Hey Roman,

I know you hate kettlebells, but

That was the opening of an email I received recently.

The rest of the email was mainly concerning a question that’s more or less irrelevant to this post, but I thought that was an interesting way to start an email; moreover, I was shocked that the author thought I “hated” kettlebells.

Admittedly, I’ve written about certain aspects of kettlebell culture somewhat negatively, but I’ve never really said anything bad about KBs themselves—and that’s because I do not, in fact, hate kettlebells.

The Problem with Kettlebells

I don’t hate kettlebells. But I do have an issue with a few aspects of kettlebell culture.

Here’s the thing: I don’t like dogma.

I don’t like when people act like proselytizing cultists. I don’t like when people try to say that their way is the ONLY way. I don’t like when people bash things that are known to work because they’re trying to push an agenda or impress the other cool kids in their particular cult.

None of this is exclusive to the kettlebell crowd; it’s equally applicable to CrossFit or certain powerlifting methods or Intermittent Fasting or HIT and nearly everything els. Likewise, it’s the same in other industries. For example, I have it on good authority that within the scientific community, this same phenomenon occurs:

YouTube Preview Image

Jokes and finer-pointing aside, the truth is that while dogma isn’t exclusive to kettlebell culture, it is a notable feature of it.

It’s hard to fathom how a cannonball with a handle lends itself so well to cultishness, but easy enough to reason why. There are a number of factors, but the Us vs. Them vibe exists at least in part because the origins of the modern kettlebell movement were heavily dependent on developing a tribal mentality. Pavel Tsatsouline, undisputed kettlebell king, made the effort from the very outset to create not just a movement, but a culture—complete with it’s own hierarchies, accolades, and even language.

kettlebells make you crazy

What? No! Of course you don’t sound like a kowtowing, Kool-aid drinking groupie. Don’t be silly!

Tsatsouline’s tribe-building acumen is certainly impressive, but it’s always been mind-boggling to me that all the trainers who started calling each other comrade seemed completely oblivious to how ridiculous they sounded. But that’s just a personal gripe.

The point is, Pavel was successful, and the Tribe of the Kettlebell was born and continues to grow. Resultantly, there are tons of people out there calling themselves “kettlebell guys” or “kettlebell trainers.” More to the point, there are a number of kettlebell practitioners who take a really hard line for kettlebells and against everything else.

Of course, it’s really important to mention that while the cultists tend to be the loudest, they’re not the most prevalent. Just as with any school of thought, most KB trainers aren’t completely dogmatic; just because they dig kettlebells doesn’t mean they hate everything else.

I’ve met a ton of awesome KB peeps who are both open minded and moderate. A few examples are my buddy Chris Lopez, and my favorite kettlebell expert (and wife), Neghar Fonooni. Chris and Neghar are awesome coaches who just happen to write about and use kettlebells from time to time.

However, owing to the fact that they are sane, rational people, Lopez and Fonooni realize that while KBs are awesome for a lot of reasons, they aren’t the end all be all. They agree that training exclusively with kettlebells isn’t likely to make you a better powerlifter, for example; nor would it be the best training approach for hypertrophy. Acknowledging that doesn’t diminish the kettlebell.

One thing great KB trainers all over the world have in common is that they’re like Chris and Neghar: they have an affinity for one thing without hating everything else.

kettlebells

It’s not that big of a deal, bro.

These trainers are fantastic at getting their clients in shape, and wouldn’t hesitate to incorporate something else if they thought it would help.

As a brief but extremely important side note in my experience, RKC (Russian Kettlebell Certified) trainers are certainly great with their toys, but they ALSO happen to be some of the best overall movement coaches I’ve come across. And that is about the best compliment I could give any trainer.

It’s just the few bad (and loud) apples that are spoiling the proverbial bunch.

For my part, I take a very moderate and inclusive stance with nearly everything, and KBs are no different.

A tool in the toolbox. A means to an end.

