Too many people looking to build a strong, lean, and well-rounded physique look to general cardio for answers, when they should in fact be looking down other avenues. Now, while I do admit that spending hours and hours on the treadmill and cross trainer have some potential to build aerobic fitness and help reduce body fat, it will only get you so far.
In fact, I would argue that when looking to build muscle and develop your physique, the treadmill may actually do more harm than good.
Which is exactly where kettlebells come in.
Kettlebells are a fantastic tool that allow us to not only stimulate muscle growth, but also promote fat loss. Through a combination of these two factors, kettlebells becoming an extremely efficient way to build a strong, lean, and muscular physique – without needing to step a single foot into the cardio area of your gym.
The Benefits of Kettlebells
While kettlebells look quite simple (some would describe them as a cannonball attached to a handle…), they can be used in a variety of different ways, and for an absolutely incredible amount of exercises. With this, their shape lends themselves as a perfect means to load squats, deadlifts, rows, and presses.
With this in mind, this greatly increases their muscle building capacity.
Additionally, as the kettlebell has to be held in front of the body (as opposed to on your back as you would a barbell) it also challenges the muscles of the core to a much greater degree than traditional barbell movements. This can lead to greatly improved core strength and abdominal development, which not only looks fantastic, but also protects from injury and low back pain.
But arguably the biggest benefit of kettlebells comes down to their ability to promote fat loss.
While kettlebells allow us to do a host of different exercises, because of their shape and the position of their handle, they allow us to do high repetition sets of any given exercise in an extremely explosive manner very easily. This may mean high rep squats or high rep kettlebell swings done for time, and performed as powerfully as possible.
This sort of training (often called ‘metabolic conditioning’) places both a huge demand on the muscular system and a huge demand on the cardiovascular system. The combination of these two factors leads to a massive energy expenditure, which can greatly enhance fat loss.
This is often improved further by the exercises that kettlebells lend themselves too, with particular emphasis on full body exercises such as kettlebell squats, swings, and snatches.
As these movements essentially use all the muscles in the entire body, they further increase metabolic demand and total energy expenditure – which greatly increases fat loss.
Are their any negatives to using kettlebells?
While kettlebells are, in my opinion, one of the biggest bang for your buck training tools out there, they aren’t suitable for absolutely every goal. Because the weight you can use is somewhat limited (kettlebells don’t often go super heavy – and the ones that do are incredibly expensive!) kettlebells are not the best option for building maximal strength.
If building absolute strength is your primary goal then you would be better suited to prioritizing large, compound, barbell based movements, and using kettlebell exercises as accessory movements.
It is also important to note that many of the most effective kettlebell movements such as kettlebell swings and kettlebell snatches are actually quite complex. As such, they do have a bit of learning curve associated.
This means that during the initial training stages you may not see as many changes in your body as you would have hoped because you are still learning to perform the movements correctly.
The only other negative associated with kettlebell training is that they traditionally go up in 10 pound (4kg) increments. This can make progressing to a larger kettlebell quite challenging, as the jump in weight is quite large – particularly when compared to dumbbells, which traditionally go up in 5 pound increments.
So how effective are kettlebells, really?
As I have mentioned at length already, kettlebells are an excellent training tool if your goal is to build muscle and promote fat loss. Because of their capacity to stimulate both the muscular and cardiovascular systems to such a large degree, they do offer a fantastic way to make changes to your body composition as fast as possible.
Additionally, as they also stimulate the muscle of core, they offer a great way to improve core stability and spinal health – both of which are incredibly important on a day to day basis.
As an added bonus, due to their ridiculous versatility, kettlebells allow us to perform a huge amount of exercises. This allows us to focus on any specific body parts that we may want to build up specifically, and also guarantees that we won’t get bored of our training routine.
So with all this in mind, it is also important to note that kettlebells wont do it all for you. To make significant changes to your physique you still need to work extremely hard and keep on top of your diet.
But, in saying that, if you are willing to put in the hard yards and keep a close watch on what goes into your mouth, kettlebells offer a fantastic means to both building muscle and losing fat, allowing you to develop the lean and muscular physique you have always wanted.