Kettlebell Exercises: Yoga with a Cannonball
What is a kettlebell?
A lump of cast iron resembling a cannonball with a thick suitcase handle, the kettlebell is an old-time strongman implement that has been enjoying a new wave of popularity since Pavel Tsatsouline, a former physical training instructor for the Soviet Special Forces, first published an article on kettlebell training in MILO, a journal for strength training professionals, in 1998.
Why train with kettlebells as opposed to free weights or machines?
Kettlebell drills, unlike bodybuilding exercises, work across multiple muscle groups to develop integrated strength. The result is a strength training that builds athleticism by teaching coordinated movement, not muscle isolation.
Kettlebells develop lower back endurance, strengthen the glutes, stretch the hip flexors, and train proper core alignment for better back support.
Kettlebell exercises fall into two basic categories. “Grind” exercises are performed slowly, under high tension and for low reps to develop maximal strength. Like yoga or pilates, these exercises often incorporate holding the body balanced in difficult postures to develop stability and strength at odd angles. The “Turkish Get-Up,” for example, has the practitioner lying on his back with the kettlebell pressed overhead, and moving from up to a lunge, then to a standing position, then back down again without bending the arm.
The grind exercises are designed to recruit type IIb muscle fibers, the kind of muscle used in short bursts of all-out exertion.
The “ballistic drills” such as the swing, clean, and snatch, develop explosive strength from the toes to the fingertips, making them perfect for athletes who punch, kick, or who need to sprint, stop, and change directions quickly. Intervals of intense, explosive movements punctuated by periods of rest are the hallmark of most athletic endeavors . Elite athletes, whether by instinct or through training, develop the ability to recover quickly in the intervals between intense bursts of movement. I call this skill ‘managing tension’, the ability to go from all-out effort to deep relaxation. The more efficient a competitor in any sport is at doing this, the more ‘athletically gifted’ they appear.
Unlike long slow aerobic work on machines, kettlebell training is an integrated mind-body discipline. “There is no chance to drift off mentally when working out with these things,” says brown belt Mark Wilson. “You must be aware of your entire body at all times. This aspect of kettlebell training has increased my awareness of where my body is and what it is doing at all times and which has led to more proper distancing and increased power when striking and being able to more effectively evade attacks.”
Most men will probably start with a 16kg/ 35lb kettlebell. Most women will start with an 8kg/ 18lb kettlebell or possibly a 12kg/ 26lb. It’s probably a good idea to try some of the exercises before purchasing a ketllebell. Below are the two best sources for kettlebells that I’ve found.
If you use the links below to purchase, you will help support the school. We get a small commission on the sale which does not effect the price you pay.
Dragondoor is the company that revived kettlebell training in this country. They offer the highest-quality kettlebells in the market, and they’re made in America.
Perform Better offers excellent kettlebells at the best prices I’ve found.
“Grind” exercises are done slowly, with low reps and high tension and an awareness of proper body alignment.
Grinds are for building strength, often at unusual angles not trained with in other weightlifting methods.
examples: The Turkish Get-Up
The Wrestler’s Bridge Press
These exercises train explosive movements from the toes to the fingertips. They condition
through periods of intense effort puncutated with short intervals of rest.