Kettlebell training is a great way to improve your cardiovascular stamina while at the same time building muscle.  Combine your kettlebell training with a complete lifestyle program that includes healthy eating and adequate rest and you’ll be healthier and fitter in no time.

What are Kettlebells?

The first question you may have is simply, “What are kettlebells and how will they get me in shape?”

The common belief is that kettlebells originated hundreds of years ago in Russia as counterweights and then were used by Russian warriors in sporting competitions against neighboring villages.

More recently, in 1948, kettlebell lifting became Russia’s national sport, eventually becoming known as girevoy sport.  Kettlebells were brought to US gyms in the 1920’s by the East Prussian bodybuilder, Sigmund Klein.

A kettlebell, sometimes called a bell or referred to by the initials KB, is a type of weight made of cast-iron or cast steel with a round flat base and an arched handle.  It resembles a cannonball with a handle or a kettle without a spout (lending to the name kettlebell).  These weights are used to perform powerful exercises that combine cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training.

A kettlebell functions differently than a dumbbell because its center of mass extends beyond the handle. Since the distribution of weight is off-centered, using a kettlebell forces your stabilizer muscles to work harder. As a result, you get an all-over body workout, building power and boosting endurance.

The handle on a kettlebell makes it more versatile allowing it to be swung, thrown, pressed, and held in a wide variety of compound exercises which involve whole body movements.

Compound exercises offer more benefits than weight lifting machines that isolate single muscles. A kettlebell’s center of gravity actually shifts during the course of the exercise mimicking everyday movement and developing your functional, real world strength.

Kettlebell exercises strengthen multiple muscle groups with each exercise. They also offer the advantage of strengthening tendons and ligaments making your body less susceptible to injury.

Because of their small size and versatility, kettlebells are a great investment for people with a limited amount of space.  They are also highly efficient for creating a single program that will develop your cardio and muscular fitness at the same time.

Basic Principles of using Kettlebells

Before beginning a kettlebell program, you should understand some basic principles.  In order to get a balanced workout, don’t focus only a particular muscle group.  Make sure to incorporate exercises that work both the upper and lower body, using a weight that feels challenging.

Once you have found an appropriate weight, build upon the number of repetitions to increase your endurance.  After you reach your goal for repetitions, increase the weight, lower the number of reps and work towards your next endurance goal.

Creating Your Own Kettlebell Program

Kettlebell training programs are often based on a circuit.  Circuit training is a type of workout that combines resistance training and high-intensity aerobics.

It focuses on building strength and endurance. Most circuit programs take about 20 minutes to complete with little rest in between exercises.  Once complete, the circuit can be repeated for a longer workout. A kettlebell circuit is one of the most efficient ways to work your entire body.

A kettlebell circuit should consist of four to six exercises.  The exercises can be focused on a single muscle group or can be a mix of multiple groups, just be sure that within the span of a week you have worked all muscle groups equally.

You should do three sets of each exercise, beginning with 5 repetitions (as you progress in your training work your way up to 10 reps).  After each set rest for 30 seconds.  Take a two-minute break in between each exercise before moving to the next. Repeat the circuit two to three times.

If you aren’t familiar with kettlebell specific exercises or don’t want to design your own program, a helpful resource is the Ultimate Kettlebell Challenge Workout. This program was created by Forest Vance, a former pro athlete, Russian kettlebell expert, gym owner, boot camp instructor and personal trainer based out of Sacramento, CA.

The system he has created will help you get started with kettlebell training by teaching you how to perform a variety of exercises safely and effectively.

It includes 41 kettlebell exercises, 33 kettlebell challenge workouts, and an eight-week training plan.  The program comes with videos and illustrated guides providing detailed instruction, coaching, cues, technique corrections, and drills.

A well-designed kettlebell workout program is an extremely effective training tools for providing total-body strength and conditioning.