So is there a benefit to working out using a cannonball with a handle? Can they do anything that dumbbells can’t do?
In my humble opinion, kettlebells have certainly been sensationalized in MANY ways. When it comes to conventional western weight training like squats, lunges, pressing and pulling movements, there isn’t a lot that kettlebells can do that good ‘ol dumbbells can’t. However, if we take it back to the true roots and origin of the kettlebell, it tells a fascinating story and brings us to one magical movement that dumbbells just can’t accommodate as well: The kettlebell swing.
Kettlebells were actually used in 17th Century Russia as a weight measure for grains and other goods. As workers in the markets and farmers played around with the kettlebells and challenging each other, they quickly made their way into fairs and competitions where men would swing and throw the heaviest kettlebells to prove their power and prowess. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s kettlebells had made their way into Eastern training regimens as they found it to be an incredible tool to build power, strength, stamina, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility.
The kettlebell swing is a movement that seems to be almost a rhythmic pendulum motion, more playful than painful, but is actually one of the most powerful training exercises for human mobility. When done properly, it trains the muscles surrounding the hip to decelerate, stop, then powerfully accelerate – all the while challenging the core to keep the spine (midline) controlled and stabilized. We see this motion in nearly everything we do – sitting, standing, jumping, running, kicking, punching, throwing, you get the point. Hip extension is singlehandedly the most powerful movement that our body can perform, and the kettlebell swing is the main movement that trains it!
While there are numerous variations on the swing, from single arm to alternating hands, let’s just focus on the basic foundation: the two-handed Russian swing.
The Kettlebell begins just below the groin with only 20 or so degrees of knee flexion. As the hips are extended the bell should be swung to chest height (about a 90 degree angle to the body). During the motion the spine should stay rigid and in a straight line – the only major movement is the hinging at the hip, and slight knee bend as the hips are loading while the bell is decelerating. There should be no deep bend in the knees or and flexion of the spine at any time during the swing. In addition, you should never have to pull or raise the kettlebell up with your shoulders – all of the power for the swing comes from the hips and your arms are just along to ‘ride’ the kettlebell up to it’s stopping point.
The kettlebell swing in a nutshell!
So the question is: Are kettlebells here to stay? Plain and simple…yes, yes, and yes.