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“Good relationships are fundamental to human happiness,” Ms Blair, a leading mental health specialist says. “But it’s probably not the thing that people would think of if you asked them on the street.” That is, she says, “because we’ve been bombarded with quick fixes”. We should embrace the fact that the most important things in our lives take time. “It’s the stuff that takes the most effort that gets us through the tough times,” she says. Many hobbies and skills take a long time to master, but it’s through persistence that these things are conquered and as a consequence the rewards are much greater and satisfying.
Just as quick fixes are proffered up constantly by the media for relationships, the same is true of exercise and weight loss. Losing weight too quickly will lead to failure in the long term due to loss of lean muscle mass (see our resistance training fact sheet). Only by constant application and steady gradual weight loss will you maintain muscle mass and ensure that you keep the weight off in the long term. Part of personal training is to give clients realistic sustainable goals for weight loss, and to maintain other things in your life this steady approach is also the most effective!
One of the most versatile tools we use in home personal training is the kettlebell. While considered by many as a modern phenomenon, endorsed by celebrity personal trainers and used in many top flight personal training studios kettlebells are in fact steeped in history and are long established training tools. The kettlebell is used by many including athletes, sports teams, mixed martial arts, strength athletes, power lofters, military forces including special forces and everyday gym goers. kettlebell exercises or lifts are very effective for a wide variety of fitness goals including developing strength, fitness, power, muscle endurance, flexibility, motor skills, fat loss and much more.
Great for a wide spectrum of personal training clients kettlebells provide a training system that isd highly adaptable, cheap, easy to learn, fun and quite unique. Many kettlebell techniques can carry over into other training mediums although for many once they have tried them and achieved positive results they become kettle bell devotees and are hooked for life. Over the next few blogs I will be having a look at the history and training techniques for kettlebells.
In recent times there has been a renewed interest in some of the more tradititional training tools such as free weights and kettlebells. Kettlebells have their roots in the Russian Federation and their introduction to the west is a relatively recent phenomenon.
Kettlebells are believed to have originated from ancient Greece. They were used in the early Olympic games and possibly also by the famed Spartan Warriors. Written records show that as far back as 1704 Russians used kettlebells. The kettlebell or “Girya” is a cast weight that looks like a cannonball with a handle. Originally they were used as a measuring tool in farmers markets and measured weight in poods. 1 pood is equal to 16kg and weights would be 1, 1 and a 1/2 or 2 (16, 24 or 32kg). Country folk started throwing these weights around and soon a training system started to emerge.
Since ancient times in Russia, Russian people have valued physical strength. Historically it was an honour to be known as the local strong man. This fed into local competition with contests being held throughout rural villages and towns with the term “ Grirevik” (kettlebell lifter) used to describe these strongmen. The strongest men were referred to as “Bogitar” which means extremely strong and honourable man. In a short period of time kettlebell training migrated from rural areas into the major cities and became known as the unofficial national sport of Russia.
After the Communists came to power they began to develop kettlebell training on a more scientific basis. Shortly after World War II in 1948 organized kettlebell lifting was born. Several kettle bell exercises were officially sanctioned for kettle bell meets. These were the one arm power snatch, the one arm military press and the two handed kettlebell clean+jerk. In the 1980’s “girevoy” or kettlebells followed the suit of Olympic weight lifting and the press was eliminated from competition.
Kettle bells were originally popularized in the west a century ago by American and European strongmen who learned the sport from their Russian counterparts. Such iron legends as Arthur Saxon and Eugene Sandow favoured kettlebells just as much as their Russian colleagues. Indeed the Milo Barbell Company manufactured their first kettlebell in 1902. However as the West gained prosperity the emphasis moved from strength based training into muscle cultivation for size and aesthetic; this first popularized body building which is still evident in many of our gyms today.
In Russia however kettlebells maintained their popularity: the brutal efficiency of this simple training tool was and is utilised to its full potential by athletes, military and special forces. Here was a tool which was easily transported and could be used by troops on the front line to keep them in shape. Spetsnaz, or special forces personnel owe much of their wiry strength, explosive agility and highg levels of stamina to kettlebells. Without the obvious disadvantage of bulking up this was the ultimate tool. Today screening fitness tests in the snatch and the clean and jerk are utilised by the law enforcement services in the former Soviet States and are becoming popular with elite American forces.
This resurgence in popularity in the west is largely down to Pavel Tsatsouline who worked with and trained Soviet military personnel prior to the iron curtain coming down. After this he moved to the U.S and started training special forces state side with profound effect. Now not just the tool of choice for the military kettlebell training has been utilised by elite athletes such as the UFC’s BJ Penn, Randy Coutre, Jens Pulver and Tim Sylvia. Due to its amazing fat burning capabilities it is also used in Holywood by J-Lo, Penelope Cruz and Sylvester Stallone amongst others. Within our own shores Geri Halliwell is also a fan as is Amir Kahn, along with Liverpool and Chealsa Football Clubs. Kettlebells are also great for home personal training as they are easily transportable, promote both strength and flexibility, and are very versatile. They are also perfect for female personal training clients as they promote muscle tone, burn lots of fat, improve flexibility but without bulking up.
Many of our Diets Don’t Work personal trainers in London and Windsor and qualified in kettlebell training, so if you would like to see all the benefits yourself book a free consultation and we can do it together!
