kettlebell valstrengthtraining

These kettlebells were abandoned in a storage room. They were probably used in the 1980’s to early 90’s.

From a training point of view, there is a wide application for Kettlebell training. When used properly, it can improve the whole spectrum from endurance to explosive power. Kettlebells increase strength well enough to improve performance in a wide variety of sports.

The following are documented physiologic adaptations in athletes attributed to kettlebell training:

Effects on Aerobic Capacity

NCAA Division 1 athletes were used as test subjects on a study examining the effects of kettlebell training on aerobic capacity. The subjects initially underwent a graded exercise test to measure their maximal oxygen consumption prior to a 4 week training program. They were then divided into two groups- either a circuit weight training group or a kettlebell training group. Both groups trained 3 days a week for 4 weeks in addition to their off season conditioning program. The circuit weight training group did a combination of free weight and body-weight exercises in a circuit fashion for 20 minutes. The kettlebell group performed 15 seconds kb snatch followed by 15 seconds of rest done consecutively, also for 20 minutes. The researchers were able to measure a 6% improvement in the maximal oxygen consumption in the kettlebell group while there was no significant change in the circuit weight training group. This points to the direction that kettlebell training can be used as an alternative to maintain or even improve cardiovascular fitness.

Strength and Power improvement

KB valstrengthtraining

In 2013, the results of study about kettlebell training was released. The study aimed at examining whether kettlebell training transfers strength and power to weightlifting and powerlifting exercises. There were 37 subjects divided into an experimental and a control group. Their abilities in the barbell clean and jerk, barbell bench press,Oly bar valstrengthtraining vertical jump, and back extension to volitional fatigue were assessed prior to and after a twice a week kettlebell training program with a 10 week duration. Although the there were no significant findings for the result of the vertical jump test, the researchers were able to determine that there is transfer of power and strength in response to 10 weeks of kettlebell training.  This findings were similar to an earlier study published in 2012 which compared the effects of 6 weeks of weightlifting and traditional heavy resistance training versus that of kettlebell training. The researchers compared the effects on strength, power, and anthropometric measurements. The subjects were tested on 1RM for barbell back squat and power clean as well as on vertical jump. They were divided into either weightlifting or kettlebell group. Training was twice a week for 6 weeks. Results showed no difference was between the two groups for vertical jump and anthropometric measurements. There is improvement in both power and strength for both groups but greater strength was observed in the weightlifting group. So kettlebell training may be as good as weightlifting and traditional heavy resistance training in improving explosive power. It also does improve strength but barbell training may be better for that aspect.

There are a lot of cases wherein athletes benefited a lot from kettlebell training. Some of the teams that I work with do use kettlebells in some areas of their training. A mentor also shared a story of a successful pre-season training for a professional baseball athlete. He trained the athlete using mostly the fundamental kettlebell lifts. The athlete went back to playing baseball with significant improvement in performance.

The bursts of power, torso and joint stability, coordination, as well as mental focus that is developed in kettlebell training makes it a very good training tool for a variety of goals. Although, sometimes the coach has to decide if this type of training is appropriate for certain athletes and training situations. Athletes who are determined and are patient are the ones who benefit a lot from this type of training.

1 Arm KB Jerk used during preparation for the Asian Karate-do Championship 2015

1 Arm KB Jerk used by Grace during her preparation for the Asian Karate-do Championship 2015.

(Photo above shows a sequence of shots. The highlighted heel and hair shows an explosive movement which is finished with a very good fixation- also practicing very stable shoulder position.) 

Is kettlebell training the best method? Are kettlebells the best training equipment?

If you are into kettlebell sport, then that is how you should train. But if not, it is a part of a “toolbox” that can be used instdepending on your situation. They can be used with other training tools and other training methods as long as they are planned well. Kettlebell training, when done properly, provides stimulus to improve power, strength, local muscular endurance, and cardiorespiratory endurance. Maximal strength development may not be as good when compared to barbell training however, that is because of the inherent characteristic of the kettlebell that limits its weight. And maximum strength is usually measured using a barbell. A significant amount of weight can be added to the bar and it does not affect the bar thickness whereas the size of the competition grade kettlebell limits its maximum weight.

Take note that the outcome of a training program is dependent on a multitude of factors- some controllable, and some not. Intensity, volume, rest periods, training methods, as well as feedback and instructions are just some variables affecting any training program. There is no “best equipment” or best training method. It is having the passion to do what needs to be done and making the best of what is available in the given situation all the time that makes you achieve your goals. The kettlebell is one great tool but it needs to be used well and consistently to elicit positive adaptations. With this we can Train Better, Live Better!

Val Ramos Jr.

References:

  1. Effects of Kettlebell Training on Aerobic Capacity – Falatic, J. Asher, et al. 2015
  2. Kettlebell Swing Training Improves Maximal and Explosive Strength – Lake, Jason P.; Lauder, Mike A., 2012
  3. Transference of Kettlebell Training to Strength, Power, and Endurance – Castro, Jessica, et al. 2013

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