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Chapter 2. What Can Be Achieved With A Kettlebell?

Kettlebells are so old that no single nation can lay claim to inventing them, however the old Soviet Union continued to implement Kettlebell lifts into their athletic and military physical training, and as a sport in its own right long after they fell into disuse elsewhere, and so they now “own” the monopoly on all things Kettlebell. Perhaps this recent association of Kettlebells with “Mother Russia” is an unfortunate thing because it has contributed to shaping the very inaccurate view of Kettlebells and their training effects held by the general fitness population – of gigantic, grunting, bearded men in barns and basements performing legendary acts of strength while the vodka flowed (OK – Stan Pike is an exception). So many think of old fashioned, primitive, brute strength when hearing the word “Kettlebell.”
The Nature of a Kettlebell
Before we start we need to explain why Kettlebells are so different to other forms of resistance equipment, then we can understand more deeply the specific benefits provided by the Kettlebell.
Any weight will fight the gravitational pull of the earth, but with the Kettlebell’s sphere being suspended below the handle this increases this pull towards the ground and away from the body; this also provides an additional “joint” or link in the chain for the lifter to control, wherever the Kettlebell is - the weight is constantly fighting gravity, which the lifter has to control as opposed to a dumbbell or barbell that can be “balanced” during an exercise. This makes the Kettlebell unique in its application as a fitness-tool. The body’s muscles are constantly working in order to simply control the Kettlebell and when swinging the Kettlebell you need strength, speed and coordination within the body’s movement in order to get that Kettlebell up, but as it comes down to the ground it is gaining speed, which has to be controlled and then pulled against in order to once more swing it back to the top. At the bottom of the Kettlebell swing it is estimated that you will be pulling between four and seven times its actual weight. This would make an 8-kilo or 18lb Kettlebell apparently weigh 32-kilos or 72lbs and a 16-kilo or 36lb Kettlebell would apparently weigh 64 kilos or 144lbs at the lowest part of the Swing.
The Benefits of a Kettlebell
Strength training lacks the appeal that other forms of exercise such as yoga and aerobics enjoy, however the benefits of strength training are absolutely essential to any health and fitness programme. Few people realise just how dependent our emotional, mental and bodily well-being are upon our physical fitness, especially as strength training is the only scientifically proven activity that positively influences such things as muscle strength and mass, body fat, bone density, basal metabolic rate, blood sugar tolerance, blood pressure and aerobic capacity – all things which decline with age.However, Kettlebell training offers the benefits of strength training, but combined with those of yoga, Pilates and aerobics – all at the same time to develop a body that is as robust and strong as it is proportionate and graceful.
Kettlebell training primarily increases stamina or strength-endurance like no other form of exercise and it dramatically improves flexibility and speed. It causes fat to “melt like ice cream in a sauna” thus creating a lithe, symmetrical physique laid over a foundation of functional strength: strength shared by the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. This strength-endurance comes with the bonus of enhanced coordination, which is of benefit to everyone and not just those involved in competitive sport. Kettlebells provide the “holy grail” to the machine-versus-barbell, and the aerobic-versus-weight training controversy, because Kettlebells are purposefully designed to present leverage with a dynamically shifting fulcrum during the course of any movement, thus Kettlebells provide effects that are simply not attainable with conventional weights. For these very same reasons they also have great effect on the stabilizing muscles that criss-cross the human frame, developing inter-muscular teamwork and functional core stability. No other single form of resistance training can compete with these results .Whilst doing all of this, Kettlebells are also safe enough to be used in both a rehabilitative and pre-habilitative manner for the young and old, and can be so brutally hard that it can tax the outer limits of reserve of the most seasoned Olympic athlete or Commando. Training with Kettlebells has been described as “the yoga of iron – Heavy Metal Yoga!”There are many other benefits that attend training with Kettlebells within the Kettlebell Bible Ethos of working hard but not for long, you do not need to spend hours a day or multiple days per week in a “fully” equipped but expensive commercial gym in order to build an athletic body whilst reducing your body fat and stress levels. With all that spare time and a fit, rugged body and mind what more could you achieve in your life? What potential could you fulfil? How much more time and energy would you have for family activities? A lot of time is simply not necessary to develop outstanding health and fitness with a Kettlebell.“If you want to lead the orchestra you first have to turn your back on the crowd!” Most people and personal trainers do what they do in the gym simply because that is what everyone else does and it has always been done that way! Despite the fact that most training programmes and diets are based on duration and not intensity fail to deliver long lasting results – if any at all, particularly in relation to the amount of time and money invested. Be different to the “chrome and fern” crowd; actually achieve your training goals by performing hard, short workouts with a Kettlebell.

