For many at the gym, they see increasing numbers of fit people swinging kettlebells back and forth, pushing them overhead and squatting with them. Their reasons are sound. More people than ever are using kettlebells because of the incredible range of health and fitness benefits kettlebell training provides.
From increasing full-body strength to burning fat and improving core strength and stability, kettlebell training provides a wealth of unique benefits. Kettlebell training aids in new strength gains, adds variety to your training, increases coordination and more in ways free weights can’t.
This article will unpack why you should be incorporating kettlebell work into your training. Whether you’re a veteran or completely new to kettlebell training, the sheer wealth of benefits and variety of exercises training with kettlebells provides will bring something new to your training. Read on, learn and experience the many benefits of kettlebell training.
- Builds full-body strength.
- Fantastic low-impact cardio.
- Gain lean muscle.
- Incredible fat-burning.
- Improves core strength and stability.
- Builds grip strength.
- Develops explosive power in the hips.
- Greatly improves muscular weaknesses and imbalances.
- Strengthens the posterior chain and improves posture.
- Improves joint health.
- Betters coordination and mobility.
- Increases range of motion.
- The 3 best kettlebell exercises to learn and why.
Builds full-body strength.
The many kettlebell benefits start with its ability to build all-round, full-body strength. Unlike dumbbells and machines, kettlebell exercises generally require you to exert many muscle groups at once. Adding full-body workouts with kettlebells to your strength training routine is a great aid to overall strength.
Some kettlebell exercises require the use of full-body mechanics, improving strength, mobility and coordination simultaneously. The use of many muscles at once from head to toe makes kettlebell workouts extremely beneficial for gaining total body fitness through functional strength. This includes building tendon and ligament strength, too. Kettlebell workouts deliver an all-around wealth of benefits for developing full-body strength.
Fantastic low-impact cardio.
Most people think healthy, low-impact is reserved only for the treadmill or stationary bike. But did you know one of the many benefits of kettlebell workouts is that they can provide fantastic low-impact cardio?
And, unlike cardio such as jogging, which can cause wear and tear on the joints over time, one of the benefits of kettlebell training is it can provide low-impact cardio that is fun, varied and easy on the joints.
Many kettlebell exercises are functional movement patterns that are ballistic and require quick, deliberate exertion of many muscles at once. Your heart rate will increase, burning more calories.
Kettlebell circuits are becoming increasingly popular, giving chain variety through plenty of explosive movements that are safe to do and burn up a high rate of body fat and calories per minute.
Gain lean muscle.
Almost everyone wants to gain lean muscle. Muscle growth occurs in a variety of ways and can be accomplished using many different tools, including kettlebells.
Kettlebell training won’t make you a mass monster, but it will put more lean muscle mass on your frame. The explosive nature of many kettlebell exercises requires the use of fast-twitch muscle fibres which have been shown to be quicker to respond to stimulus. Kettlebell workouts can often include high repetitions done with high intensity.
A great benefit of kettlebell training in this form has been shown to greatly increase testosterone levels. Increased testosterone is a major component for building maximum muscle.
Watch anyone working with kettlebells and, if they’re working properly, they’ll be sweating and panting. Kettlebell exercises can be tailored to take a lot of effort. In combination with the multi-muscle recruitment kettlebell workouts often employed, one of the best kettlebell benefits includes incredible fat-burning results.
Many kettlebell exercises are explosive in movement. Just as with HIIT (high-intensity interval training), this intensity means many calories are burned during and even more after the workout.
The enhanced calorie burn after the workout is called EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), which means you’ll be burning calories at a higher rate after the workout through an increase in metabolic rate — and kettlebell workouts are great at inducing EPOC. This increase in heart rate also aids in bettering heart health and improving overall fitness levels.
Improves core strength and stability.
One kettlebell benefit users will quickly notice is how great they are for improving core strength and stability. Having a strong core and stability in the trunk region is vital for overall health, and lessens the chances of injury in the lower back.
Developing the core muscles with strength and stability becomes increasingly important as we age. There are several ways kettlebells benefit our core strength and stability.
First, most kettlebell exercises are performed ballistically. Ballistic training works on our explosive power. Explosive movements while standing are key to stimulating the abdominal muscles. Kettlebell exercises are also often multijointed which requires core contraction and coordinated breathing. These factors improve core strength and stability like nothing else.
Second, unlike barbell movements, for example, some of the best kettlebell exercises are unilateral, which means you’ll only use one side at a time. This requires an increase in muscle stimulation and a surge in necessary core strength and stability.
Builds grip strength.
A great benefit of kettlebells is their ability to build grip strength. Whether you’re using kettlebells, barbells or dumbbells, grip strength is fundamental to overall strength. Heavy weights in particular are needed to build grip strength as the muscles of the hands and forearms are resilient. Heavy kettlebells are easier to lift for many, allowing them proper grip training that can better facilitate growth in grip strength.
Develops explosive power in the hips.
As we’ve already mentioned, kettlebell training is incredible for developing explosive power. The motor patterns involved in many kettlebell exercises will benefit you by helping to build speed and explosive power in the hips. Kettlebell swings are phenomenal for this.
