by: Josh Bryant
In 18th century Russia, kettlebells were used as a counterweight on market scales. But, as the vodka perilously flowed in the kabaks (taverns), this tool became a way for belligerent farmers to air out grievances and challenge each other through “feats of strength” by seeing who could lift the heaviest kettlebell.
By 1885, kettlebell training was used by the Russian army and recognized as a national sport.
The western world kettlebell revolution exploded in the 1990s as combat athletes
and functional training enthusiasts embraced kettlebell training.
Catalyzing the 1990s’ perfect storm, large, dime-a-dozen chain, gimmicky chrome palace gyms (I use the term loosely) had become a fitness fixture. Despite being well-outfitted, numerous gym members still preferred an old-school, kick ass, back-to-the-basics, functional approach.
Nothing fit the mold better than a rugged old cannon ball with a cast iron handle; the kettlebell! Like that, the fitness counterculture arrived!
Advocates screamed from the soapbox that kettlebell training concurrently
built core stability, coordination, endurance, strength, power and flexibility. Soon, large, faithful flocks developed and helped spread the kettlebell gospel, Billy Graham style!
What does science say?
Initially, kettlebell enthusiasts cited a 1983 study by Voropayev from The Lesgaft Physical Culture Institute out of the former USSR which determined that for a group of male soldiers, kettlebell training was more effective than traditional military training techniques.
Subjects in the study were divided into two groups, one group followed a standard military training protocol: pull-ups, 100-meter sprints, standing broad jumps and distance runs. The second group used solely kettlebell training. Lo and behold, at the end of the experiment, the kettlebell group scored higher on every metric in which they were tested!
This showed that kettlebells enhanced strength tests, as one would guess, but additionally increased endurance and even power!
This study is exciting; however, you need to be fluent in Russian to read it. Nevertheless,
this initiated universities in the west to study kettlebell training.
In 2009, a now famously-cited study from the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse revealed intense kettlebell intervals sparked strength gains, increased aerobic capacity, improved dynamic balance, increased core strength, torched body fat and burned calories at the same rate as a six-minute mile pace (that is, 1,200calories per hour).
Another study, years later, by the same university, confirmed that male and female subjects training with kettlebells twice weekly for an hour (including warming-up and cooling down) increased their strength by 70 percent but also increased their aerobic capacity. “When most people think of resistance training, they don’t think of being able to increase the aerobic capacity,” says Dr. John Porcari, head of the University’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science. “Yet, we saw a 13.8 percent increase in aerobic capacity.”
Another study concluded “the results demonstrate a transfer of power and strength in response to 10 weeks of training with kettlebells.” It goes on to emphasize this a great alternative when traditional means of strength and conditioning are not available.
The bottom line is, kettlebells are not pole dancing aerobics, animal flow, or whatever else is on late night infomercials. Kettlebell training is backed by countless studies!
The key to results is programming and implementation! That is why I have partnered with ISSA to bring you a FREE kettlebell training Ebook and 6 week program! Click HERE to receive your copy, with no strings attached!