Kettlebells for Increased Awesomeness

My official position on kettlebells, then, is that they can be effective for most goals, but best suited to a few specific ones. Which is to say, I like them and I use them for certain things.

The most effective uses of kettlebells, as far as I see it, are for fat loss, conditioning, and developing the posterior chain. Since I’ve written about fat loss training ad nauseam, I’ll focus on the second goal.

Training your posterior chain with kettlebells will not only make you look good, it’ll also help you feel good, and lead to improvements elsewhere. From a training standpoint, very few things are better for what we might call “structural” health.

With back pain plaguing society and people being unable to move or function properly due to sedentary lifestyle and too much time sitting (improperly) at a computer, configuring training to address the back of your body has become increasingly important.  In fact, for anybody looking to stay healthy and look good at the same time, it’s damn near essential.

Here, in my view, is where KBs go beyond just a “tool” that can be replaced with other tools and approaches as integral piece of equipment that can and should be used for specific populations or to address specific concerns.

And, I have the research to back it up. Score one for me.

A recent study in the Scandinavian Journal of Work Environment Health entitled “Kettlebell training for musculoskeletal and cardiovascular health” found that training a control group that complained of chronic back and shoulder pain with various “ballistic full-body kettlebell exercise 3 times per week for 8 weeks” resulted in a significant decrease in low back, neck and shoulder pain and increase in strength in trunk extensors – mainly the glutes and erectors.

What amazes me about that study is that ballistic training—with a kettlebell, no less—resulted in significant in a population that was experiencing chronic pain.

This is especially cool, since one of the arguments against kettlebells is the myth that using them would be detrimental to your low back. This study proves the exact opposite; which backs up what I’ve seen with my clients, and gleaned from conversations with a lot of kettlebell instructors.

The obvious question becomes, would the results of the study have been similar with another piece of equipment?

Well, yes, theoretically it’s possible that there are enough similarities between KB exercises and comparable barbell movements that the results would have been similar.

That said, before you go out there and pick up an Olympic bar and start cleaning it, it’s important to look at a few things. Mainly, we have to assess whether the exercises are beneficial in terms of prevention of pain from both a developmental standpoint, and in terms of implementation.

Meaning that while there’s definitely a good deal of crossover between KBs and barbells for the clean & jerk and the snatch, but the issue with is that barbell movements tend to be a lot harder to learn than their kettlebell counterparts. In my experience, it takes about half the time to teach a client a KB snatch than a barbell snatch.

And so in the case of the study, had there been a group that trained with barbells, I think that because of the reduced learning curve, a KB group still would have gotten faster progress.

Comparable efficacy notwithstanding, I honestly believe that kettlebells are just flat out better for certain exercises than barbells or dumbbells.

Not to mention, KBs offer a movement that you can’t replicate with a barbell: the swing.

negharswing

Neghar gettin’ her swingswang on.

Arguably one of the simplest exercises to perform, it’s also one of the most important, for reasons covered in my post about superior kettlebell exercises.

Given all of that, when it comes to using ballistic movements to train the posterior chain, kettlebells are the first tool I reach for—at least for muscular endurance, pain prevention and sheer simplicity.

And I DO mean simplicity. While you can do dozens of exercises with KBs—ranging from the lauded Turkish Get-up to biceps curls (lol, I bet the RKCs reading this loved that!), you can really narrow it down to a few of the basics and still reap the rewards.

In fact, I’d wager that most of my readers would benefit great just from including two of the basic foundational kettlebell exercises: the 2-Arm Swing and the 1-arm snatch.

These movements are relatively simple to learn, and serve as the basis for any good training program involving kettlebells—AND, in keeping with the aforementioned study, will also develop incredible strength in the posterior chain while helping to alleviate pain.

After all, both are ballistic exercises, in that there’s some sort of explosive element to them; both are very functional in that they involve an explosive hip extension; and both train your core as a stabilizer to your trunk and low back.

