7 reasons why training with kettlebells is good for you

A kettlebell is simply an iron weight with a handle.

Kettlebells originated in 18th century Russia and were later used by the Soviet army in their training programs, as it became recognised as an effective form of weight training.

Today, they have become a very popular and trusted part of many fitness regimes, with participants claiming that kettlebells improve endurance and strength, whilst at the same time, burning calories. They also shred fat, not to mention help prevent serious medical conditions.

They are advertised as offering a great way to stay in shape, whilst being fun at the same time, compared to ‘normal’ workouts. Therefore, they also appeal to people of all ages, gender and experience and can be used in the comfort of your own home.

But, does training with kettlebells really live up to its hype? The answer is yes.

Read on for the top benefits of why training with kettlebells is good for you, based on reputable scientific studies.

1. Combined Cardio and Strengthen Training

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A major benefit of training with kettlebells is that it combines cardio and strength training, like no other workout. People spend a lot of time using different forms of exercise to reach their goals, such as losing fat, building muscle or working to improve or maintain fitness levels. Studies have shown that an effective way to meet all these needs is through kettlebell training.

Many studies have found that kettlebells improve both aerobic and anaerobic systems (Fung and Shore, 2010). Aerobic means ‘with oxygen’ and is energy used for long, steady paced exercise and everyday activities, whilst anaerobic means ‘without oxygen’, which produces fast and powerful bursts of energy. Both systems can help you become fitter and stronger.

An American Council on Exercise (ACE) study found that the average person performing kettlebell movements can burn 400 calories in just 20 minutes, the equivalent of running a six minute mile.

That is an amazing 20 calories per minute (Porcari, 2010). This surely puts kettlebell training up with the best calorie-burning cardio activities, such as walking.

This was confirmed by a study directly comparing the two-handed kettlebell swing with modern intensity treadmill walking (Thomas et al. 2014). By burning calories, kettlebell training helps the body to mobilise fat as an energy source. For those looking to lose weight, this is a relief and a fun way to workout. For optimum results however, ensure that you combine working out with a healthy diet.

Whilst the movements involved in kettlebell training act as a cardio exercise, the fact that a weight is being lifted at the same time, also works your muscles. Studies have found that this form of exercise improves power, endurance (Manocchia, 2010) and maximum strength (Lake and Lauder, 2012).

Another advantage of working and strengthening your muscles is that it increases your metabolism, meaning you can burn fat all day after your workout.

This combination of cardio and strength training, allows you to get the best of both worlds and reap the benefits that both offer in one challenging kettlebell workout. It is an efficient and effective way to achieve your desired goals; the harder you work, the faster you will see the results.

2. Overall Body Workout

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Another specific benefit of kettlebell movements is that these can work all of your major muscle groups at once and can achieve remarkable results in less time.

The high number of calories that can be burned with this training is accredited to it being a total body movement exercise (Porcari, 2010).

In this way, it is hailed as being superior to other kinds of weight training, due to forcing your body to work as a unit with every swing or lift.

For example, training with dumbells isolates muscle groups, however, the kettlebell swing works the muscles in your arms, core, back and your legs to perform the movement.

No longer do you have to worry about upper and lower body exercises; kettlebell training engages major muscle groups and your whole body. It uses functional movements that will also help you perform better in your everyday life, for example, picking up groceries or a young child.

As kettlebell training involves a lot of movement, it is important to perform the exercises correctly, ensuring your back is straight, shoulders are relaxed and head is in a neutral position. In addition, make sure to pick the right weight to prevent injury.

3. Improve Core Stability

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There are a lot of exercises designed to specifically work your core, but again kettlebells achieve this in almost every movement, as the shape and weight of the device is designed to force you to keep your balance during these movements.

Studies have also concluded that kettlebell exercises can improve core stability in this way (Smith and Fahey, 2011). For example, during the swing, you must use your core muscles to stabilize your body and prevent yourself from tipping over.

The previous ACE study found that after eight weeks of training with kettlebells two times per week, abdominal strength in the participants improved by 70%.

This is a remarkable advantage of kettlebell training, as having a strong core is important in everyday life, particularly for balance and posture.

4. Decrease Musculoskeletal Pain

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It has been found that around 60-80% of people will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives (Plowman and Smith, 2008). It is often thought that weight lifting and strength training can worsen this problem.

However, studies have shown that kettlebells exercises such as the swing or snatch, can improve the strength and endurance of the back to counteract pain and back problems (Pavel, 2007).

Having strong back muscles (as well as a strong core) helps improve your posture; having poor posture is often associated with causing back pain.

Also, others studies found kettlebell training helped reduce neck and shoulder pain (Jay et al. 2011). Consequently, this can be used in a way to relieve musculoskeletal pain.

It is important to ensure that you are using a weight that you are comfortable with to prevent the risk of injury or aggravating existing problems.

5. Prevent Osteoarthritis

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Osteoarthritis is the most common kind of arthritis, which is caused by the breakdown of cartilage that the body eventually cannot repair, often in older age. Cartilage is important as it acts as a cushion between the joints. This condition causes the joints to become stiff and painful, affecting everyday movements.

It is generally thought that arthritis is just an inevitable consequence of getting older, however, studies have proven that this may not be the case. By exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, you may be able to reduce your chances of developing osteoarthritis.

A study found that joints subjected to heavy impact are relatively free of osteoarthritis in older age (Verkhoshansky and Siff, 1998).

Thus, the ballistic exercises using a kettlebell, such as the swing, snatch, jerk and clean, appear to be highly beneficial and strength your joints, promoting protection against osteoarthritis in older age.

6. Reduce or Help Prevent High Blood Pressure

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Having high blood pressure can increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as suffering from a heart attack or a stroke.

Your diet, weight and exercise habits can have a real impact on your blood pressure.

Making lifestyle changes, such as incorporating regular exercise into your routine along with a healthy diet, can keep your heart and arteries in good condition and reduce blood pressure and its associated risks.

Studies have found that kettlebell training can be a good form of exercise, which can lower blood pressure (Jay, 2009).

With it being both a cardio and strength workout, it can assist in the control of and help to prevent high blood pressure, and therefore reduce the dangers to your health.

Whilst it does promote a healthy lifestyle, if you do have high blood pressure, always ask for advice from your doctor first before you start any new physical regime.

7. Manage or Help Prevent Diabetes

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There has been an increase in the number of adults developing Type 2 Diabetes, due to living an unhealthy lifestyle and being overweight. It develops when the body cannot produce the quantity of insulin that it needs (insulin deficiency) or the body’s cells are not using the insulin properly (insulin resistance). Insulin is an important hormone, as it helps your body use glucose to give you energy.

Whilst there is no cure for Type 2 Diabetes, blood glucose levels can be managed to minimise the risk of health problems that can develop. Commonly, this is by following a healthy diet and incorporating regular exercise into your routine.

According to studies by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), when muscles contract during exercise, blood glucose transportation to cells works normally, even for those suffering with Type 2 Diabetes (ACSM, 2010). They also found working the muscles had lasting benefits, as it lowered glucose levels for a further 24 hours. Thus, strength training can help the condition.

In particular, a recent study found that kettlebell training could improve glucose clearance in young, sedentary males (Greenwald, 2014).

Already we have found that it can help promote weight loss when combined with a healthy diet and all of this is beneficial for managing or helping to prevent Type 2 Diabetes.

So Why Use Kettlebells?

In conclusion, training with kettlebells is advantageous not only in meeting individual fitness goals but also in protecting against medical conditions.

If you are looking for a challenging fitness workout with proven benefits to your health then this may be the one for you!

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