When I train someone for the first time, I always get a reaction that kettlebell training was nothing like they thought it was going to be. Kettlebell training and the art of vintage strongman is all about fluidity in motion through coordination, flexibility and power. Kettlebells are not about muscle isolation, force or tightness. Strength is developed in the nervous system through motor patterns and flexibility. That’s right, your tight muscles are in your head not in the soft muscle tissue! Motor patterns, stability, coordination and flexibility all contribute far more to your overall strength than muscle tension. That said, kettlebell training is going to work every muscle of your body, for a mild overall soreness that naturally occurs from good exercise. Not the kind of soreness that only exists in the few muscles you happened to isolate in yesterday’s workout, sometimes so intensely that you can’t even stand up from a chair!
Kettlebell training is a practice that is appropriate for virtually anyone that wants to be better at doing every day things. It is a wonderful strength building tool to ensure that when you are running, jumping, lifting or playing in the real world, you don’t get injured. When I see most people doing their workouts, they are all too often training in a way that will not give them much, if any, real world benefit. Muscle isolation develops useless strength, ruins your joints, confuses motor patterns and destroys flexibility. Why is it that we see the average person, even seniors, adopting this philosophy to create strength? Sitting in a chair will not create core strength, balance, stability, proper motor patterns or even awareness of one’s natural ability to move properly. In the average gym, there are half a dozen machines devoted to developing “leg strength” while in a seated position, what a joke! Those machines will only serve to diminish athletisism whether that means picking up a football or playing with your grandchildren.
Kettlebells have got a reputation as being somewhat “hardcore” and it is true, they can take you to a level of extreme strength and fitness when in the hands of a skilled practitioner. That said, they also have their progressions that begin with the most basic every day concept of learning to lift safely with your legs, and not with your back. A movement that very few people, even those with extensive athletic history, are able to perform properly. Only once that motor pattern has developed to the point of consistent competence would one progress to more challenging movements.
Fear not the kettlebell, it has far more concern for your everday safety and well being than running, bodybuilding, and even cycling. Seek out only Russian style, either hard style or pro style kettlebell experts, and avoid those hole in the wall cross training gyms that fail to pay attention to every minute detail. Many of them don’t even pay attention to the big details and therefore give functional training a bad reputation. Not only is it unsafe, it is demoralizing for the practitioner when they are constantly getting injured by something that is supposed to make them stronger. Injury may be a part of high level athletic competition, but for the average person trying to be healthy, it should not occur when you are practicing strength training.
Thank you for reading!