Fitness Articles

The Iron Truth about Kettlebell Training

Find Out If This Fitness Trend Is Right for You

Kettlebells were practically unheard of in North America until recently, but now exercising with a bowling-ball-shaped weight with a handle is the newest fitness trend. Used by fitness enthusiasts, collegiate athletes, and pro sports teams alike, more and more people are becoming curious about kettlebells. Here’s what you need to know.

What are kettlebells?
Kettlebells have been around for ages. Made out of cast iron, they’re cannonball-shaped weights with a single handle on top. Although they look really different from the free weights and machines that occupy most gyms, they are “one of the best and most efficient fitness tools you can use,” according to Henry Marshall, a NSCA-certified personal trainer and IKFF- and AOS-certified kettlebell trainer. Marshall explains that although kettlebells originated in Russia and continue to be popular in Eastern Europe, “American strongmen like Eugene Sandow and the Saxton Brothers trained with them in the early 1900s, too.”

What are the benefits of kettlebells?
The purported benefits of kettlebells appeal to people of all fitness levels, ages and genders. Somewhere along the way, says Marshall, “the fitness industry lost the real definition of ‘fit’ and replaced traditional full-body exercises with isolation exercises. Lately though, this cosmetic type of training is being replaced with movement-based training, which some call functional fitness training.” That’s what kettlebells provide, and individuals who want a more practical and traditional style of training are turning to kettlebells. Proponents of kettlebells, including Marshall, say that the benefits of kettlebell training are many. Kettlebells offer:
  • Full-body conditioning. “The body learns to work as one synergistic unit linked strongly together,” he says.
  • Big results by spending less time in the gym. “Because kettlebell training involves multiple muscle groups and energy systems at once.”
  • Increased resistance to injury
  • The ability to work aerobically and anaerobically simultaneously.
  • Improved mobility and range of motion
  • Increased strength without increase of mass. Kettlebell exercisers are lean and toned, not bulky—a benefit that appeals to women and men alike.
  • Enhanced performance in athletics and everyday functioning
  • Major calorie burning (In a recent study conducted by the highly respected American Council on Exercise, participants burned approximately 20 calories per minute--that's 1,200 calories per hour.)
How do you start using kettlebells?
Most commercial gyms do not have kettlebells, but small boutique gyms and independent trainers offer group classes and individual instruction. The best way start using kettlebells is to find a trainer or instructor with a kettlebell teaching certification. The most common and reputable certifying bodies, which train kettlebell experts around the world, are: Patty Scott, a SparkPeople member (ZORBS13) and Agatsu-certified kettlebell instructor, stresses the importance of getting personal instruction when it comes to using kettlebells. "With the popularity of kettlebells, a lot of people are learning the basics from DVDs and YouTube. I cringe at some of the instruction given on websites, even though the instructions come from extremely well-respected and certified kettlebell trainers," she warns. Scott, who was an experienced fitness professional and trainer long before she tried kettlebells, uses herself as an example. "When I first started using kettlebells, I sustained some nasty bumps and bruises. I cannot imagine what would happen to a person with less experience!"
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

Member Comments

  • I have used them and don't like them. It's too easy for them to bounce off your hands or wrists and bruise you. I can hold a dumbbell and do the same thing. - 9/15/2015 2:58:55 PM
  • I find the kettlebell lighter than the normal weight - is that right? - 9/11/2015 3:29:35 PM
  • I agree fully that you NEED to work with a certified trainer to learn the basics. I've also watched reputable trainers on youtube who are not certified and they're teaching the technique incorrectly! - 9/8/2015 10:52:53 AM
  • I think the idea that you can't learn how to use Kettlebells from YouTube or a DVD is just silly. I found IzzyBarish on his channel seven years ago and have learned so much from him. Of course, Pavel's From Russia is the expert and then there is Steve Cotter. I trust them teaching Kettlebells well over some kid in a local gym who says he has some certificate. - 9/8/2015 8:22:13 AM
  • I'm just wondering does it have to be the iron kettlebells? I've seen other types like hard plastic and wonder if these would work just as well as the iron KB. I've been doing some Kelly-Coffey Meyer workouts and she says we can use hand weights if we don't have KB, but I would like to try KB.
    - 6/29/2015 10:23:45 PM
  • I started with kettlebells a few years ago and got mine through My sister recently bought a 15lb one at (Gold's Gym kettlebell) for about $25 and she loves it. I will be getting her the 25lb one for $40 for her birthday. It is singly the best workout I have ever done. I use many workout dvd's but the 2 best ones I have found are from - the Kettlebell Goddess Workout with Andrea DuCane Senior RKC and Pavel's From Russia with Tough Love Kettlebell Workout for a Femme Fatale. Kick butt and takes no names!!! - 6/15/2015 9:57:46 AM
  • MBOND8
    Beefcake3D is a great kettlebell & dumbbell workout / exercise / fitness app for tablets.

    For iPad:
    For Android: http://play.googl
    z.beefcake3d - 10/20/2014 10:56:28 AM
  • This site is the only place that I've encountered kettlebells. - 8/8/2014 6:50:53 AM
  • I didn't think I'd really be able to do kettlebells, but I had a kind, patient instructor that really worked with me. He didn't make me feel wimpy for starting out with tiny, lightweight kettlebells. Shop for your instructor and don't be afraid to tell them if you need clarification. - 8/7/2014 3:17:42 PM
  • I've been doing kettlebells for a short time now and love it. It is a great workout and can be as challenging as you need. Currently I have two 16 kg, a 24 kg, and a 32 kg. I got into them through a friend who is associated with StrongFirst. www.strongfirst.c
    om I didn't see it listed in the article and thought I'd post it in case anyone is looking for an instructor, they are all over the country. - 7/12/2014 1:59:45 PM
  • I'm not coordinated enough to use a kettleball. I'd probably injure myself. - 6/30/2014 10:25:19 AM
  • I would love to take a class, but I have knee issues and am concerned that I will hurt more than when I do squats. - 6/23/2014 8:44:09 PM
  • For those complaining about cost, try these kettle bells available through Amazon (free shipping for prime members). GoFit Contoured Single Vinyl Coated Kettlebell are easier on the arm and cost less that the recommended sites. The vinyl coating saves your floors. 35 lb bell is around 65 dollars and the 25 lb bell is around 56 dollars. Works like a regular kettle bell, but the concave surface rests better against the foreare. - 6/19/2014 4:16:15 PM
  • I had a personal trainer who loved them, but I kept getting nasty bruises from where they hit my arms. After reading this, maybe he wasn't a good trainer for kettleballs. - 6/3/2014 3:30:56 PM
  • I started using one a couple years ago. I bought it at wal mart, It came with a dvd. it was around 12-20. so it does not have to be expensive. I totally love it. I feel like I am getting a good quick workout. - 5/28/2014 3:48:59 AM

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