Kettlebells are an alternative to modern day weights. Called girya in its nation of origin Russian, it is a traditional cast iron weight looking somewhat like a cannonball with a handle. Kettlebells come in several sizes from 10 to 106 lbs.
The kettlebell has become a popular exercise tool in the United States due largely to the efforts of strength and flexibility coach Pavel Tsatsouline and also by World Champion and world record holder Valery Fedorenko.
The effectivness of using kettlebells can be proven by those who use them. Soviet weightlifting legends such as Vlasov, Zhabotinskiy, and Alexeyev started their Olympic careers with old-fashioned kettlebells. The Russian Special Forces personnel owe much of their wiry strength, explosive agility, and never-quitting stamina to kettlebells.
In fact, the official Soviet armed forces strength training manual pronounced kettlebell drills to be “one of the most effective means of strength development” representing “a new era in the development of human strength-potential”.
The elite of the US military and law enforcement also recognizes the power of the Russian kettlebell. One can find Pavel’s certified RKC instructors among Force Recon Marines, Department of Energy nuclear security teams, the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team, the Secret Service Counter Assault Team, to name a few.
Once the Russian kettlebell became a hit among those whose life depends on their strength and conditioning, it took off among hard people from all walks of life: martial artists and athletes. Mixed martial arts heroes Frank Shamrock, BJ Penn, Bob Sapp, and Fedor Emelianenko popularized the use of kettlebells in the sport.
The basic kettlebell exercise is the power swing, a full-body workout we’ll have you doing in your first ten minutes. Master trainer and Brazilian Jujitsu World Champion Steve Maxwell has said that “the perfect kettlebell swing is superior to 99% of all the sophisticated strength and conditioning programs.”
The Kettlebell: An Effective Training Tool
Simple and unique, the kettlebell continues to be one of the most effective training tools ever created. While the basic form has evolved into new models, the kettlebell’s basic function remains the same as it did decades ago: develop muscular strength and endurance.
Because it’s easy to use and takes up little space, the kettlebell is an ideal training tool. Kettlebell training builds total-body strength and flexibility, and encourages fat loss, all reasons for the kettlebell’s long history and growing popularity.
Choosing the Right Kettlebell Weight
One of the most important steps to take before you begin training with a kettlebell is determining the appropriate weight for your physical condition and skill level. Starting with a light kettlebell is always best until you gain experience using it.
If possible, find a trainer certified in Russian kettlebell instruction for personal guidance. As strength and skill develops, you may safely progress to heavier kettlebells. When in doubt, however, always choose the lighter weight. Traditional cast iron kettlebells usually come as light as 10 lbs. while newer kettlebell styles now are available as light as 5 lbs.
Weight / Recommended For
5-10 lb. / Beginner female with little strength training experience
12 lb. / Female with some strength training experience
15-18 lb. / Female with above average strength training experience
20-25 lb. / Strong, athletic female with a solid strength training base; male with below average strength base
35 lb. / Male with average strength
55+ lb. /Male with above average strength
Choosing the Right Kettlebell Style
The kettlebell is often described as a cannonball with a handle. That is quite true of the traditional cast iron kettlebell but not of the newest models, which come with rubber- or vinyl-encased bells and steel or molded synthetic handles.
When choosing a kettlebell, evaluate your training environment and needs. If you will be working out indoors, consider using a kettlebell with a nonabrasive shell or a rubber plate on the bottom to prevent damage to floors and reduce noise in group environments. Look for a kettlebell or kettleball with a smooth-surfaced handle so it rotates easily but does not slip.