Kettlebells

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While considered by many as a modern training phenomenon ‘kettlebells’ are, in fact, steeped in history and are long established training tools. As well as being able to perform similar lifts as performed with barbells and dumbbells there are many more kettlebell lifts that can be used to get great results. I personally use kettlebells with my clients on a regular basis and find them to be great cardiovascular training tool.

 

What is a kettlebell

A kettlebell is a traditional Russian cast iron weight that looks like a cannon ball with a handle; essentially a Russian dumbbell.

 

Kettlebell weights?

The recommended starting weight for men should be around 16kg, progressing to 20-24kg or more depending on the exercise.

The recommended starting weight for women should be around 8kg, progressing to 10-12kg or more depending on the exercise.

 

Kettlebell training

Kettlebells are viewed by many (including myself) as the ultimate conditioning tool. Kettlebells can be used to develop and improve:

  • Strength and power
  • Hypertrophy (bodybuilding)
  • Muscle endurance (toning)
  • Core function
  • Sports performance
  • Active flexibility
  • Cardiovascular fitness

There are a number of lifts utilised in kettlebell training that target the posterior kinectic chain; these include:

  • Erector spinae
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Hamstrings

These muscles are some of the biggest and strongest muscles involved when performing big lifts. The posterior chain is important for sports performance as it is fundamental to generating forward motion and acceleration. The posterior chain drives performance in jumping, sprinting, throwing, kicking and punching.

Many of the exercises involve integrated movements, that is, strengthening groups of muscles rather than just one at a time. There are also many exercises that include the different planes of motion – sagittal (forwards or backwards), frontal (side-to-side) and transverse (rotation). The lifts, therefore, are great for developing whole body strength and improving motor skills for many every day activities and sports.

 

Improving core function

Kettlebells can improve the function of the core, since the core has to support and stabilise the trunk during kettlebell lifts. This improvement in core function can play a significant role in preventing conditions such as lower back pain.

 

Flexibility improvements

Having a good static range of motion may be an indicator of flexibility bit does not necessarily transfer to the flexibility requirements of everyday movement or during sports performance. Many kettlebell lifts are completed through larger ranges of motion than those provided by other training methods. This will better encourage the more movement-based flexibility we require.

 

Cardiovascular improvements

Kettlebell lifts are energy demanding (try them, your heart will be pumping like mad after a few kettlebell swings) and can be used to provide an overload on the cardiovascular system. Workouts can be specifically designed to target any of the energy systems; creatine phosphate, lactate and aerobic. I’ll discuss these energy systems in more detail on another blog.

 

Conclusion

If you haven’t yet used kettlebells in your training routine, you’re missing out on what I think is one of the best ‘bang for your buck’ training tools.

I’ll create another blog on my preferred kettlebell exercises and how to perform them correctly and safely soon…keep an eye out!

 

Body Types – Somatotyping

somatotypes

An individual’s body type will have a significant impact on their ability to perform various tasks successfully i.e. a tall thin person may be more suited to basketball than rugby.

A simple system for assessing body type is the visual system of somatotyping. The somatotyping system suggests that there are three distinct body types: ectomorphs, endomorphs and mesomorphs.

Ectomorphs are naturally thin with little body fat or muscle mass. Ectomorphs find it difficult to gain weight (either muscle or fat) and are more suited to weight-bearing aerobic activities, such as long distance running.

Mesomorphs tend to be naturally lean and muscular, with broad shoulders and narrow waist and hips. Mesomorphs are naturally athletic and tend to be suited to a wide variety of sporting activities, especially those requiring a good power to weight ratio, such as boxing.

Endomorphs are naturally predisposed to fat storage. They tend to be apple or pear-shaped and carry larger amounts of body fat. Endomorphs also tend to possess a reasonable degree of muscle mass, although this is often overlooked due to the predisposition for fat storage. Activities such as shot putt and hammer throwing may be suited to endomorphs.

That being said, many individuals are not exclusively one body type, but rather a combination of body types. For example, an individual with a small frame, little muscle mass and a tendency to store body fat could be considered an ectomorph with endomorph tendencies.

Understanding where your body lies helps you to set realistic objectives and goals. An endomorph with a goal of becoming a competitive marathon runner ma need to re-evaluate their goal as they are not structurally suited to this type of activity. Similarly, ectomorphs are unlikely to succeed in the field of competitive bodybuilding as they have difficulty gaining muscle size.