If you perform a workout with either exercise—the snatch or swing—you know you’ve worked your entire body, as well as addressed some of the problems our bodies face as the result of our lifestyles, like sitting too damn much.

To get you started, I asked the esteemed Chris Lopez and the lovely Ms. Fonooni to whip up a few workouts for us.

They were kind enough to comply and hooked us up.

So we’ve got two awesome kettlebell workouts on the blog today: one for men, and one for the ladies.

Normally, I’d say ladies first, but Neghar has something special for us at the end.

Men, check this one out!

CHRIS’ KETTLEBELL WORKOUT FOR MANLY MEN  

A) KB Snatch (6 x 5) x 3
Perform 6 reps x 5 sets of snatches switching hands every 5 reps—you’ll perform a total of 30 snatches per set. Your snatch should look fluid and athletic, not robotic like you’re trying to muscle through it.

B1) Chin-ups (3 x “near failure)
Perform a few chins but stop shy of failure—leave 1 or 2 reps “in the hole.”

B2) KB 1-Arm Bottoms Up Military Presses (3 x 5-8)
Unlike traditional military presses, bottoms up presses really challenge the integrity and stability of all your shoulder muscle and your lats.  Hold a kettlebell by it’s handle with the bottom of the bell up (inverted).  Control the movement all the way through the range of motion.

C) 2-Arm KB Swings x 100 in as few sets as possible
Find a kettlebell of a challenging weight and get ready to swing.  If you’re a guy who’s been working out for longer than 5 years, then you should be able to handle a 24kg to a 32kg.  Make sure to hinge at your hips and minimally bend your knees.  The power for your swing comes from an explosive hip extension.

To really understand the effect of the snatch and swing that I’m talking about AND to build a back that will both do work and be resistant to fatigue and injury, give this workout a try on your usual “back day.”

It shouldn’t take longer than 35 minutes and you’ll be smoked.  After a few weeks you should notice that your traps are a little thicker, that you’re standing a little more erect and a significant increase in mobility in your thoracic spine.

All of this by adding two seemingly simple movements using a minimalist piece of equipment like a kettlebell.

Moving on…

NEGHAR’S LEAN & LOVELY KETTLEBELL COMPLEX FOR WIMMENZ

lean & lovely kettlebell complex

This workout is obviously comprised of what’s called a complex, which is basically a circuit performed using a single piece of equipment, usually without even putting it down or resting between exercises. In this case, it’s a single kettlebell that allows you to get such an intense workout.

All told this Lean & Lovely complex should take about 10-15 minutes, depending on how long you rest between rounds.

Of course, I’m just being cheeky with the men vs. women angle; the fact is, Chris’ workout works just as well for women, and Neghar’s complex is both challenging and effective for men.

I advise you to try both of them, and see which one feels harder! You might be surprised.

++++++++++++++++++++

Well, there you have it—hopefully, I’ve cleared up some of the confusion about kettlebells, in terms of the mystique surrounding them, my personal opinions, and some of the more effective uses for them. .

I dig kettlebells for the right stuff—and I really dig when talented kettlebell coaches sit down and create awesome programs to help people get the results they’re after.

If you’re looking for some incredible KB workouts to help you lose fat, get fit, or prevent injury—OR if you really want to learn the ins and outs of KB training—look no further, because I’ve got not one but TWO fantastic kettlebell programs for you: one for men, and one for women.

Men…

…if you liked the workout above, or you’re looking to kick your fitness into epically high gear, I highly recommend you check out Chris’ Kettlebell Finishers.

finishers with kettlebells

With more than 30 individual workouts and an insane number of bonuses, KB Finishers is a tremendously stacked deal.  

And the best part is, these finishers can stack onto any workout you’re already doing; just add them in at the end to help you burn even more fat. You could also perform them on off days for some extra work, or anytime you can’t make it to the gym–remember, one of the great things about kettlebells is that you can use them just about anywhere.

