What is a Kettle Bell?

Kettle Bell w/Tape

"Kettle Bells are a Great Functional Training Aid."

A Kettle Bell or “Girya” is an ancient strength building tool that originated in Russia.  Originally these were used by Russian Farmers as counter weights to measure large quantities of hay, grains or animal feed.  They were literally fashioned from cannon balls, and seeing as the farmers wanted to be able to move them on and off the scales quicker, they fashioned a looped handle to the top to make this easier.  Soon they discovered that swinging them around by the handles made for a great workout and thus a competitive sport was born.

Popularity in the U.S. has been credited to a Pavel Tsalsouline &  Valerie Fedorenko, although it has also been suggested that the kettle bell also became popular again because of a recent surgence of the Russian martial arts Sambo and Systema.

Regardless of their origin, no one will argue about the effectiveness of a Kettle Bell workout.  Part of what makes them so

Strong Man with Kettle Bell

Old Skool Kettle Bell Training

effective is the unique design.  Compared to a dumbbell whereby you use static movements and the center of mass is close to the body, the Kettle Bell has its center of mass away from the body and uses dynamic movements.  Because the handle is located on one side of the ball, there is an increased leverage ability thus making dynamic movements (motion movements) very effective for strength training and getting the heart rate up.  With a dumbbell you must stand still and bring the weight to and fro your body without moving. This static motion isolates the muscles and prevents a dynamic workout that raises your heart rate.  Swinging a Kettle Bell creates an all-body functional workout that saves time by involving more muslces in every movement including the use of your core.  Because you are using more muscles with every movement you will arguably get a more effective workout than with a standard dumbbell.

Kettle Bells can be found in several shapes and sizes, but the most common is a round ball with the looped handle on one end.  You may have seen another version that looks like a block or a pyramid with a handle on them and  those designs, although not very popular are still sometimes used.

The big question most people ask me about Kettle Bells is “What Size Should I select?” To answer I must first explain that you have to let go of traditional ideas behind weight training.  You won’t be standing in a static spot while working with a Kettle Bell, you will be swinging it, so naturally your going to be involving more muscles of your body, which means you are not going to want a small weight.  In fact, the smallest weight you can find in a “Russian Kettle Bell” is equivalent to 13 Kilo Grams or 26 Standard Pounds.  If you find a Kettle Bell that is smaller then 26lbs it simply is not a Russian Kettle Bell. This would be the Americanized Version, and in my most humble opinion, it will be pretty much useless for getting the sort of results most people are looking for and defeats the purpose of this type of workout.  You may also be humored to learn that a 13kg or 26 pound kettle bell is equivalent to 1 Russian pood.  Yes, I know…It’s a funny sounding word, but that is in fact what the Russian’s call it.

Kettle Bell Selection

A selection of Kettle Bells

Without further ado, here are my recommendations for choosing a Kettle Bell:

The ideal starting weight for men is between 16kg – 26kg which is about 35lbs to 45lbs.

The ideal starting weight for women is between 10kg – 13kg which is about  20lbs – 26lbs

Now hold on a second!  Before you go run out and buy a kettle bell….I just want to tell you, if you are planning to come to one of MY classes with that Kettle Bell,  you MUST know that it is HIGHLY unlikely that I will allow you to do an entire workout with something as small as a 10kg weight.  The only times a weight this small is necessary is for when we do static exercises such as the Turkish get-up, Romanian Dead Lift or Windmill Presses and even at that, you will outgrow a weight that small after just a few workouts.  Like I had mentioned above, the SMALLEST Russian Kettle Bell is 26lbs, and I am of the mindset that if the Russians Can do it, SO – CAN- YOU!  Besides, they seem to kick our BUTTS at almost every Olympic Sport so the least we can do is attempt to train the way they do!

That said, know that I keep a healthy stock of varying weights on hand for those who just want to come try out a class and see what works for them.   I do also want you to know that without a doubt you will outgrow a smaller weight very quickly.  Strength gains with Kettle Bell workouts come very quickly, and I don’t want you to have to throw away money and keep up sizing your Kettle Bells as those strength gains come. So I recommend you buy a size up from what you think you need and utilize my smaller weights for the first few weeks of your training.

Oh, and you should also know that if you are trying to get bigger, Kettle Bell training will not work well for you.  While it is possible it is very unlikely.  This is partly because you will be burning such extreme amounts of calories with these workouts, that you are far more likely to see a reduction in body fat along with increases in strength, cardiovascular efficiency, and stamina long before you see increases in muscular size.  That is not to say you will not see more definition and toning; just not size gain.

Now just for fun I want to give you a Short N’ Sweet Kettle Bell Workout you can do on your own.

  • Workout Part A

–       Kettle Bells Swings x 10

–       Push Ups x 10

–       Repeat 4 – 8 Times

  • Workout Part B

–       Deck Squats x 10

–       Pull Ups or Pull Downs x 10

–       Repeat 4 – 8 Times

If you have any questions or comments please free to leave them in the comments section below!

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