Kettlebells have become a popular piece of workout equipment - chances are you’ve seen them lined up in your gym, or even bought a couple kettlebells to use at home. There are good reasons for kettlebells to be popular. They are simple to use, very versatile, and affordable. Of course, they also look pretty cool too. If you have added kettlebells to your strength training program, use them at your CrossFit Box, or are looking for more ways to use kettlebells in your own fitness program, you might want to find out about ten not so well known kettlebell benefits. They are great for a lot more than just strength training!
Benefit #1: Kettlebells can be for cardio
Most people think of kettlebells as strictly a weight training tool, for strength workouts. However, with some creativity, kettlebells can make a power-packed cardio session. The trick to building cardio into your kettlebell workout is to remember the principles of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). With HIIT, you do short bursts of intense activity, interspersed with short periods of rest. It's a great way to really burn calories in a short space of time, and the constant rising of your heart rate and repeated recovery sessions really gets your cardiovascular system working. For HIIT to work, you need to really go all out though, and kettlebells can help with that.
Once you are comfortable with your kettlebell movements, you can build your cardio workout. Look for kettlebell workouts that involve low weight, high rep circuits, and that have you alternating between upper body, core, and lower body exercises. A rigorous, intense kettlebell circuit, with short rest periods, will pack a lot of cardio punch into a short space of time! In fact, kettlebell workouts are one of the fastest, most effective ways to really burn calories - making kettlebells a super tool in your weight loss arsenal!
Benefit #2: You can use kettlebells for active recovery
If you are a serious weightlifter, with a rigorous target training program, you should still have a couple days each week for ‘active recovery’. Active recovery is where you take a rest day, but you don't just sit around. You facilitate your recovery by doing a different, gentler type of workout. This keeps your circulation and your metabolism going, sending oxygen-rich blood to your muscles to help them heal faster and lay down new tissue. Many weightlifters and strength training enthusiasts dread active recovery, because it usually means some time of steady state cardio. Well, kettlebells may be just what you need.
An active workout with light kettlebells is a great choice for active recovery. The trick is to keep the kettlebells light, and use the force of kettlebell swings, lifts, and rotations, rather than just pump iron with a heavy kettlebell. A dynamic routine with low weight, high rep movements will improve your recovery by focusing on flexibility, coordination, and of course, just enough cardio to get your heart working!
Benefit #3: Kettlebell workouts are good for your joints
Kettlebell workouts are ideal if you want to improve or maintain joint health. Adding kettlebell movements into your regular workout program adds a lot of benefits for your joints, and doesn’t involve impact exercises that can cause damage. Kettlebell movements require a lot of control if they are done correctly; this also builds stability and strength in the muscles that support your joints, especially the knees, elbows, and shoulders.
The dynamic movements of kettlebell routines also improve joint flexibility. Working with light to medium weight kettlebells can do a lot to improve the elasticity of the tendons and ligaments of your joints, and the movements work to reduce inflammation and swelling. Even ‘big’ kettlebell movements, like kettlebell swings, improve the flexibility and stability of the pelvic and hip joints. Adding kettlebell routines to your workouts is a great idea if long term joint health is important to you, or if you are a serious athlete trying to avoid joint injury. Runners especially will benefit from regular workouts with kettlebells!
Benefit #4: Kettlebells can be helpful after an injury
Now, we aren’t saying that you should power out a workout on an injury, but if you are serious about fitness, getting injured can drive you crazy. If you are nursing a leg or arm injury, you probably want to be doing something with the rest of your body while your injury heals. Kettlebells are great for focused movements targeting specific areas, so if you want to work your right arm but not your left, or your upper body while a leg injury heals, then grab a kettlebell.
As your injury heals, work with your doctor or physiotherapist to see if kettlebells can help speed up your recovery and prevent further injury. Like we've just mentioned, kettlebell movements can be very beneficial for improving joint flexibility and stability, and kettlebells make a great no-impact workout. If you need to recover or improve overall strength, balance, and coordination - all of which help prevent injuries and if they happen, help them heal faster - then kettlebells should be part of your routine.
Benefit #5: Kettlebell training is convenient
You can get started on kettlebell routines without buying a lot of equipment or spending a lot of money. Sure, it looks cool to have a neat row of fancy, top quality kettlebells of every imaginable size in your home gym, but you really don't need that. Start out with just a couple, a light and a medium one (one for small muscles like the arm and one for large movements like kettlebell swings). You can find kettlebells in almost any sports supply store, and even some department stores, or of course there are plenty online. As your workouts get more complex, and your strength develops, you can easily, and affordably, add more kettlebells to your collection.