Plus, most of the workouts in Kettlebell Finishers are less than 10 minutes long. Being able to burn fat and get into sick condition with a single piece KB is awesome…being able to do it in less time than it takes to make a decent sandwich is fan-freakin-tastic.

Men, if you’re even remotely interested in kettlebells and don’t take advantage of this, you’re crazy.

Ladies!

I’ve got something super special for you. Something wonderful and inspirational and effective. Something that I am personally very proud of. And something that I know is going to change a lot of lives.

I’m very, very happy to unveil an incredible new program written by none other than Neghar Fonooni, my wife. This is her long-awaited debut, the much desired secret project she’s had in the lab for a long time.

I present, for your consideration, Lean & Lovely:

Lean & Lovely bundle - kettlebells for women

Just for the ladies

Written specifically for woman, and in a way that specifically addresses the unique concerns women face, Lean & Lovely is very likely what you’ve been waiting for.

And in celebration, anyone who picks the program up during the launch gets it for 50% OFF.

==> Grab the Lean & Lovely kettlebell body transformation system for half off <==

What’s YOUR opinion and experience with kettlebells? Do you drink the Kool-Aid, or view them as a tool?

Tomorrow, I’ll have an all new blog post detailing some of my absolute favorite kettlebell exercises, so check back for that.

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  • http://www.thefatlossninja.com Dan Go

    If there was an exercise that I'd get married to it would probably be the Kettlebell swing.

  • Blake R

    completely agree! The entire playground mentality of “my group is cooler than your group” has no place in the fitness realm yet it seems to rear it's ugly head on a consistent basis. Great article John always love the content. Have you seen the article from ACE regarding caloric expenditure during kettlebell swings? Where did you find the Scandinavian article? I'd love to read through the methods.

  • http://weightroomtalk.blogspot.com weightroomtalk

    How do you incorporate a kettlebell program with a regular weight training program which incorporates heavy deadlifts, and other hamstring work? KB swings work the hamstrings heavily, so I'm worried how it would affect recovery, etc.

  • Andrew

    I couldn't agree more with your 'kool-aid' observations. Health and fitness include many components, training should as well. The Kool-Aid is strong with KB, CrossFit, and P90X fanatics so much so that it is hard to stomach even though there are benefits to many of the concepts. I use KB's in my business for training clients and as a rehab tool with great results.

  • Sam J

    I like my kettle bells- but when I only try to focus on one type of training- whether it be running or kettle bells, I get bored really quick. I agree with andrew and your point. I think too many people are looking for an identity and get it from whatever diet or workout program they are on.

  • Erik

    Great post Roman, I personally enjoy kettlebells a lot because they help you develop an athletic physique. The benefits in mobility are great because the perfect body should not be something only to look at but have performance to back it up.

  • TC

    Exactly.

  • Andrew

    Great balanced article on KBs Roman with out the usual dogma. As any coach knows the bigger the playbook the better your results.

    When I started using them i noticed my core tightening within a few sessions, and HIIT work is way more fun than a treadmill.

    Re ACE, here is a link http://www.acefitness.org/getfit/studies/kettlebells012010.pdf

  • Dean Leach

    I TOO WOULD MARRY & MAKE BEAUTIFUL LOVE TO THE KB SWING. I would so pull on that handle, pretend it was a blond babes hair. Ooohalala.

    Sorry, I couldn't help myself. :D

  • Saskia

    to mix it up even further; I use my dumble disks with a leather belt to do a KB swing

  • Trevor

    Another great article. Kettlebells work the posterior chain awesomely well. But they should be used in conduction with other training tools to give a full workout.

  • http://dieselcrew.com Jared

    Kettlebelll's are a great tool but not THE tool. Actually Roman, I have been doing your 6 week body blitz workout and find it to be an AWESOME workout! I have replaced the HIIT cardio with Kettlebell routines, so really blasting the fat that way.

    Your articles are well written, researched and valuable to the entire fitness community. Thank you.

