By Josef Brandenburg
For a little over a decade, kettlebells have been the hot “new” trend in fitness. They’ve even made it on national TV for better or worse. While kettlebells really are fantastic training tools, they – like anything else – are quite dangerous in the wrong or unqualified hands.
Let’s take a look at the actual benefits of kettlebell training, what potential risks are involved – primarily unqualified instructors – the exact checklist to be ready to use them, and the best possible attempt I can make to help you get started if you qualify. If you don’t qualify, I’ll show you how to find the person most likely to help you because an article is a terrible tool for removing a mobility restriction or for dealing with a medical issue.
Kettlebells are highly effective, efficient and safe tools for fat-loss, cardiovascular conditioning, strength and power. For at home “cardio,” there’s a lot to love about kettlebells. A treadmill or elliptical machine is going to cost at least several hundred dollars. These machines will only allow you to do one thing, and they take up a lot of space. You can get a reasonably sized kettlebell of good quality for $50, they will literally fit in the corner of a room or closet, and you can do dozens of things with them.
Kettlebells are a great tool for high intensity interval training, which is second only to resistance training for fat-loss results. They have some unique properties for interval training:
1. Zero impact: Running a mile is 1,500 repetitions with five times your body weight on a single leg – that is a lot of pounding on your joints. With kettlebell training you don’t leave the ground, so there is literally no impact.
2. Great for your butt: The foundation of most kettlebell exercises is the deadlift, which is one of the best exercises for your entire backside.
3. Allow for very, very high intensity: For some reason – maybe it is the lack of impact – research has shown that they allow you to work at an intensity level for periods of time that are physically impossible with something like sprinting.
4. Saves time: All high-intensity interval training is highly effective and time efficient – that means better results in less time than with something like jogging.
Kettlebells are tools and nothing more. In the right hands and for the right jobs, they are wonderful, but if used incorrectly, even on the right jobs, they will just mess your body up.
Their danger comes down to the instructor. To be a valuable instructor requires two things. The first is to objectively know when someone is qualified to do something like a swing, and the second is to know how to teach and progress someone up to an exercise like a kettlebell swing. Both are essential.
Here’s a shortcut to finding an appropriate instructor and finding out if you qualify for this kind of training. Look for a certification called “The Functional Movement Screen,” Level Two. And if you’re seeking someone with the ability to teach, you are looking for an instructor with RKC or SFG credentials.
Josef Brandenburg is a certified fitness expert with 14 years of experience and co-author of “Results Fitness.”