences in the comments.

If you have not yet started training with kettlebells, I strongly encourage you to give it a try. Expect it to be a humbling experience in the beginning, but know that it has the power to make you better and healthier than you are today. A good coach can help anyone get a good start. It will not be comfortable, it will not be easy, but it will definitely be worth it!

***
RKC Team Leader Florian Kiendl is a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and runs a Martial Arts Gym in a small town close to Munich (Germany). He made it his mission to help his students to improve their movement and overall health. In his search for ways to overcome the movement restrictions of his students (and his own) he found the RKC and now works together with Master RKC Robert Rimoczi and others to help as many people as possible to gain back their Strength and Agility.

He writes a regular Blog at blog.kettlebellgermany.de and offers workshops all over Germany teaching the RKC Kettlebell exercises: KettlebellGermany.de.
If you have questions or comments on the article feel free to email him at florian@kettlebellgermany.de

Print Friendly
  • Kettlebells… when used correctly, they REALLY WORK!!!!! 🙂

  • gizzard of oz

    The first section of the article is the kind of thing that used to get me excited about kettlebells,but experience has shown me that using these things is so complex.You’ve to get your active straight leg raise up to par before getting into it,you’ve to foam-roll and get t-spine rotation,ankle-mobility,reflexive-strength,primal-patterns,etc,etc. It’s like you’ve to be forever tinkering with your body. I agree with the concept, but it often seems to me that the person who goes gymming, and just does whatever the machines allow him/her to do,and goes for a few walks or treadmill runs during the week, nearly does better than the kettlebell obsessed lay exercise scientist wearing vibrams. Maybe it suits some types,and not others.
    The 2nd part of the article got me excited about the possibility of recapturing explosive movement. I’ve been working fairly painstakingly (while also concurrently living the modern sedentary lifestyle) on getting my TGU up to 10kg,and upon arriving at that point,will join a class and hopefully get the swing at long last. It would be great to arrive at that distant horizon, but I may have to reconsider my route and incorporate the frowned-upon esoterica of z-health to get there, because the FMS path seems too arduous

    • Hey gizzard of oz,

      as it sounds you are just entering the Kettlebell Universe – the deeper you dive into it the more clearly the answer to your question will be. Training on machines is surely better than not training, and it has the advantage that it usually is fairly relaxed – but it does not allow your body to get back into good movement habits.
      Dont be too concerned about your initial FMS screen you should have symetrical 2 in the mobility patterns (ALSR and SM) and also 2 in the TSPU before you go into load with kettlebell – do high volume or big weights. But even before you can you have these prerequisites you can do alot if you know what you do or have a coach.

      • gizzard of oz

        Well, you’ll be surprised to know,I probably have more books on the topic than you do. But perhaps that’s the problem. There is a decent coach near me, so I’ll make use of his knowledge in the quest for proficiency. Thanks for the reply, and a very good article, by the way.

  • Jeffray Szczodroski

    I lost my first 40lbs with Kettlebells, love them!

    • John Du Cane

      Jeffray, wonderful to hear!

    • Very good – how did you train?

  • Nice article Florian and I agree there is nothing like ballistic movements to make you feel great!

  • Hawk the Slayer

    Great article Florian- thanks! I’ve been them for 2 years now and agree with all these benefits. My personal goal is to always be working out with kettlebells that weight more than my kids. So far so good with my 24 and 32kg bells!

    • I like that! It will become fairly difficult to in a few years to stick to your goal – but that is nothing that should hinder you!

  • Great article, thank you. Clearly explained and a great reference for when explaining the benefits of KB to a beginner.

  • Pingback: Friendly Friday: Peanut Butter Latte Protein Shake & More!()

  • Billy

    Florian
    You have very clearly outlined many benefits from kettlebell use
    Awesome

  • Jackie Pointer Fairburn

    I have been using Kettlebells for about 5 years now and thoroughly enjoy it. I have a great coach in Sheena. Movement is always a top priority, I never moved to the next step unless my movement was perfect. The snatch is my favorite exercise. Florian thanks for the article all great points! AWESOME.

    — Jackie

  • Zsombor Zsuffa

    Thanks Florian for the good overview, you really touched the most important aspects of this wonderful sport. I do kettlebell for a couple of years now and it improved my health and strength condition in an unbelievable manner with a very small amount of time investment. This sport is just fantastic.

  • Thank you so much for including the part about breathing and “noises” in your article!

    In the August 2014 issue of the magazine “Mental Floss,” there’s an article called “Grunting helps Tennis Players Play Better.” A study in 2012 showed that tennis players (specifically cited are Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams) who “grunt” loudly while playing increase power by up to 4%!!! I read this article a few months after I’d started using kettlebells, and got over my “fear” of being loud in a hurry. It works!

    I’ll get stares sometimes when making “those noises” lifting rolls of paper or other heavy items at work… but I’m glad that now I’m able to do that for myself and don’t have to go find someone to help me whenever (for example) the plotter paper needs changing.

    • Feels empowering to be strong doesn’t it?
      Thank you Karen for sharing your experiance.

  • Pingback: Find Your Passion | RKC School of Strength()

Previous post:

Next post: