Year of the Kettlebell 1

At about this time each year, millions of Americans steel themselves in preparation to do battle with one of the most popular and oftentimes most elusive of New Year’s Resolutions – get fit, lose weight, get those abs back that you had when you were 17, or some derivative thereof. Likewise, writers, bloggers, and fitness enthusiasts across the country start crafting their inspirational messages to the masses delineating the virtues of “commitment,” “staying focused,” and “getting motivated.” This is not one of those articles.

Rather, the intent of this article is to suggest how someone who has decided to join the Fitness Resolution 2018 Club can go about this task. The suggestion – kettlebells.

Like many folks in my general demographic, I was first exposed to kettlebell training when I joined a CrossFit gym about six years ago. This was a fortuitous experience because my membership afforded me access to experienced coaches who showed me the fundamentals of kettlebell form. Once I had mastered the basic two-handed swing, I quickly progressed to more advanced moves.

My preference for kettlebells can be boiled down to three adjectives – that is, kettlebells are convenient, effective, and efficient.

Convenient. When I first joined CrossFit, my wife was pregnant with our first child. Pre-kids, making time to go to the gym easy. Following the birth of our first child, I quickly realized that coordinating schedules and childcare made getting to the gym a lot more difficult. Moreover, fatherhood made me lazy – going to the gym required too much energy, planning, and effort. Despite my growing aversion to gyms and consequently growing midsection, I was, in fact, still a guy who valued physical fitness and enjoyed exercise. So, I decided to start working out at home. Not having the space or the means to outfit my basement with a full gym, I made a trip to the local sporting goods store and bought a single kettlebell. It was inexpensive, took up the same amount of floor space as a pair of shoes, and ultimately changed my approach to fitness. Now, instead of trying to overcome scheduling conflicts and generalized gym-apathy, I roll out of bed in the morning, throw on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and head downstairs where I am able to complete a strenuous full-body and cardio workout in the span of about 30 minutes.

Effective. Indeed, kettlebell training tends to be associated with the uber-fit Millennial CrossFit crowd. However, even a cursory Google search will reveal that incorporating kettlebells into one’s exercise routine is suitable for everyone – young or old, gym-rat or beginner, fit or flabby. As alluded to previously, kettlebell exercises provide a full body workout. Take the most basic and fundamental kettlebell move – the swing – for example. This simple movement, which is performed by holding the kettlebell by the handle with two hands between your knees and repeatedly swinging it to about chin-level, targets major muscle groups in the legs, arms, back, core, and chest. Numerous studies have also shown that this single movement not only helps to build strength, but also improves posture and aids in injury prevention and rehabilitation.

Efficient. Two of the primary factors that contribute to the efficiency of kettlebell training is their simplicity and portability. Time is another area where the efficiency of the kettlebell shines. When training with kettlebells, I tend to gravitate towards high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which is fitness-speak for working out really hard and fast for short bursts of time. It only takes me about 30 minutes to complete a workout where, by the end, I’m drenched in sweat, all of my muscles are taxed, and I’m gasping for air. While this style of exercise may not be for everyone, I really enjoy it. Additionally, several studies have shown that HIIT results in faster and greater fitness gains than other forms of exercise.

I am neither qualified to assert nor do I believe that kettlebells are the end-all-be-all of physical fitness. However, I think based on my personal experience and a growing body of empirical evidence that kettlebells are an invaluable instrument to help people from all walks of life improve upon their fitness goals. Happy New Year. Grab a kettlebell.

Anyone contemplating a new exercise regimen should first consult with their physician or qualified medical professional. 
Please be safe.