Best of all, for such a versatile workout, you don't end up with a lot of equipment to store. Unlike a barbell set, you can easily tuck your kettlebells under your bed or in your closet, just make sure they aren't anywhere where you can trip on them or stub your toe! Kettlebell workouts also don’t need a lot of space. You can do most movements in as little as a six-foot square space, meaning if your home gym is your bedroom or a corner of your living room, kettlebells make a perfect workout. Even so, make sure you aren’t next to a lamp or your TV before you start your kettlebell swings!
Benefit #6: Kettlebell training is simple
Kettlebells are all about simplicity. Sure there are all sorts of workout routines online that use kettlebells, and you can mix up your workouts however you like, but you don't have to overcomplicate things to get the benefits of a kettlebell workout. Look for a simple circuit that works upper and lower body and your core. All you need is seven or eight movements and a couple kettlebells and you will be on your way to getting strong and fit.
Kettlebell movements are typically very simple and easy to learn, and really anyone can do them. As you get stronger and fitter, you can try more complex compound or balance-based movements, but to get started, you can get a lot of benefit from just simple movements targeting one or two muscle groups. Even ‘whole body’ movements like kettlebell swings are really easy once you find the rhythm.
Benefit #7: Kettlebell training makes you more flexible
Kettlebell training is not dissimilar to a lot of plyometric exercises. That means you do a lot of controlled but powerful, almost explosive movements. Unlike plyometrics though, kettlebell training doesn’t involve a lot of impact from jumping or sprinting, so it is a lot less likely to lead to injuries. So where does all that power go when you train with kettlebells? Well, some of it builds muscular strength, and we know kettlebells are good for building muscle and power. The rest of it is a controlled force, where your muscles work to control the movement, the torque, and the range. That means that during a kettlebell movement, you are also experiencing a controlled stretch, as well as pushing the limits of your range of motion.
All of this equals one thing - improved flexibility. You might not think you are doing stretches while you swing or lift your kettlebell, but you are. Over time, you will notice significant improvements in your overall flexibility, and see how the strength and stability of your joints improve while your range of motion increases.
Benefit #8: Kettlebell training can improve your posture
Kettlebell workouts are, by their very nature, a little unbalanced. The shape of the kettlebell means that you need to bring a lot of muscles into play to control the weight. That means even if you are working on a single arm exercise, you’re actually engaging the muscles of your shoulders and your core to help balance and center the kettlebell. Adding a kettlebell to a pilates workout is a great way to really focus on strengthening the muscles you use for balance, and that will improve your posture.
Regular kettlebell workouts, or adding a kettlebell to a program with a stability ball or wobble board will rapidly develop the major muscles of your hips, core, shoulders, and neck - all of which is great news for your posture and your back. Kettlebells can even help with recovery from and preventing back strain and injuries. Whether you are a competitive athlete looking to improve your overall form through a stronger back and core, you use your back at work, or worse still - you spend all day sitting at a desk - a kettlebell program could be exactly what you need to protect your back and maintain good posture!
Benefit #9: Kettlebell training speeds up muscle development
So you probably already know that kettlebells are great for strength training. That’s not a ‘not so well known benefit.’ But did you know that kettlebell workouts aren't your typical weight training routine and that they actually accelerate the development of muscle tissue? That’s right, kettlebell workouts are unique in that the combination of plyometrics, resistance, and cardio effort trigger the body to produce a perfect combination of exercise-induced hormones that contribute to laying down muscle. During a kettlebell workout, increases in testosterone, cortisol, and lactate occur, and all of those are essential to building new muscle.
Now, if you aren't after building bulk, don’t worry. You are burning enough calories in your kettlebell workout that it isn't a strict resistance program. What this does mean though is that if you are after a lean, toned physique, kettlebells are your secret weapon!
Benefit #10: Kettlebell training is fun
Really? A workout can be tough, have all these other benefits, and still be fun? You bet. Kettlebells are great if you dread those exhausting, painful strength workouts, or want cardio benefits without spending hours on the treadmill. Kettlebell workouts combine both strength and cardio workouts - and we've seen how they improve flexibility too, so they really are an all-in-one workout. Best of all, a kettlebell workout doesn't need to take a lot of time There are plenty of power-packed kettlebell circuits that will give you maximum results in just three twenty-minute sessions a week.
Still doesn’t sound like fun? You need to give kettlebells a try. There’s nothing quite like a dynamic kettlebell swing to really get rid of stress, and adding a kettlebell to a Turkish Get Up or a Pilates ball workout adds variety, and makes even simple movements suddenly challenging and interesting. These odd-shaped weights may look weird, but they are amazingly effective, and they add much needed variety to any workout program.
We hope you’ve learned a few secret kettlebell benefits. Even if you are a seasoned kettlebell user, we bet there are a few of these benefits that might have surprised you. If you haven't started kettlebell training, we hope these 10 not so well known benefits of kettlebell training can convince you to give kettlebells a try! Have you got a favorite kettlebell workout? We’d love you to share it with us!