When it comes to home gym staples, kettlebells usually aren’t the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, you might be thinking of dumbbells or their adjustable dumbbell version, racks or even your sleek 10-angle adjustable bench.
So, why should you get a kettlebell? A lot of kettlebell exercises can be replicated by dumbbells, and the muscles used can also be worked doing exercises of greater weight with your bar and plate set. Really, kettlebells seem almost unnecessary in comparison.
However, despite these misgivings, kettlebells have a few very specific exercises and benefits that you don’t want to miss out on.
First, kettlebells are unique in shape, where unlike dumbbells, they aren’t balanced. This enables the famed kettlebell swing, which uses the kettlebell’s concentrated weight to use the momentum of a swing to stretch your core and stabiliser muscles. This exercise is a staple of any kettlebell workout, and is effective in building a varied, challenging workout.
To perform a kettlebell swing, lean forward, with your back straight. Keep your hips back, but don’t squat. Hold the kettlebell between your legs, inhale, and then squeeze your glutes and hamstrings to rise into an upright position, allowing the kettlebell to swing forward. The top of the swing’s arch should be in line with your shoulders. Continue using the momentum of each swing for each rep.
Secondly, kettlebells are super easy to store, and aren’t likely to roll around. If you have a rack, or even just a small free weight storage space, they stay out of your way, and look good in any gym. Unlike barbells, which allow you to lift heavy, it can be a hassle to maintain them, as they can bend or rust. Kettlebells ultimately require much less maintenance.
Meanwhile, dumbbells can roll around, and often require a lot of space, since each weight increment comes in pairs – double that of a kettlebell. Kettlebells do vary in size and weight, depending on your level and needs, and there are pros and cons to any free weight, but they are easy to manage, and allow you to jump straight into your workout without needing to worry about extensive storing and cleaning procedures.
Thirdly, due to the two factors above, kettlebells are best for unilateral exercises. Unlike bar exercises, with which you use two hands to stabilise yourself, kettlebells are used individually, and won’t be stable without actual effort. Further since the kettlebell’s weight is technically outside your grip (differing from dumbbells where the weight is balanced in your hand), kettlebell exercises force you to fix your posture and form to maintain balance and control.
You wouldn’t want to be swinging a 18KG kettlebell out the window after all. Of course, when performing raises or presses, the difficulty is much reduced, but kettlebells add an extra layer of complexity. Some other exercises you can try includes kettlebell squats and lunges, the kettlebell windmill, slingshot and more.
Finally, kettlebells aren’t just optimised for control and stability workouts, but also grip. Kettlebells have a single handle, and in keeping the kettlebell… in hand, it builds your grip strength, as you are swinging, lifting, or pressing weight in different directions, speed, and force. All kettlebell exercises will train your grip strength, regardless of the exercise due to the unique makeup of the free weight, making it essential to your grip strength workout.
Grip strength builds muscle and bone density in your wrists and elbow. It further correlates with overall muscle strength and health, in which stronger grip corresponds with lower risk of heart attack and stroke. It is especially beneficial for racket sports (when hitting a ball) and functional fitness, wherein you are carrying items every day. While most people won’t focus on grip strength, it’s always a plus in any workout, and kettlebells will engage all the muscles in your hand to maintain control, whilst also working your core.
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