A number of years ago I wrote an article for Twin Cities Wellness introducing and explaining Pilates as a fabulous fitness program. I still believe in Pilates and continue to teach classes. I now want to introduce you to a new and completely unique total body workout.
That’s a tall order, an all-in-one fitness program. It is very rare to run across a completely new and different form of exercise–one that includes strength training, muscular endurance, cardiovascular health and fat loss, in one workout! The Russian kettlebell is a time-tested system of strength and endurance training. I would like to share this incredible fitness program with you.
First, what is a “kettlebell”? A kettlebell is a cast iron weight, picture a bowling-ball with a handle. Kettlebells have been used by the Soviet armed forces for strength and conditioning training, and have been mentioned in their training manuals to be “one of the most effective means of strength development.” A Russian world champion lifter is quoted as saying: “It is hard to find an exercise better suited for developing strength and flexibility simultaneously.
“OK, so now you know it has been around a long time and with amazing results. But how does it work and why is it so effective and why should you run out and buy your first bell? Let me explain how and why it works.
First and foremost is the unique design of this simple hunk of iron. Kettlebells have an offset center of gravity. When you press the bell overhead, the bell and the weight will be on the outside of body, not directly over the bone structure of your arm. This means that you are working throughout the movement, even at the top of the lift; your body’s stabilizers must work to keep it overhead. Simply put, you have a greater muscle loading throughout a longer range of motion. This translates into a more effective strength training session for a shorter amount time.
Another advantage is that you are constantly using your deep stabilizing muscles throughout each movement. Regular weightlifting with machines actually discourages use of the stabilizing muscles. Machines isolate one particular muscle group at a time. Not a good thing when your goal is to be functionally fit.
Yet another advantage of the design is that it allows more range of motion, ballistic movement and with specific exercises–a change in the “lever” of the weight to the body. By forcing the body to control the weight, without added support throughout space, you end up with increased fat loss and cardio/muscle endurance. There is an enormous caloric expenditure for throwing/swinging a weight around, not to mention the fat-burning effect of growth hormone released during such intense exercise.
The beauty of the kettlebell workout is that it targets all the important muscle groups in an easy-to-use and relatively quick workout. It won’t add bulk, unless that is your goal. It will burn body fat, develop muscle definition, increase cardio endurance, strengthen joints and connective tissue, and provides functional strength that you can use in your daily life or other physical activities.
Because you are training both strength and cardio in the same workout it is the most efficient total-body workout. And, since you never train to failure you can train almost everyday. Your workouts can be as short as 10 minutes up to 45 minutes. There is no reason to train longer because the only thing you’ll achieve is injury once your stabilizers are fried. Programming is limited only to your imagination, time, and your own fitness goals.
Lastly, kettlebells are for everyone, for the “couch-potato,” for the person coming back from an injury, for the competitive athlete, the 65-year-old women wanting to stay fit, the teenager wanting a competitive edge in sports. You train at your own level with the appropriate size weight. You do the exercises and find a program that fits your needs and goals. It’s that simple; it’s the Russian Kettlebell Program.