06 Feb Why Kettlebells?
by Derek Hessing, UrbanFit Instructor
What’s that thing? You know, that cartoon weight that kinda looks like a cannonball with a handle on it. Is it like..like a weight purse? What do am I supposed to do with it? Clap ‘em together?
Those weird and wonderful bits of iron are called kettlebells (no, not kettleballs) and they’ve been showing up in more and more gyms across the United States and the world the last couple decades. However, they are actually one of the oldest pieces of exercise equipment still in use today. The kettlebell evolved in 19th Century Russia, where it is called a “girya (pronounced GEER-yeh). It was a low cost, simple tool to build strength that anyone could use, from the most hardened cossack to the kindliest babushka.
So that’s all well and good, but what’s so great about kettlebells? They are, after all, just a tool, one of many at our disposal here at Urbanfit. The value of any tool lies, course, in how you use it. The kettlebell lends itself well to a variety of extremely effective exercises that build mobility, strength, endurance, and power. Here are two examples to get you started on your road to girya mastery.
This beast of an exercise is considered by many to be the most effective full-body exercise there is. In fact, legend holds that old-time Russian strongmen in training were required to perform a getup with 100lbs in either hand before they were allowed to progress to any other exercise. For us regular folk, the getup features core stabilization, shoulder stabilization, coordination, proprioception, and concentration. It requires full range of motion in the hip and shoulder joints, and is a great way to both discover and correct movement dysfunctions and inefficiencies.
So, how do I use it?
Assuming you have a qualified instructor to teach you correct form (this guy!), the turkish getup can serve as a fantastic way to warm up your body and mind before engaging in more intense movement. Try doing two or three on each side with no weight first thing in the morning, or as part of your warm-up before a workout. Add some weight to it, and you’ve got yourself a first-class strength workout that will challenge every part of your body from your legs to your grip. For advanced users, heavy turkish getups for reps becomes a muscle-building conditioning workout.
Remember: ALWAYS take these slow. Rushing a getup is ineffective and even potentially dangerous. Take your time and strive for perfect technique. It’s not a race, it’s a beauty contest!
There’s a reason the swing is often called the king of kettlebell exercises. It serves as the foundation for many more advanced kettlebell exercises, and is a versatile and immeasurably valuable tool in an of itself. The technique is easy to learn, has very low demand in terms of mobility, and is probably one of the best dynamic hip hinge exercises out there. With each swing, your entire core is activated to support and stabilize your spine, building your resistance to debilitating low back injuries. A well-executed swing is a simple exercise that builds explosive power and core stability, all the while promoting healthy and efficient movement patterns.
So, how do I use it?
The kettlebell swing is a useful tool in that it can serve many functions within a training program. It serves very well as part of a conditioning circuit. For best results, try pairing it with exercises that work the front part of your body like planks, pushups, crawls, or presses. Focus on good technique and watch your work capacity climb. If strength and explosive power are your game, pick up a heavy bell and keep the rep count under 8 per set. Focus on a strong and snappy hip drive to maximize each rep. Practicing this kind of swing can give a serious boost to your jumping power.
So comrade, are you ready to pay tribute to the Motherland and try your hand at the legendary girya? Stop in to one of our many Urbanfit classes, and you’ll be swinging iron and denouncing the evils of capitalism before you can say Kruschev!