  • Izaak R

    I like keeping my workouts hybrid…i'll stick to with heavy compound movements, add some assistant muscle exercises, then finish off with a KB complex for killer HIIT at the end. Kettlebells are great…Try supersetting 20 2-arm KB swings right after sets of 315lb deadlifts or 225 Front squats! KEEP IT HYBRID!

  • EGA

    Great post -I do love KB's, but also DB's. yoga and Pilates! Best advice I ever found: 'the best exercises are the ones you'll do'!

  • Ray

    I like kbs but I use them as a tool. Usually the 1 arm swing with a switch. When I cycle in your FPFL program and Lee Haywards mass program, I use them as my dynamic interupt as well as sledge and tire drills, another posterior ballistic exercise.

  • http://yourbestbodyblog.blogspot.com/ Queeny

    I agree kettlebells are great but they are just a great tool in a garage full of others. Just like with anything, I get bored and like to mix it up. But when I really want to feel like I've hit it hard, nothing beats barbells. Q

  • Rachel

    I agree with your moderate position, Roman. Drinking ANY kind of Kool-Aid is a mistake, whether it's fitness Kool-Aid, religious Kool-Aid, or whatever.

    -Rachel

  • http://www.razorsedgeperformance.ca Kyle Kennedy

    hey roman,

    I agree with you completely and I think the swing is one of the few KB movements I think are necessary to add to any person/athletes program for posterior chain work. For athletes especially, I learned a way to make KB swings explosive from a seminar with Jason C. Brown at Perform Better. Use a super band looped through the handle and under your feet; this pulls the bell back rapidly and forces your hip extension to be even more explosive! Try it out for more advanced swing (lower reps of course).

    as always, thanks for the article roman!

  • http://www.vibrancecoaching.com Kim Frazier

    I almost didn't read this blog but am so glad I did. I liked it so much I'm going to go quote part of it on my FB page.

    I like kettlebells and I like barbells, too. And I hate dogma.

  • Ashley

    I think the KB's are absolutely beneficial to any workout regimen. My question to YOU Roman, is what if someone is already suffering from back pain, and/or injured? For example; I herniated a disk in my lower back (sacrum area) and have an extremely difficult time doing any movement that involves extension.

    I have learned to stay away from traditional deadlifts, squats, amd lunges, as those movements seem to aggravate my condition.

    I have been relying on machines for support (which I HATE HATE HATE) and Grey Cook's FMS exercises.

    I am all about the kettlebells as long as they don't bring on any more pain than I am already experiencing. What type of kettlebell movements and exercises to you recommend, and recommend staying away from, for someone who has an issue like mine?

  • Jon Woodman

    Roman,

    Kettlebells have always fallen into my idea of a cultist type program also, so I have done very little with them. My experience in the few exercises I have done with them has been good and I'm delighted to hear of your opinion of them being a 'tool in the toolbox'. I'll make a point of trying the listed workout, and of incorporating them into my training more. That is, just as soon as I finish up the SuperHero workout program. 3 more weeks to go!

  • Jolanda

    I have used kb's for a long time and I agree that there are many different exercises to do and so, do change them often to keep your muscles guessing! Personally, my strength, my flexibility and overall endurance really improved by using the KB”s. They're “fun” – give them a try!!!

  • Amy Sanchez

    Have used kettlebells off and on. This couldn't have come at a better time for me. I strained my back a few weeks ago. Once I am back to training I am going to definitely put this into my routine. Thanks!

  • hulamom

    I have never tried kettle balls, but I have been debating whether or not to add them into some of my workouts. Now I think I will. Thank you for the information.

  • Beverly

    I love kettlebells. And I've loved Dragondoor from the beginning.

    I've seen brilliant programs, and some truly heinous ones (a certain Jillian comes to mind). But yes, they're a tool.

    (Aren't Indian clubs the next big thing?)

  • Marie

    Thanks for the info. I have yet to use KBs. Your article certainly makes me want to try them simply to help my back get stronger and hurt less.

