PLEASE NOTE: We are undergoing a name change. Unleashed Training is now Sprint Ninja. We still offer high quality strength and conditioning along with personal training, with our specialty being sprint training.
Kettlebells are an awesome tool for developing superior strength and dynamic power. You know what they are right? They’re those iron ball looking things with a solid handle. You see people swinging them around, pressing them over their head etc.
Where do They Come From?
There are many theories as to where these strength training tools originated. The truth is very simple and rather unexciting.
They started life as counterweights used by farmers to measure grain. The farmers would place grain in a container at one end of a seesaw type apparatus with a counterweight on the other end. The counterweights were measured in units called a “pood”. They would adjust the amount of grain until it weighed the correct amount of poods.
Farmers were, and still are, known for their strength and vitality. They would use their counterweights to exercise and challenge each other. Farmers began putting on shows at local festivals demonstrating their strength. The use of these counterweights caught on and others started using them. And so the kettlebell was born.
After this time they were used as a strength training tool in the Soviet Union. The Russians would use kettlebells in their military training, martial arts training, gyms, athletic conditioning and just about everywhere that you would normally see a fancy machine these days. Kettlebells were the equivalent of the big chest press, preacher curl and smith machines you see in gyms today. The only difference is that kettlebells provide functional strength and power development and they aren’t as attractive to the masses. This is a shame because kettlebell training is unique and extremely effective if it is done correctly.
Why Not Just Use Dumbells? They’re Cheaper.
Indeed dumbells are cheaper than kettlebells. Many people I have trained and advised ask me why they couldn’t just do the same thing with dumbells. Well you can to begin with. If you choose to check out the Strength Secret of the Soviet Supermen DVD in the above link you can perform many of the basic exercises with dumbells. However, if you want to train properly with all the dynamic movements you will need to get a set of kettlebells. It’s that simple.
The unique design of these simple tools allows you to swing them and dynamically move them through all planes of motion. Dumbells on the other hand are balanced differently. The weight of a dumbell is distributed on each side, as opposed to hanging beneath the handle. This makes them inconsistent within different movement patterns.
Who Can Benefit?
Anyone requiring an increase in strength, power and overall health can use these effective strength training tools. It is common for women and those who just want general health, fitness and well-being to believe that hardcore training methods like kettle bells, free weights, sprint training and the like are only for athletes, armed forces, police etc. This could not be further from the truth.
Kettlebells are another strength training to tool to add to your arsenal. Everyone from athletes to grandparents should be training for increased strength. Strength is the basis for all fitness. I have already written articles that explain why strength training should form the foundations for all other things, so I won’t preach too much about it here.
Normal strength training using free weights and machines is useful for athletes and the general population. It can be scaled to meet the needs of just about anyone, regardless of current fitness level. But the common applications to strength training, as seen in gyms throughout the western world, are often missing something. Recent research shows, for instance, that loss of strength is not the only cause of premature aging and dependence. It has been shown in several studies now that in addition to strength, power plays possibly an even more important role.
Power is force times velocity. In other words it is strength applied in a faster and more dynamic fashion.
Normal free weights coupled with plyometric training can accomplish this double whammy. If you perform major compound movements along with the dynamic Olympic lifts and include plyometric training you will develop a lot of muscular power. The problem is that not everyone can do this. Olympic lifts require a lot of technical skill and cannot be performed by everyone. These sort of lifts are extremely dynamic and are limited to use by those with stable joints and no injuries and pre-existing conditions.
Then there is plyometrics. This sort of training requires a lot of impact. It is a training modality that I highly recommend to those who are able to do it. But again, not everyone can do plyometrics. It often involves jumping and rebounding off the ground. It is a superior method of training for developing power and coupled with strength training is the best way to develop explosive power in sports and other applications. However someone with even the slightest hint of knee issues or ankle instability is unable to perform this method of training.
Kettlebells are a strength training tool that can be utilised and scaled for everyone to use. There are very few people on earth that would be unable to perform some the most basic movements. Kettlebell training involves quite a few dynamic, unilateral movements along with slower ones. This means that power and strength can be developed together with zero impact.
Kettlebells are a strength and power training tool for everyone. Old people need strength and power to maintain independence, athletes need it to perform at their peak, the regular individual needs strength and power to maintain and increase their overall health and physical function. Kettlebells are a way for anyone to develop these two primary modalities of fitness.
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YOUR COACH – Chris Lyons
Chris Lyons is an experienced strength and conditioning coach, having trained athletes of all ages and levels since 2002. Chris specialises in coaching athletes for speed and power specific to fast-moving sports such as rugby league, rugby union, soccer, Aussie rules football etc. Since 2002 Chris has conducted close to 15,000 hours of training and coaching directly with athletes and members of the general population. From this experience comes Sprint Ninja, based on tried and tested training methods combined with up to date research. Chris continues to challenge himself not only as a coach, but also as an athlete, competing in sprinting events, strongman and Olympic-style weightlifting.