What Can I Achieve with Kettlebell Training?
From reading the nature of a Kettlebell and its benefits it becomes obvious that you can do things to enhance your body with a Kettlebell that are impossible to do with any other form of exercise or gym equipment.

For General Health and Fitness and Anti-ageing
Kettlebell workouts are famous for burning fat away as a combination of their calorific cost and increasing lean muscle mass, whilst building better balance and grace. If you chose to embrace that newfound proportion and power to look like Achilles and Aphrodite in the flesh – you will find the time efficient and super effective Kettlebell impossible to beat as a single package. As discussed in the benefits of Kettlebell training, the ‘bell is an inexpensive and convenient alternative to a commercial gym, as very little room is required to actually exercise with a Kettlebell and being easily stored and transported – A Total Gym In The Palm Of Your Hand © available any where and any time!The mental stresses and anxieties of our hectic modern lives often manifests themselves physically in the form of high blood pressure, migraine, ulcers and even heart attacks. Stress can be seen as daily wear and tear on our very existence and its effects depend upon our ability to reduce its accumulation – and exercise provides the key to releasing stress. Resistance training is one of the very best ways to relieve tension in both the muscles and mind whilst promoting a feeling of well-being in the body, especially with the almost primitive manner in which Kettlebells can be employed. Our bodies tend to produce less of the vital human growth hormone (HGH) as we age, particularly after we reach fifty years old, and it is HGH that helps to burn fat and build muscle, whilst raising our metabolism and improving the ratio of good to bad cholesterol in our blood. Other related HGH benefits include a better functioning immune system, quicker healing, higher sex drive and reduced risk of heart disease. The body’s production of HGH is directly related to the intensity of the exercise to which it is subjected; enter the Kettlebell and the Kettlebell Bible Ethos!The nature of the Kettlebell exercises provides the best form of functional strength building without “heavy” weights equipment, which is ideal for improving and maintaining muscular strength, flexibility and bone density in older persons, thus the Kettlebell can improve both the quality and longevity of life as we progress past middle age.
For Strength and Power Athletes
Indeed anyone concerned with building useable strength will soon discover Kettlebells to be a powerful assistance tool in their pursuit of greater strength, but unless you have access to very large Kettlebells their ability to build elite levels of strength is a limited as the mind and body of a strength athlete requires exposure to near-limit weights. Kettlebells, however, do provide dramatic increases in stability and control allowing the strength or power athlete to lift even heavier weights when returning to the more traditional free weights. The highly adaptable Kettlebell can also develop tremendous speed and power in a far safer manner than the conventional approach of plyometrics and Olympic weight-lifting.

For Bodybuilders
Bodybuilders can lay down the foundation of a dense, symmetrical physique using Kettlebells, which will provide the same advantages of stability and control, which again will the allow the bodybuilder to lift heavier weights when bulking up further with machines, barbells or dumbbells. As this excerpt entitled ”Kettlebells the Magic Key”, from a “Health & Strength” magazine of around the 1940’s examplifies, though we do not agree with all that is written here, it does serve to illustrate the advantage of training with Kettlebells, as opposed to a conventional dumbbells or barbells especially for bodybuilders:
“One-day when Joe Weider was in Montreal he came to watch us train and I complained in that we seem to have come just so far and no further with our muscle building. “What to reason for?” I asked. “You're not getting the most out of your dumbbell training,” Joe quietly replied. “Not getting the most out of it? Why man, over two thirds of every workout is given over to dumbbell training, and you can see that we are lifting heavy dumbbells to!” I challenged.