  • corrina

    great explanation! It's wonderful to finally understand when momentum can help in a workout as that has always been a sticking point for me with Kettle bells and other dynamic movement advocates. As always, thanks for the post!

  • gracepmc

    I'm a 64 short, solidly built female and have done a variety of training over the years. I started out at 13 as a distance swimmer and over the years from that and lots of other things and some injuries I have shoulder and wrist problems. When I got interested in kbs and sought certified training I was concerned about my shoulders. My trainer said it would not be an issue and it would actually help. I must say that has been true for me. And again, just for me, the TGU — with relatively light weight — and the swing(s) are a “fix it”. I was pretty amazed. I do think proper training and form are very important to avoid injury. I use kbs as a foundation. The distributive weight of the kb works well for me. The combo of Chris Lopez and Craig Ballantyne also works for me and I add from there. Over the years I've been involved in lots of different sports (gymnastics, tennis, riding, biking, weight training, rowing) and workouts — I am all for the democratic approach and totally anti dogma. And I agree the best workout is the one you will do safely. Finally, while I am at it, this is a great forum and I always learn a lot. Well done.

  • Joe Albert

    I like training with kettlebells because its a good tool for functional training. I'm a 53 yo male that sits at a computer nearly all day every day. I find the kettlebell swings to loosen up my shoulders as well as my low back. I had low back surgery 15 yrs ago and was concerned I would throw my back out doing the exercises. The concern was un- warrented because the kettlebell swings target the weakness that perpetuates the condition.

  • Randy

    It is just a tool but it a small tool that travels well (you need to come up with an excuse to miss a workout). Doesn't require maintenance and kicks your backside in a short amount of time while it makes you move better for all my sports.

    I like a lot of other tools: TRX, Ropes, sand bags, barbells and most of all bodyweight.

    Just get after it!

  • Helle

    I just love my Kettlebells.

    I have been training weights in allmost 10 years, and I will never stop.

    I am, for the moment,following a 20 weeks KB program and I am now at week 5 and I can, for sure, see and feel a difference in my hamstrings and glutes :)

    So for me it has in only 5 short weeks made a difference especially on my back side.

    I love your blog.

    Love from Denmark.

  • Celeste

    Hey Roman,

    Nice Blog :)

    I never used kettlebells before because the look of them scare me a little.

    I love reading your blogs, you always make me laugh and smile :)

  • Mary

    I've never used kettlebells although I am intrigued by them. The idea of using them for a target area makes me want to go out and get a kb and try for myself. The article was great – thanks for an informative explanation of their use. Now I just need to make sure I use the correct form when I'm trying it out. Thanks for the info.

  • http://jasonward.net Jason Ward

    Love the KB! It is just another tool in the toolbox though! I use it with clients and love the results! Usually I use it as a finisher for myself, tabattas and the like, great cardio conditioning to finish up the workout with a bang!

  • Alejandro

    I´ve been using KB for 3 years more or less.

    They are a great tool for training, but to say it si the only tool it is really wrong. As RKC was the pioneer with KB training, I've started with their style, but now I'm an IKFF certified, which is basically soft style.

    I think that the best goal suited for KBs is strength endurance, because of the shape you don't really have to burn your grip and can work for a longer time.

    I actually never did the olympic lifts with BB but I don't think the technic of the snatch or the C&J with KB are simple to do, I mean it doesn't really matters if you want to do a few reps, but if you want to do it like Girevoy sport (for time) you need to get the technic really good and work also how to integrate your breathing. For example the C&J requires 8 exhalations for one rep. Also KB lifting in the western world is really new and there is learning process that is still happening from the best lifters which are the russians, just in my 3 short years of using KBs I had changed my technic of lifting, so the lift becomes more efficient and the it is possible to work better and the goal of gaining strength endurance.

    One last thing to take in consideration the champions of Girevoy sport, for conditioning train not only with Kbs, they also use BBs, bodyweight, running, I think that basically what ever they can get. And of course they work on joint mobility and flexibility.

