A Kettlebell a Day Keeps the Weakness Away

kettlebells May 31, 2019
 
Kettlebells have the uncanny ability of creating a stronger overall connection. They may not be the best for building maximal strength in certain areas compared to a barbell, but as a tool to create awareness, explosive power, connection and structural integrity of your entire system they really can’t be beat.
 
What you get is what you give and your results will be directly correlated to which movements you choose and how often you do them. The kettlebell already offers a set of unique benefits due to the anatomy of the bell. 
 
The offset nature forces more tension and increases the grip work needed which creates more stability through your upper extremities and shoulders. This is without doing anything other than maintaining a racked position (when the kettlebell is nestled between your forearm and bicep). In my opinion this is the best example of what delivers the “odd strength” you get from kettlebells. It’s not just pressing and pulling. It’s maintaining scapular control without letting the bell sink into your body which helps builds the support of the entire shoulder girdle. 
 
The ballistic nature of a handful of kettlebell movements leads to unique benefits as well. There are very few movements that call for explosive true hinging. When I say “true” hinge I mean a deep bend activating as little quadriceps as possible with a primary focus on hamstrings, glutes and back. The downswing of the kettlebell in swings, cleans, snatches and flows provides an eccentric force that has incredible biomechanical carry over into actual movements like sprinting, jumping, or skipping because you’re in such a good mood. 
 
Few ballistic movements we do get loaded during the eccentric phase. Typically Olympic lifts get dropped so we don’t have to work with gravity to redirect that load. That exponentially increases the force on our body which is why swinging a submaximal weight will still build strength. Force = Mass x Acceleration so if a 50lb kettlebell is dropping at a rate of wicked fast (technical term) which has to get to the peak of a downswing and then be driven back up creates a seemingly heavier weight on your body. Drop it from the overhead position of the snatch and you speed things up increasing your output. Less is more with kettlebell training. 
 
If flows somehow make their way into your training the structural awareness you build is second to none. Being able to go through a variety of movements while keeping your shoulder packed, lats engaged, breath aligned all while alternating between explosiveness, tension and fluidity creates an incredible connection. This will help build a level of durability that will potentially keep you injury-free. 
 
Through that wide base of movements you’re going to take different joints through more ranges of motion than you typically would in a traditional workout. This helps build stability and mobility which again, helps build the resiliency and longevity of your joints. Of course, if you’re performing hundreds of a specific movement daily that increases wear and tear, but taking your body through positions with an external load will help you build strength in uncomfortable, awkward positions.
 
Here’s a few ways to incorporate them:
 
The Bare Minimum
If you’re going to supplement your training with only a handful of movements it’s best to select movements that are hard to replicate with other tools. Swings, cleans and snatches with varying weights and intensities are my first go to. The compact nature of the kettlebell allows you to use slightly heavier weights than a dumbbell would allow for. 
 
When to use: 
Add swings, cleans or snatches (once you’re proficient) in between push movements to increase caloric output of your session while building movement proficiency.
 
Good Participation
Complexes are an amazing way to get a lot of volume in less time with limited equipment. One or two kettlebells and five to eight movements strung together will build work capacity, shed body-fat, and if nutrition is on point, add some desirable lean mass. 
 
When to use:
On a conditioning day or to finish a workout add in this non-stop complex with zero rest between the movements:
 
  1. One Arm Swing
  2. Clean
  3. Press
  4. Squat
  5. Snatch
  6. Windmill 
5 reps of each, switch arms and then rest. 
3-5 rounds with 1-3 minutes rest between them with a light-medium weight will be plenty! 
 
Above and Beyond:
Kettlebell-only routines through flows will challenge you physically and mentally. Most of us like to have things fairly organized in the gym with a certain number of reps and sets to be done. Few people like to have an unplanned section of movement because we don’t know what to do or where to go. That’s the beauty of flow. You just go. Go with what feels good and keep doing it. There’s no planned sets or reps, just a time that you want to work within whether it’s one minute or 15. 
 
When to use: 
When you’re extremely proficient with kettlebells add in some organic, free-range, antibiotic-free flowing. Set the timer for 2 minutes and with a light weight play with different positions, orientations, transitions and movement patterns. Work within your knowledge (if you’ve never done snatches then don’t be doing 360 rotational snatches) and don’t go until failure with any particular movement. 
 
However you swing it adding kettlebells into your training will only make a stronger, more athletic human. The good news is you don’t have to become a kettlebell nut like me to reap the benefits. You just have to be adverse to weakness, but that’s ok because a kettlebell a day will take care of that.

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