Train & Move Like An Athlete

By Mike Salazar of Evolution Strength: 

Kettlebells are making a comeback in today's gyms. Athletes of all types are using these classic training tools to increase their power, conditioning, and overall performance. For an athlete, the benefits of kettlebell training transfer directly into their sport. No other training tool allows movement through all planes of motion, increased mobility, and unsurpassed cardiovascular conditioning. It is for these reasons that more and more regular trainees should consider incorporating kettlebells into their strength training programs. 

There are arguably 4 “classical” lifts that are performed with kettlebells. The swing, snatch, clean and jerk/press, and squat are the  foundational exercises that other lifts are built from; (going into detail about each lift will need an entire series of articles itself). Each repetition (performed correctly)  allow the user to move through multiple planes of motion. Traditional exercises with barbells and dumbbells limit the user to simply one plane of motion (usually forward/backward or up/down). A workout (see below) whose movements are multi-planer are extremely effective in developing functional strength, aerobic conditioning, and time saving. 

Sample kettlebell workout

5 rounds (1 min rest periods); move from exercise to exercise without setting the bell down 

25 kettlebell swings

10 clean and press with each arm

15 snatches with each arm

25 squats

Increased  mobility is an important benefit. Too many times you will see the “regulars” walk around gyms with horrible posture, tight lats/pecs, and poor hamstring flexibility. Regular sessions using kettlebells address these problems. A stronger posterior chain as a result from loading and unloading the hips/hamstrings/glutes (from swings) will help with hamstring flexibility and postural issues. Ideal lockout positions from overhead press and snatches will help with shoulder/lat flexibility issues. Proper “fixation” (a slight pause at the top of each repetitions) in the lockout position will help increase shoulder/wrist stability and tricep strength. The dynamics of the movements allow for improved range of motion further improving the potential of the athlete. 

Lastly, kettlebells are effective at conditioning the cardiovascular system. Traditional “hamster” cardio sessions on the treadmill walking at a snail pace is becoming archaic. Short and intense cardio sessions are now on the rise because science has proved that they are as effective as the long duration type cardio sessions. Training with kettlebells offers athletes yet another option for high intense cardio sessions. Kettlebells can take your heart rate into the 180's in a short amount of time without the undo stress on the joints (depending on lifting style). This type of cardio is far superior to the low and slow type because the human body is constantly challenged. There is no way for your body to get acclimated to the type of work when performing high intensity cardio sessions.  At first, it may only take a few rounds/reps for your heart rate to reach zone 5 or 6; as you get more conditioned, you will need to work harder as your body can handle more work (read as an increase in work capacity) to reach those target heart rates. 

Grab some tips from a trainer/coach who is familiar with the proper use of kettlebells. Don't be that guy in the gym who uses kettlebells to do chest flys or dumbbell curls. They deserve more respect than that.