I’m a big fan of kettlebells and use them regularly as part of my training regime. Sometimes when I talk to friends and clients about them they’re not sure what I’m talking about until I explain in greater detail. So I thought I’d give a little insight into them.
A kettlebell is, quite simply, a bulbous lump, like a canon ball, with a handle at the top and a flat bottom. This lump can be as light as 2kg or as heavy as 44kg, perhaps there are heavier ones but I’ve not come across them and I certainly wouldn’t want to be lifting them. Kettlebells have been used in Russia for over 300 years and fit into that nostalgic area of pre-WWII exercises that you often see in black and white films, featuring large groups of fit youngsters performing exercises in unison. However, despite many more modern pieces of fitness equipment, they are gaining popularity with fitness fans in Britain, particularly with ladies.
I first came across kettlebells last year, when I was based at Fitness First in Crewe. One of the other PT’s used them with his clients and I watched him in action. I was impressed with what he was doing and clearly the client was enjoying training with the kettlebells, so I decided to find out more. I did some background reading and bought a small kettlebell, to try out some moves. Since then I’ve expanded my repertoire and my collection of kettlebells.
Kettlebell training is very effective and versatile, they are great for burning fat, increasing muscle mass, improving muscle endurance, increase your core strength and stability, as well as giving you a bit of a cardio workout. It’s the swinging of the kettlebell that gets you using those lower body muscles, as you bring the swing higher you start putting more emphasis on the back and core muscles and once you start bringing the kettlebell to chest height your arms start working harder. By using all the muscles in a series of different exercises you can package up a good workout into about 20 minutes, the same workout using conventional weights would probably take about 40 minutes longer. That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for conventional weights, but if you’re short on time and you want an effective training session, you can’t go far wrong with kettlebells.
You can also use kettlebells to do some of the moves that you would normally do with dumb bells. I sometimes throw in a move, such as a renegade row, to my kettlebell session. At the same time you can use dumbbells, weight plates and medicine balls to carry out some of the kettlebell moves.
I’ve read recommendations that ladies should start with a 6kg kettlebell and gents with a 10-16kg kettlebell, but I’d advise you to start as small as you feel comfortable. I myself, with my weedy arms, started with a 4kg kettlebell as I wanted to master the moves first, I’m now using a 7.5kg kettlebell, which I find effective for what I want. Of course, rather than going up in weight you can use two of the same weight to make one armed exercises more complicated.
When I’m working with my clients I usually select four different exercises and will either do one or two sets. All my clients seem to enjoy the kettlebells, some have even purchased their own. When I’m doing my own workouts I select four or five exercises, alternating between two handed and one handed exercises, and will do up to five sets. I’ll take a one minute break or one minute thirty doing a plank on the swiss ball between sets. I usually do kettlebells just twice a week, fitting it around my other training sessions.
This weekend I ran another park run at Pennington Flash. I’ll admit to finding it difficult to motivate myself for these races in the same way I do for other races, perhaps it’s the 09:00am start! However once I get there I manage to get that competitive switch turned on about 10 minutes before the start. I find them an effective training session in a very friendly environment. Pennington Flash is a particularly tough 5k, as it is three laps of a hilly, rough trail. This week it was a little damp, causing a few muddy patches and there were midges galore on one section. For some reason I seemed to have been found particularly attractive by the midges as I accumulated them in my eyes, mouth, hair and neck wrinkles. Once again I was second in the race, I felt I ran well but was 4 seconds slower than two weeks ago. I put this down to the conditions, did I say it was also a bit windy, and this can be borne out by my two partners in crime, Ray and Carole, who were 11 and 22 seconds down on their times of two weeks ago. I’ve now done three park runs and it’s interesting to note that if I’d turned up a week earlier, or later, at any of them, and run the same times, I would have been first each time. As it is I have an 8th, 2nd and 2nd to my name. Oh well I’ll just have to run faster next time. This week was also the first week the course record hasn’t gone at a park run I attended, though the winner was only 7 seconds short of that, and with that wind and midges, on the George Stacey conversion tables (ask Arthur Bruce) it could be considered that he did break it.
This week I’m taking it easyish, my legs are tired from weeks of hard training and racing so it’ll be easy runs for me, or as Arthur would say I’m going out to pick a few daisies. I’ve entered the Air Products 10k, next Sunday, I think I’m in sub 36 minute form, and it’s possible I’ll be running a leg on Saturday, for Herne Hill at the National 12 Stage Road Relay.