“Indeed, you are using plenty of dumbbell exercises, and certainly you are using very heavy dumbbells, but to lift a heavy dumbbell, and to lift it in such a way to get the most out of it are two vastly different things.”
By this time, both Yvone and I were a little nettled for we had followed Weider methods right from the very beginning of our training and we were sure every exercise was done absolutely correctly.
“You see,” Joe continued “the dumbbell in itself is not an absolute perfect exercising instrument, for every exercise, you are doing now. In six out of seven of the very exercises you have just completed, you received only about eighty percent of the total possible benefits. When you learn how to compensate for the limitations of the dumbbells, I can guarantee you a full hundred percent benefit from every dumbbell exercise in the book.” Joe explained, “This compensation concerns two all important things. Firstly, the ability to lift far greater dumbbell poundage’s than you even now use, but which you cannot do so because of the discomfort, which a heavier leverage works, against your elbows - the weakest link in the chain of bodybuilding progress. The element of muscle extension-contraction freedom of exercise follow-through is partially lacking in some of the exercises you have just been doing, because of the mechanics of the dumbbells, the force of gravity and the larger dimensions of heavier plates prevent the widest range of movement, which is absolutely necessary if you would achieve the greatest results. With dumbbells, you must obtain a complete extension and contraction of the muscles. If you expect to have the really finished championship looks to your bodies. Anything short of this is time and effort partially thrown away.”
Joe continued, “The only way to increase your dumbbell poundage’s is to remove the discomfort and strain on the elbows, and to obtain the fullest freedom of follow-through is to attach Kettlebell handles to your dumbbells. These are not new. They are not a Weider invention. Nor are they are not a fad or sales gimmick. They have been in use by every physique star since Eugene Sandow. And because they worked so well for the champions, I am sure they'll make champions of you two!”
The exercises, which we had been only partially doing with regular dumbbells, proved to be absolutely sensational in their results. When we added pounds of extra weight and coupled on the Kettlebell handles. They were;
1. Standing alternate curl (or any curl, for that matter).
2. One arm rowing (what an exercise this is with Kettlebells).
3. Standing lateral raise (how your deltoids blow up).
4. Forward raise (you have never really felt this one until you have used Kettlebells).
5. Two-Kettlebell, straight-arm pull over (Kettlebells give you a tremendous pectoral stretch in this one). And I might add that the incline bench press done with Kettlebells is far more effective than with dumbbells, for you can angle the handles slightly as the weights descend and get much greater downward stretch in the pectorals.
In any dumbbell exercise of the raise variety… forward, side alternate forward, bent arm or straight arm, lateral raises, the strain is immediately taken off the elbows, because the Kettlebell handles permit the weight to ride on the back of the wrist, rather than hanging painfully with the gravitational pull on hands and fingers. You actually are redistributing the force of gravity here.If you've been using 35 lbs per dumbbell in the side laterals - and dread the discomfort of the exercise every time you do it - do them with Kettlebells, and taking even more weight on the bars. Swing the dumbbell handles on the back of your wrist and start, pumping those deltoids like never before.
When performing the one-arm dumbbell rowing motion you will have discovered that when you must add heavier weight to the bar you experience the old sensation that you are actually getting less from the exercise!
This is because the heavier plates, mean larger-in-diameter plates, and it is the very size of the plates. That makes the difference. The freedom, the greater follow-through of the exercise is diminished. The top of the biggest plates stops the motion of the exercise before your lats have a chance to be fully stretched.
