23 May Why I Started Training With Kettlebells (And Maybe You Should Too)
I’ve had some interesting conversations with friends and athletes recently about the importance of strength training.
The conversations have basically been like this.
“Hey Scott, I want to work on strength, what do I need to do? Tell me what really works?”
For example, I was just talking with my friend Adam.
Adam is a Jujitsu athlete and he was looking for a strength solution to compliment his jujitsu training. He wanted to address the “strength gap” that he said he wasn’t getting with his current training and was feeling a little lost about what to do.
I couldn’t help but think…
No matter who you are or what your goals are, strength will make you better.
Of course, there are many variables and factors that will depend on the type and level of strength you need. We’ll have to turf that conversation for later though.
While most people are beginning to understand the importance of strength in optimizing health and maximizing performance, there are still many who haven’t quite figured out or discovered the importance of foundational strength or what that means.
What is foundational strength?
Foundational strength is the minimum baseline level of strength that all humans should have to live a healthy and high-performing life.Foundational strength is the minimum baseline level of strength that all humans should have to live a healthy and high-performing life. - Rdella TrainingClick To Tweet
Think about that.
This doesn’t mean you need to be as strong as The Mountain or be the highest level strength athlete. You don’t need to be an elite powerlifter or weightlifter – unless you want to shoot for those things.
You do need to be strong enough where you don’t have any physical gaps or impairments so you can live a great life.
A high-performing life.
Foundational strength means that you are “physically free” to live life as you choose and do the things you want (and need) to do without being restricted or limited in any way.
For example, if you can’t get out on the field and sprint today, then you may have a deficit in your foundational strength. There could be other reasons why you could be limited with that specific example, but a lack of strength is one potential cause.
If we look at achieving foundational strength, I believe that one of the best solutions available is choosing to engage in kettlebell training.
Kettlebell training offers (P.A.S.E.):
Let’s talk more about each of these.
Here’s something important to know.
For the first month or so of discovering kettlebells, I had only one kettlebell in my garage gym. Again, one kettlebell.
A kettlebell truly is a handheld gym. You can press it, swing it, get-up with it, squat with it and more.
Total body training? You bet.
Not too long after getting my first kettlebell, I purchased another one, bringing my total to 2 kettlebells.
This became my entire home gym training system for several months.
A kettlebell offers a portable, total body training solution.
You need a safe space to train, but you don’t necessarily need a lot of space.
Portability is a significant advantage.
The essence of this article is about having access to training. Everyone should have access to train.
Of course, we all know that exercise is beneficial for us, but not everyone on earth exercises despite knowing that it’s extremely beneficial – but that’s another story.
Having a kettlebell or a few kettlebells, removes barriers and makes training more “accessible” to everyone.
Many years ago when our first daughter was born, getting to the gym to train became less accessible due to time and other factors.
That’s when I decided to get a kettlebell and experiment more with training at home in my garage.
Having a kettlebell made my total body strength and power training much more accessible and I’ve never looked back.
As a matter of fact, the last decade has been some of the best physical training in my life (that’s crazy to think about, but it’s so true).
Kettlebell training removes barriers and excuses and creates more accessibility for us.
A kettlebell is a simple tool. It’s a cannonball with a handle, but this unique design and offset center of mass makes it something special.
Training your entire body with one tool (or a pair of kettlebells) makes it a simple training concept.
I have immersed myself in kettlebell training almost exclusively for some time when I started – and I had numerous health and fitness benefits that were astounding.
It is a simple training method.
That does not mean it is easy.
Kettlebell training is highly effective.
Kettlebells can be a complete training system for the majority of people.
When used properly, the method will produce outstanding benefits for the vast majority of people who use them.
- Improved strength
- Better conditioning
- Enhanced movement skills
- More power and explosiveness
- Improved self-confidence and self-esteem
- Enhanced athletic performance (possibly even athletic dominance)
- Improved body composition
- Elevated levels of health and energy
- And on and on…
They can address the many qualities of strength (maximum strength, explosive strength, strength-speed, and more).
There is no one that properly uses kettlebells who wouldn’t benefit from the power and simplicity of this training method.
But keep this in mind.
I am not suggesting in any way that kettlebells should be the only tools we use.
As a matter of fact, my love for the barbell is unparalleled because it is barbell training that is truly the king of strength development.
What I am saying is that kettlebells can greatly enhance anyone’s program or training approach.
Kettlebells will make you stronger and more powerful and they reduce barriers to train.
Again, they are very effective training tools.
Now, let’s cover the basics, the fundamentals.
Here are the core exercises that would benefit any athlete or fitness enthusiast, regardless of age, background or skill level.
Let’s address this right away. Kettlebell deadlifts are the precursor to the kettlebell swing. This movement is not about maximum strength development, in most cases.
What it is about is teaching the proper hip hinge pattern that is essential for the kettlebell swing.
