There it was, a little box sitting outside my apartment door. It was kind of beat up, a scruffy looking box.
As though everyone who handled it thought: WTF is in this box? It’s small, and it’s unusually heavy.
You know the excitement you get when you get a package—especially in 2003. Nowadays there’s still a thrill but it’s way more common.
So, I tore that package open and did my first set of swings.
It felt like a sprint. It was great. Then presses.
Then…I was hooked.
Yes, the kettlebell is a bit like a cult in the way you get hooked to it once you see how effective it is.
But all cultures are cults, and this one is for your health and wellness and your ability to use your body like the athlete you really are.
The kettlebells are called the handheld gym for a reason. And you can truly get an amazing body with a kettlebell, a pull up bar, and an active lifestyle.
In fact, even with just a lightweight 36 pound kettlebell you can get really strong.
I started training with kettlebells in 2003. Within a month, I noticed a major difference in how strong my hands and forearms were. My back had never been so strong, I had a lot better sprinting endurance, and my shoulder pain went away.
Benefits of Kettlebells
Better results less time
More coordination between upper and lower body
Good endurance and wind
Portable, fits in a closet, stays out of view, pull it out when you need it
Better Results, Less Time
Many kettlebell exercises flow together. You don’t need to put the weight down at all. You can string a sequence of exercises together and perform them non-stop. This gives you a great strength and endurance workout in a small amount of time. Check out some of these exercises in this video for ideas:
Hardly anything develops your grip as well as pulling dynamically against a weight does. My grip strength is far above average simply because I perform kettlebell exercises. For example, I can close the #2 Iron Mind gripper without specific training. I’m a fast twitch muscle guy so your results may vary, but the point is, you’ll get strong hands.
I’m not just talking about strength for strength sake either. Strong hands help with practically everything. If you’re helping someone move, if you’re opening jar, if you’re shaking hands with someone who has a firm handshake, if you’re holding on to a rope while water skiing, etc., strong hands make those tasks much easier.
More Coordination of Upper and Lower Body
For many people, life does not demand a lot of coordination or movement. That was the case for me as an office worker. Unlike traditional training where people separate their body into a bunch of different parts, kettlebells unify the body and treat it as a unit.
This is why you’ll feel so much stronger when you start using kettlebells—you’ll be learning how to use your body as an entire unit. Even if you just select one kettlebell exercise—the swing—you’ll feel this effect.
Additionally, many people have bad backs because they don’t use their body as a coordinated unit and neglect specific lower back training. The kettlebell swing—and proper form—fixes this handicap right up. You’ll forget you ever had back problems in the first place.
In addition to learning to move your body as a coordinated unit, you learn how to generate dynamic strength from your hips. This makes everything stronger because that is where all power is generated from.
If you’re an athlete—whether you throw people or baseballs—you’ll benefit from this type of strength. If you’re an office worker, it means that you’ll retain your body’s natural strength—instead of losing it and acquiring an increasing degree of decrepitude.
Kettlebells work the shoulders quite a bit. For people seeking an attractive smaller waist / broad-shouldered look, kettlebells can help you develop it.
Improved Endurance and Wind
The kettlebell swing and snatch make great exercises to improve your wind and your endurance. In five to 10 minutes, an experienced trainee can sufficiently tax their body far more than any jog could. It compresses the workout time.
A less experienced trainee can perform continuous exercise for longer periods. Either way, you get a great combination of strength and endurance—plenty of both that will meet and beat nearly any demands placed on your body in ordinary life.
This is the one I love. I don’t like having clutter lying around so it’s important that my kettlebells disappear when I’m not using them. I’ve also had fun taking the kettlebell to a park or to a beach to workout. You can’t do that with a barbell—and a dumbbell just doesn’t work the same as a kettlebell.
Kettlebells vs. Dumbbells vs. Barbells
While I agree with the quote that “it’s the Indian and not the arrow” I do think the kettlebells have unique properties which make them better them barbells and dumbbells for a lot of people.
If you’re not in a sport that requires maximum strength, you don’t need a barbell. So, office workers who play softball or basketball, there you go—no barbell necessary. Linemen? Well, kettlebells can be beneficial, but you need that barbell, too.
Dumbbells, well, you can have them if you want, maybe for chest presses or something, but I don’t see the need. I like the fixed weights of the kettelbell and if I’m pressing 36 lbs. or 53 lbs. overhead, I don’t need anymore strength.
Aside from that, a lot of exercises can be modified to one arm / one leg versions to make a lower weight just as effective from a strength perspective.
Starting Out: Which Kettlebell to Buy?
I kept escalating my practice and getting heavier and heavier kettlebells, but that was my mistake—you don’t have to make it. Just a 16 kg is plenty. At most you could get by with the 16, 20, and 24 kg kettlebells and be in great shape.
Some guys are naturally stronger, but ultimately the kettlebell isn’t a strength tool—it’s a strength-endurance tool.
For women, starting out with a 8 or 12 kg kettlebell is about right. A strong women will progress 16 kg for many exercises.
If you do decide to get a kettlebell, head on over to Dragon Door. They are the ones who resurrected the kettlebell so it’s only fitting to support them. They also have a ton of instructional resources. Head’s up, this is an affiliate link, but I have no qualms about it because I use their products.
If you’re looking for something different, something quick and effective (who isn’t?!), something that will have a tonic effect on your body and provide all the benefits above, then I recommend you get yourself a kettlebell and start practicing the tremendously effective kettlebell exercises.