Not only are kettlebells a fabulous tool for the home personal training environment, they can be used to improve and develop all the components of fitness, in particular they are good for a combination of strength and flexibility. They can be used to improve
Considered by some as “old school” in terms of developing strength and power they are nonetheless a very effective tool. Russian scientists (Vinogradov and Lukyanov, 1986) found a very high correlation between the results posted in a kettlebell competition and a wide range of tests of physical capabilities; strength, measured with the 3 power lifts and grip strength; strength endurance, measured with pull ups and parallel bar dips; general endurance measured by a 1k run; work capacity and balance, measured by special tests.
Kettlebell exercises promote nervous system adaptations to increase strength and mobility (Neupert, 2007) while developing motor skills such as balance and co-ordination. All of these aspects are integrated into all personal training sessions with our personal trainers, but the kettlebel is a tool that can do all of them at once. In the next blog I will be having a look at the improvements to be had in grip strength.
Last blog we looked at the kettlebell and it’s usefulness in developing strength and power, today we will see how it can improve grip strength. Often overlooked, grip strength is hugely important for functional and sports performance training. It can be counter productive to train for strong arms (for a javelin thrower, for example or a rower) but not train grip strength properly. All the power from those bulging biceps will not be transferred properly unless you have proper grip strength. Similarly in everyday live and movements much of what we do involves grip strength in the first phase of lifting something. Think about grip strength when lifting a babies chair or when lifting tons of heavy shopping.
The thick handle of kettlebels demands a strong grip, so using them is an extremely effective way of developing grip and forearm strength. The value of kettlebell training in developing a strong grip is also demonstrated by kettlebell performer John Brookfield who holds the world record for bending a 20 foot half inch diameter steel pipe into a small suitcase in 29 seconds. John can also do 302 kettlebell snatches in a ten minute period with a 24kg bell in the 10 minute snatch test.
Now don’t fret, if you are new to fitness and are looking for a personal trainer in London or the Thames Valley we will not make you do a 10 minute kettlebell test in you first session, the philosophy here at Diets Don’t Work is to start new personal training clients gently, finding their level and progressing from there.
This title may sound a bit scientific but the posterior kinetic chain is simply a group of muscles on our back (posterior) side that we use in everyday activities like walking, jogging and lifting things up, but that are also very important in sports performance particularly in generating forward movement. This posterior chain is fundamental in jumping, throwing, kicking and punching. The main muscles in the chain are the erector spinae (the two muscles that sit either side of the spine in the lower back), the Gluteus maximus, and the hamstrings, both on the back of the leg. Like the cylinders in a car these muscles must fire in the correct order to propel you forward and to keep your posture correct and keep you free from injury. There are a number of lifts in kettlebell training that target the posterior chain, and will thus help with the movements described above. In home personal training we also do lots of boxercise training that involves these kicking and punching actions that wil alsocompliment kettlebell training to make the client fitter and stronger.
Many of the lifts in kettlebell training that we will get personal training clients to use involve the production of strength at speed, which is power. In moves like the kettlebell swing this power is generated by the muscles surrounding the hip, using the so called “hip snap”. This movement emphasises stability in the muscles of the core (your natural weight belt that is made up not just of the abdominal wall but also the obliques, the transverse abdominus, lower back and deep postural muscles) and will also encourage a natural tilt of the pelvis, strengthening the lower back and also pulling the hips forward and making the tummy look flatter!! The kettlebell swing is a prime example of the kind of exercise that will promote all these benefits.
As well as all the other benefits that we have looked at so far, kettlebell training also has the big plus of being a functional training tool. The “guru” of modern fitness training Paul Chek says the following:
” To begin with kettlebell training systems in general are highly functional. Functional exercises are those which improve a person’s ability to cope with the demands of their work or sports environment. The functionality of any exercise can be rated on it’s biomotor richness. Biomotor means “life movement” and so biomotor abilities are those abilities that are necessary for functional human movement in any environment where you must maintain your own centre of gravity over your own base of support.”
The basic swinging movement of the majority of kettlebell moves provide this functionality where the centre of gravity must be maintained. Nearly all of the exercises also involve integrated movements which strengthen groups of muscles at one time as opposed to just individual ones. In addition there are many exercises that include the different planes of movement-sagittal (forwards and backwards), frontal (side to side), and transverse (rotational). The lifts are therfore great for developing great body strength and developing motor skills for many every day activities and sports.
Also to be remembered especially if you are thinking about home personal training for weight loss is that lean muscle has more of an effect on the metabolic rate, so these all over compound exercises will be very helpful in weight loss and fat reduction. Thereis lots more informantion on the knowledge page where you can find out even more personal trainer tips on how to be fit ans slim.
Training with kettlebells (especially with a Diets Don’t Work personal trainer) has lots of other benefits too. The dynamic control needed to initiate, accelerate and decelerate a kettlebell swing at speed relates to many sports and helps to develop shoulder/hip strength, stability and flexibility. Their value in improving co-ordination is also good for sports performance. Flexibility is also an area in which the bells are helpful. Having a good static range of motion may be an indicator of flexibility but does not necessarily transfer the to the flexibility requirements of everyday movements of during sports performance (Krearmer and Gomez, 2001). Many kettlebell lifts are completed through larger ranges of motion than those provided by other training methods. This will better encourage the more movement based flexibility that we all require. Paul Check also praises kettlebell training for it’s benefits in weight loss and fat reduction, and highlights their increase of metabolic rate and stimulation of calorific expenditure.
One of the other really good things about this method of exercise and personal training is that it raises the heart rate greatly through PHA (peripheral heart action) and so is a great all rounder. In general, regular physival activity has been shown to improve health, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of coronary disease. As kettlebell lifts are energy demanding they provide good overload for the cardio-vascular system; sessions can also be designed to target specific energy systems, oxygen, lactate and creatine phosphate. See the “energy systems” pdf on the knowledge page.