With the addition of Kettlebell handles to your dumbbell bars this problem is erased. Your hand can pull the weight to the fullest contraction of the lats. You can get this stretch like you never felt with either barbell or dumbbells. How those lats will pop out…. they'll soon begin to look like they carved right out of bedrock! You can truthfully say that Kettlebells put the “V” in “V shape”. And if you have tried every curl every method, and still don't have it terrific high bicep like you've always wanted, I can positively guarantee that you are going to get them! Look at the photograph of me as I do this standing alternating curl. Note that the Kettlebell handle still has quite a way to go before my fist touches my shoulder. But note also that the weight still has not approached that awkward point, where gravity pulls the dumbbell down to the shoulders with no need of tension from the arm. The weight is still on the wrist, and the motion from here to shoulder is one that could never be duplicated with either barbell or dumbbell…The motion from this point to the shoulder is one of terrific tension pull…an absolute, pure muscle contraction movement that will squeeze up-blow up-and peak-up the arm to a never-before-achieved height! This one exercise will do more to give you championship biceps, than any exercise I have found! Try all variations of curling with Kettlebells, especially the incline curl, while lying supine on an incline bench, and the incline curl, while lying prone on an incline bench. I can guarantee that they will pack inches of steel-flexible muscles on your biceps in less than a month!””
In addition to this, most strength athletes and bodybuilders virtually “live to lift” and rarely perform any form of aerobic or cardio type training; Kettlebells offer a sport specific alternative to the more traditional but mundane approaches to aerobic training, which they will find far more enjoyable, thus improving the adherence to their new holistic training programme that will be highly beneficial for their heart’s fitness, recovery from heavy training, general health and body fat management.For the Armed Forces and Uniformed Services, Sportspersons and Athletes
Beyond the issues raised by the health and fitness and strength/bodybuilding camps, the Kettlebell opens up an entirely new realm of benefits for the specific training of the armed forces and uniformed services, sportspersons and athletes. Kettlebells strengthen the muscle groups involved with core stability much more effectively and far more simply than yoga, Pilates or the Swiss-ball. In fact the Kettlebell is the “King of Balance and Coordination.” The Kettlebell naturally fits the gap between the all-out effort of a single maximum repetition and the measured expenditure of force involved in running a marathon; they can be used with virtually every training philosophy and for every sport. Because of the fact that certain Kettlebell exercises provide controlled ballistic shock, they strengthen ligament and bone and also provide the benefits of plyometrics but without the associated high risk of injury, making Kettlebells extremely viable for those requiring explosive power. The Armed Forces require a “go anywhere” form of physical training, which will specifically strengthen the leg, hip and back muscles whilst developing a high level of physical conditioning – no other form of training fits this bill so completely, especially within the tight confines of a ship or secure base. A Kettlebell workout can be specifically designed to increase one’s work capacity i.e. endurance or any other component of physical training, including, of course, being used to develop the strength of a circus strongman, such as the legendary Valentin Diko who juggles 80kilo Kettlebells in his act.
Rehabilitation and Pre-habilitation
Whose name conveniently brings us to the realm of injury rehabilitation, Valentin Diko at the age of seventeen had broken his back in a fall from a trapeze and was condemned by the doctors to never to walk again. Nonetheless, Diko set about rehabilitating himself with Kettlebells. They are wonderful tools when properly utilized for both the prevention or pre-habilitation and rehabilitation or treatment of an injury using exercise therapy, and this is especially true for shoulder and lower back injuries. Injuries sustained with Kettlebells, among the properly instructed, are much rarer than they are with machines and free weights, so training for years without damaging your joints and connective tissues either traumatically or with overuse is a real possibility, indeed they can virtually injury-proof your body.On first reading about Kettlebells, many immediately picture them as old-fashioned tools, long superseded by more modern and therefore superior exercise equipment training and training methods. Now, go and read of those olde-timers like Arthur Saxon, who at bodyweights rarely above 90-kilo or 200lbs performed unbelievable feats of strength that today’s “strongmen” have never emulated, which speaks volumes of “modern” equipment and training methods. Yes, the Kettlebell builds the brute strength of the circus strongman, so often related with it, but the Kettlebell also offers an entire spectrum of physical training benefits besides. The Kettlebell is a versatile, mobile, simple to use yet devastatingly effective Total Gym In The Palm Of Your Hand ©, which is so practical for those trainees who want a convenient, holistic, synergistic approach to their personal fitness but experience the all-too familiar constraints and pressures of modern living, but now at last you can truly develop every aspect of your fitness with one tool, Carpe Ferrum - “Seize the Iron!”




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