Choosing Kettlebells for the Home Gym
Why use kettlebells?
The kettlebell is a versatile exercise tool for muscle building, aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, flexibility, joint mobility and power. There are entire series of dvds devoted to kettlebell cardio and kettlebell ab workouts, and people like pavel tsatsouline and steve cotter have taken this simple free weight into a category all its own. There are several good reasons why using kettle bells has advantages over traditional free weights, no matter where you work out at.
For the home gym room, kettlebells are an excellent value. Although the price of a single kettle bell can be high, it also delivers a lot for the money. A moderate weight will provide cardio benefits through swinging and increase power and cardiovascular fitness with swings, snatches and slingblades. It will also teach strength through multiple ranges of motion with exercises like the Windmill, Bent Press and Turkish Get Up.
Just as important is the distribution and position of the kettlebell’s weight. The much talked about offset weight is an advantage in training the body to compensate and stabilize. However, the position of the bell in relation to the grip enables the user to emulate task specific movements.
For example, the kettle bell moves with the body’s planes of motion in the Turkish Get Up, or when using two ‘bells for a Bridged Alternating Floor Press, to name two.
Both of the exercises above translate well to strength and power for grappling sports, but many if not all exercises with the kettle bell have similar applications to sport, occupation and life.
The kettle bell allows you to do exercises that are difficult or awkward with other free weights. These include kettle bell juggling, the windmill, turkish get up, swings, double swings, double snatch and more. The range of exercises is limited only by imagination!
Among kettlebell benefits, this one ranks as one of the highest. For the home gym these tools are space efficient. Now you may have seen gyms with one side of the room covered in all sizes of kettlebells, and thought, ‘wow, what a mess, how is that space efficient?’ Granted, if you have a commercial facility, you will need a lot of kettle bells and an organizing system.
However, for the home workout room they are ideal. Beginners can start with one or two ‘bells, and add one or two as they get stronger. It isn’t necessary to have one of every size to get maximum strength, mobility and cardio benefits. Two or three sets of kettle bells take up less room than dumbbells of equal weight, and are easily hidden in a corner or closet, if they must be out of sight.
Full Body Workouts
As mentioned earlier, there are kettlebell ab workouts on the market, but the idea of muscle isolation when using kettle bells is a little devious. Sure, you can use these tools to isolate parts of the body, including abs, but this is not the ideal use for them. In general, kettlebell workout routines engage the core musculature, from the transverse abdominis you can’t see, to the abdominal wall, obliques and more.
Part of kettle bells training is understanding how to engage the core throughout an exercise. This in turn allows people to lift greater weights and prevent injury; not to mention work on those six pack abs. So in a sense, every workout is a kettlebell ab workout.
To expand on this a little, let’s look at how kettle bell training is a total body workout, using the most basic of kettlebells exercises, the swing. Mike Mahler once said that this is basically a hamstring exercise, but there is much more to it than that.
During the swing, the hips flex and extend, sitting back and driving forward. The entire hip girdle is involved, as well as the hamstrings and glutes. While this is not a shoulder, quadriceps or lower back exercise, it does activate the abdominals, calves, arms and shoulders, which are necessary to stabilize the body and hang onto the kettlebell.
Another excellent example of a total body workout is the Turkish get up. Starting from the floor, the anterior core muscles are involved in driving the body up and to one side. At the same time, the pectorals, anterior deltoid and triceps have to fire.
These same muscles need to stabilize the kettlebell overhead while the lower body adjusts to a lunge-like position, at which point the quadriceps act as the primary mover in standing up. It is also worth mentioning that other muscles, such as the lats, are used to steady the kettle bell in the locked out overhead position.
The biggest kettlebell benefits for anyone, but especially someone who prefers the home gym or the great outdoors, include:
-Excellent value for the money (For about $200 you can have three kettlebells of varying sizes.)
-Values include whole body muscle-building, cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and endurance.
-Space efficient. Many people will need nothing more than a few kettlebells!
-Movement specific; the ultimate functional training tool
Finding the right kettlebells
Kettlebells are great for the home gym, but with all the choices on the market, choosing a set to fit your hands and workout requirements takes some looking.
When choosing a kettlebell, make sure the handle is thick enough to grip, but not so thick you can't get your hand around it. Also, consider that the skin on your hand will be subject to repeated friction from the rotation of the handle. Look for a smooth handle without a seam. If your favorite kettlebell has a rough handle, do like the pros and buy some chalk.
Here are a few top quality choices. Whether you like color or prefer a mottled iron finish, these kettlebells are offered in enough sizes and weights to satisfy anyone.
***A Note on Technique:
Proper use of kettlebells is essential to get maximum benefits and prevent injury! Start light and study instructions/dvds carefully. Better yet, take a class or RKC workshop.
A 3 Minute Kettlebell Sample Workout
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