Developing explosive power in the hips is important. Our hips help stabilize our entire body along with the trunk as they’re close to our centre of gravity, and they’re used in many movements we perform.
Our hip flexors are of particular importance regarding developing hip strength and explosive power in the hips, which kettlebell workouts can be especially good at improving.
Athletes often realise first-hand the benefits of developing explosive power and strength in the hips. Developing these aspects in and around the hips can drastically decrease the chances of injury.
Greatly improves muscular weaknesses and imbalances.
While some kettlebell movements such as kettlebell swings require both hands on the bar, many kettlebell exercises are unilateral. Kettlebells benefit muscular weaknesses and imbalance through this separation of training, meaning each side gets independent work.
This is important because everyone has a dominant side which almost always overpowers the weaker side, causing imbalances over time — even if you’re a coordinated person.
Strengthens the posterior chain and improves posture.
Kettlebells are fantastic for strengthening the posterior chain. What is the posterior chain? The posterior chain is made up of many of the main posterior muscles on your backside. Your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, middle back and trapezius are all part of this important chain of muscles which greatly aid in reducing risks of injuries in daily life and at the gym.
Exercises like kettlebell swings and ballistic movements that start from a hinged position will work all of these muscles. This helps people better poor posture. You’ll stand taller, run faster and kick harder. Your entire upper body will be stronger. Combined with the benefits of kettlebell training for core strength and stability, you’ll increase strength and stability throughout your entire body.
Improves joint health.
Kettlebell movements are great for improving joint health. Many kettlebell exercises are dynamic movements that require proper control. This puts healthy pressure on the joints that, over time, increase overall joint strength.
Improving joint health has been shown to be effective at reducing the risk of degenerative diseases and injury. The benefits of kettlebell training regarding improving joint health are multifaceted. Not only do many of the exercises improve joint health, but they also improve joint flexibility and mobility.
Betters coordination and mobility.
A major benefit of kettlebell training is that movements are often dynamic and work in multiple planes of motion. Kettlebell workouts will have you working in the overhead position, by your side, in between your legs and in many positions where you have to be aware of your body and its positioning.
Unlike barbell training, for example, which is largely made up of linear movements, this dynamic enhances your mind-to-muscle connection.
By building your mind-to-muscle connection through this kind of focus, your coordination and mobility through increased agility will improve. Developing a sense of total body movement with a strong mind-to-muscle connection is paramount to better coordination and mobility, which has real-world benefits in everyday life.
Coordination and mobility become increasingly important as we age, which is why this kettlebell benefit is one of the best.
Increases range of motion.
On the topic of mobility, another fantastic benefit of kettlebell training is increased muscle mobility which increases its range of motion.
When you do kettlebell swings or kettlebell squats, you’re going beyond the typical range of motion needed for free-weight equivalents. An increased range of motion helps improve and maintain muscle flexibility. It also enhances the number of muscle fibres recruited which means more muscle gains.
The 3 best kettlebell exercises to learn and why.
The kettlebell swing is the poster image for kettlebell training. The reason it’s a favourite is that there are so many benefits to doing them.
Kettlebell swings work your hips, glutes and lower back through dynamic and explosive movement. They build power in the hips, strengthen the lower back and, when done explosively for enough reps, can be turned into a cardio workout.
How to perform kettlebell swings:
- Stand with your feed hip-width apart. Hold the kettlebell by the top of the handle with both hands. Extend your arms straight out in front of you.
- Bend your knees slightly, then hinge at the hips going back to swing the kettlebell between your legs.
- Stand up and explosively thrust your hips forward, propelling the kettlebell forward. Squeeze your glutes and let your swing forward to the height of your chest only.
- Control the weight by resisting it as it comes down. As it comes, hinge at your hips to continue into another rep.
Kettlebell goblet squat.
Kettlebell goblet squats are one of the best ways to work your glutes, quads and hamstrings. Squatting this way with a kettlebell increases the resistance your body has to work against to stand up.
Many people find the kettlebell goblet squat benefits them in that by holding the kettlebell to their chest, they can focus on and improve their form more than they can with the classic barbell squat.
How to perform kettlebell goblet squats:
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart with your toes pointed out slightly up to 45 degrees.
- Hold the kettlebell with both hands against your chest while keeping it lifted. Engage your core and shift down and back onto your heels. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower yourself as low into the squat as possible.
- Maintaining core engagement and with your chest lifted, maintain the weight in your heels. Then drive through your heels to stand up and squeeze your glutes at the top.
Kettlebell single-arm push-press.
This unilateral movement works your shoulders, triceps, glutes, quads and core. This exercise also builds grip strength and shoulder stability. It benefits coordination and mobility, and it strengthens the shoulder joint. This is important to reduce your chances of a shoulder injury, which are some of the most common.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a light kettlebell (until you work up your single-arm and shoulder strength) in one hand and rest it on your shoulder with your palm facing outward and up with the weight hanging against the back of your forearm.
- Bend your knees slightly, then explode and push the weight overhead while simultaneously straightening both your legs.
- Slowly lower the weight back down to chest level while bending both knees to cushion.