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Kettlebell History

History and background of kettlebells

Kettlebells were first used for physical conditioning in 18th century Russia, where they are called ги́ря (girya), and were employed by the Soviet Red Army in the 20th century as part of strength and conditioning programs. Kettlebell programs were popularised in the USA around the beginning of the C21st by Pavel Tsatsouline, who also developed the first certification program for kettlebells.

Benefits of kettlebells

Kettlebells differ from conventional dumbbells by virtue of the fact that their weight is located some distance underneath the handle, which is also thicker than that of most dumbbells. As a result, kettlebells are more difficult to move around and grip. This increased difficulty stimulates more muscle activity contributing to increased burning of calories during resistance exercise. Kettlebells lend themselves more readily than dumbbells or barbells to exercises involving swinging and ballistic movements, and therefore a greater number of muscle areas can be worked within the one exercise (compound exercise as opposed to isolation).
There are many exercises using kettlebells which are suitable for people with varying levels of experience and skill. This catalogue of kettlebell exercises provides a range of exercises for beginners, intermediate and advanced students.

Because kettlebell exercises differ considerably from other resistance and weight-bearing exercises for reasons outlined above, care should be taken by those beginning a program involving them.
A qualified personal trainer or fitness class instructor who has experience with (and, ideally, certification with) kettlebells should select, demonstrate and monitor appropriate exercises for the beginner.

Those who are accustomed to training with heavier weights, such as used in hypertrophy programs, should bear in mind that the vast majority of kettlebell exercises are compound rather than isolating in nature, and often involve explosive movement. Therefore a lighter weight of kettlebell should be selected to begin with, and heavier kettlebells should not be used until perfect form is achieved with the lighter ones.
Anyone with back and shoulder problems, or a weak core, should consult a physician or appropriately qualified medical practitioner before commencing an exercise program involving kettlebells.

When exercising with kettlebells, a clear working space of around 3m or 9 ft is ideal.
Suggested Kettlebell Weights
Current Strength Starting Weight Suggested Set of Kettlebells
Average Female 18lb / 8kg 12lb, 26lb, 35lb / 8kg, 12kg, 16kg
Strong Female 26lb / 12kg 26lb, 35lb, 44lb / 12kg, 16kg, 20kg
Average Male 35lb / 16kg 35lb, 44lb, 53lb / 16kg, 20kg, 24kg
Strong Male 44lb / 20kg 44lb, 53lb, 70lb / 20kg, 24kg, 32kg
Very Strong Male 53lb / 24kg 53lb, 70lb, 88lb / 24kg, 32kg, 40kg

Stretching and warm-up

Kettlebell exercises place great demands on joint flexibility and strength as well as coordination. Therefore warm-ups for kettlebell routines should include specific stretches and engagement of all joints: wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. These stretches should be made up of a combination of static stretches (up to 2 minute holds), “ballistic” stretches (a number of repetitions moving in and out of end ranges, e,g. lateral straight punches) and coordination exercises which integrate lower and upper body movements (e.g. jumping jacks)



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How to Use a Chair Like a Kettlebell

What does the recent popularity of the kettlebell teach us about training?

For many, this may seem like nothing more than an interesting new tool for us to work out with. In reality though, the kettlebell simply sheds a light on a different approach to working out. By using tools other than dumbbells, you are not in fact cheapening your workouts – you’re actually making them that much richer and more powerful.

The less ‘conventional’ the type of tool you train with, the more you are able to keep your body guessing and the more you are able to keep developing new muscle control, new awareness and new power. The kettlebell’s effectively lies not in the fact that it is a kettlebell but in the fact that it is an unusual shape and size and this forces us to adapt.

So what else might you be able to use to train? Take a look around your home and you should find that practically anything can become a powerful training tool!

How to Turn Your Chair Into a Powerful Training Tool

Take a standard dining table chair for example. This has a shape and size that makes it quite unwieldy and very unbalanced – perfect for the type of training we’re interested in.

A simple way to use this, would be to grab the back of the chair at the top with two hands. Now, hold the chair over your head and proceed to press it. This is a simple shoulder press movement, with the added challenge of the awkward angle and weight that forces you to adapt.

Better yet, you can use this to perform something akin to a tricep extension mixed with a front raise and bicep curl. In this same starting position – legs pointing toward the ceiling and hands gripped onto the top of the backrest, allow the chair to drop down behind your back so that your arms are bent over your shoulders. Now extend using your triceps, so that the chair is back to the starting position. Then lower your elbows and extend your arms, so that they are pointing out straight in front of you.

To bring the chair back, curl it using your biceps and then pull your elbows up so that they are pointing to the ceiling and the chair is behind your back.

This is a highly complex movement that will train the shoulders, the triceps, the lats, the biceps and more, all while requiring forearm strength, balance and control in order to keep the weight steady.

And of course that’s just one potential move. How about swinging the chair around your head in a ‘halo’ motion?
And the chair is just one example. The point we’re making here is that any item in your home can be used for training. And actually, the more unconventional and awkward it looks, the better it’s going to be for your training goals!

Get creative and think outside the box. Your gains will thank you!




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How to Use Hand Balancing to Build Incredible Strength and Control

What is missing from your current training program? Probably just about everything.

When you work out normally, the problem is that you are repeating a simple range of motion to build up microtears and metabolites. This is what stimulates growth and if all you’re interested in is developing muscle size and aesthetics, then that is the perfect way for you to train.

But if you’re interested in improving your actual strength and power. If you’re interested in becoming faster and more agile. If you want to be healthier then there’s a lot missing.

And what’s more, is that this type of training is incredibly boring. Is it any surprise that we struggle to stick at this kind of training when it’s so repetitive and so mundane?

The good news is that the fitness community is starting to wake up to this reality and demonstrate some solutions. One such solution is to use kettlebells. Another is to use hand balancing…


What is Hand Balancing?

Hand balancing is the forgotten art of… well… balancing on your hands. Simply put, this involves performing movements like hand stands, like planche and like v-sits. The beauty is in the way you transition between these movements and the various different variations you can eventually pull off to demonstrate not only muscle power but also muscle control, balance and precision.

Those who become truly adept at this kind of training will eventually learn to do things like clapping handstand press ups, planche on just two fingers and all kinds of other fantastic feats.

This can also be combined with bar work, as demonstrated by a lot of ‘street workouts’ found on YouTube (look up ‘Bar Starz’ or ‘Bartendaz’). This then incorporates more pulling movements like muscle ups, like one armed pull ups and like levers.

Why It’s Amazing and How to Get Started

So what is so good about this form of training? Well, for starters, this type of training encourages you to be much more present psychologically and to really stay focussed on what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. To perform well at this, you need to concentrate hard and this strengthens the ‘mind muscle connection’.

At the same time, like kettlebell training, this form of training forces you to use smaller supporting muscles in order to hold your body at different and less expected angles.

Finally, this kind of training is fun and highly rewarding. Not only do you get a huge amount of reward out of being able to pull off these movements but you also find there is inherent reward in being so engaged with the movements themselves.

So how do you get started?

Actually, it’s very easy. All you really need to get started with type of training is a set of push up stands that will make hand balancing easier for beginners. A pull up bar is also a great tool. As you become more confident and skilful, you can then progress to training with things like parallel bars (cheap and easy to comeby), gymnastic rings and more advanced tools.