The hip hinge movement is possibly the most important movement for the athlete and for performance, at any level.
Just ask Dr. Eric Goodman, Creator of Foundation Training about the importance of the hinge.
His entire philosophy on relieving pain and optimizing performance is based on the hip hinge.
The kettlebell deadlift also effectively teaches the applications of tension and power breathing with the hinge pattern.
This is the essential starting point in kettlebell training.
THE KETTLEBELL SWING
One of the young athletes I’ve been working with in recent months has made outstanding strength gains.
He’s been making steady progress in developing baseline strength and skill for his sport. He’s a football player and you know he needs to be strong and explosive for his position (defensive end).
Without question, the barbell lifts are very valuable and required for him to get strong. And, that’s what we’ve been spending the majority of our time on in the weight room.
But, I’ve been also been teaching him the kettlebell swing and I can see that he’s starting to understand the power of this seemingly simple exercise with helping him to become stronger and more explosive off the line.
It’s pure power.
The kettlebell swing has been referred as an athletic fat-burning machine.
I can’t think of a more accurate description of this exercise and how this would appeal to every fitness enthusiast reading this.
While there are a handful of fundamental, proven exercises for strength and power, there could be no dispute that the kettlebell swing is one of the best available options in our toolkit.
From the young athlete to the aging exerciser, there may not be a more valuable exercise. Although that statement requires that the kettlebell swing is executed properly.
The swing makes the body better.
The goblet squat is the common squat variation with the kettlebell.
The rumor is that Dan John invented this exercise, but I’m not certain.
Just to be clear, the goblet squat does not rival the barbell squat for strength development.
Obviously, we can load the bar to much heavier a poundages, but this is not why we use the goblet squat.
The goblet squat (or even the racked squat variation) is an outstanding squat pattern that helps to build strength, conditioning and mobility.
For most part, it’s easy to do and allows for a good movement pattern with the kettlebell held in the front of the body.
There are certain squat exercises and movements that are extremely accessible to most people.
The goblet squat is certainly one of those exercises.
The goblet squat is not the exercise to get you super strong.
It is the exercise to get you moving better with improved body awareness.
It will build strength, it will get you more conditioned and it will help to improve or maintain mobility.
A valuable and useful exercise that probably doesn’t get the credit it’s deserved.
I’ve been saying for a long time now that the kettlebell press is probably the best press variation for the shoulder joint.
This is a unique press because of the shape and design of a kettlebell which allows for optimal pressing technique and motion by pressing in the plane of the scapula.
(The plane of the scapula is the plane of motion that is a safe and optimal position for overhead movement and shoulder joint elevation. It is described as moving the arm upward at approximately 30 to 45 degrees anterior (in front of) to the frontal plane.)
Not only is the kettlebell press a “healthy” press variation for the shoulder, but this press is a full body strength and stability exercise when done properly.
Understand this, the kettlebell press is not just for the shoulders.
I won’t deny my passion for the get-up.
Yes, I love this movement for several reasons.
To get really strong and become a truly resilient human being, getting up and down from the ground under a heavy load is nearly unrivaled.
It’s one of my favorite exercises and a potential “life-saving” movement for the human body.
As with the complete story I’ve been sharing with you here, there is no athlete or person I can think of that wouldn’t benefit from performing the get-up exercise.
The movement requires getting up from the ground and then returning back down again, under the load of a kettlebell (other training implements can be used, as well).
The step-by-step instructions on how to do this exercise are beyond the scope of what I want to cover in this article, but I will say that there literally may be nothing more valuable than learning how to perform this exercise for total body strength, stability and mobility.
Get-ups significantly contribute to optimizing health and performance. There is truth in that statement.
Get-ups should be considered a “standard” for all humans who are committed to exercises that truly make a difference in quality of life.
To get strong, get-up.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO NEXT?
First, know where YOU are in the journey. How can you get started or how can you get better? Then, consider these points.
Find a coach. Whether that’s “live-in-person” or online, find a qualified coach. If the person you found is not (or has not ever been) certified, keep looking. I have to point out the obvious, but you want to find a coach who knows what they are doing with the bells.
Sign up for a workshop. If you need a specific recommendation, let me know.
Start reading more about kettlebells. Where to start? I typically recommend Simple and Sinister by Pavel. This book will help you understand the P.A.S.E. concepts that I have previously discussed.
Purchase a kettlebell. The brand I still recommend is by Rogue Fitness. You will find my specific kettlebell recommendation here.
Get started. Focus on the fundamentals. I have outlined them in this article.
Ask questions. Have a question for me? Just let me know, I’m happy to help.
Online Course. An online course is an extremely viable option to learn how to use kettlebells and get the best results from this tool. This is something I’ll have more information about soon. Join our community to find out first what’s coming.
Spread the word! Please share this on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere you’d like.