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    I'm going to go through your post line by line, if you don't mind. Just easier to respond to.

    “It is my belief that any kettlebell exercise can be performed with dumbbells, which you did not mention.”

    I also didn't mention that air contains oxygen, or that water is wet. I don't feel the need to state the obvious.

    “I wish you had a link to videos of the exercises.”

    Fair enough.

    “Please proofread your copy. There are sentences which are either incomplete or chopped up. This is confusing and frustrating.”

    I do proofread. And, just having gone through the post, I see no sentence fractured.

    I'm sorry if you're confused and/or frustrated…that's unfortunate.

    “Lastly, kettlebells are an old (obsolete) resistance tool which was replaced by dumbbells because dumbbells solved the problems inheirent with using and storing kettlebells.”

    That's like saying bodyweight training is obsolete because weights were invented. Or that weights are obsolete because machines were invented.

    Regardless of why dumbbells came to be, KBs have a few advantages that dumbbells don't–mainly due to load distribution.

    “They were re-introduced ten to fifteen years ago by a Russian ex-pat who wrote a number of columns for one of the muscle mags. He used the letters “MS” after his name, implying a Master of Science degree. It actual stood for Master of Sport, a supposed Russian title.”

    Are you trying to make a vague reference to Pavel? Because it sounds like you're talking about Pavel.

    That's his name. It's Pavel.

    You can say it. We don't have to be coy. Pavel isn't coy.

    If you don't like Pavel, say that. Whatever issues you have with Pavel, being intentionally vague while being obviously transparent isn't ironic, it's annoying.

    So, next time, say Pavel. Okay? Cool.

    “He wasn't around long, but, the kettlebells he re-introduced are.”

    Um, actually, he's still pretty active. He wrote like 5 books and produced a number of DVDs.

    “Use them if you like, but, I will stick with the easier to store dumbbells.”

    I wasn't trying to convince you not to.

    For future reference, I don't really like these passive aggressive posts. I find the inherent condensation intellectually offensive.

  • http://www.Jinifit.com Jini Cicero

    “I take a very moderate and inclusive stance with nearly everything, and KBs are no different.”

    More trainers should have this attitude. It's as if a thunderbolt will come down from the sky and strike you dead if program a crunch…whole other topic…but great article Roman!

  • RJ

    I like using KBs as a tool. I believe you can get similar results using a dumbbell in place of any KB movement, but swings definitely feel better and more fluid using a KB.

  • Michael Pittaway

    I have struggled with Kettlebells. I have used them for a couple of years but I cant seem to find a routine which gives me the overall fitness and strength that I am looking for. Because of the big jumps from one KB weight to the next it is hard to work out when to progress to the next weight, as an exercise with one weight can be just right but the next weight is too heavy, Unlike weights where you can increase by 5lbs, 10lbs or whatever you want KBs jump from 24kgs to 32kgs. I like KBs but I cant seem to settle into a routine that will help me develope the body and fitness I am looking for. I keep going back to weights to work on specific targeted areas – having said that I still read articles on how good KBs are and now I am confused which is making it difficult to settle into a routine. I am nearly ready to give up KBs and just move back to weights. Its frustrating. KBs can give you a tough workout but in the end did I do anything for my biceps, triceps or chest, legs, calves. I know they received a workout because I can feel it the next day but was it the best workout or just a workout – I dont know.

  • Victor Serrano

    I think KB workout is good. However, its versatility in upgrading to heavier weights is limited; that is you buy another one to progress to heavier resistance. For dumbbells and barbells you just add plates when it becomes easy.

  • Dee

    Keep your hair very, very short. It makes you look leaner, younger, more professional. It is an unfortunate fact that we ARE a society of first impressions and a sloppy, unkempt initial presentation leads the other party to wonder in what other areas of life are you sloppy, unkempt, and disorganized. I'm just saying. I'm just trying to help.

    I don't have kettlebells and have gripped a dumbbell like a KB with fantastic results. Love the swings, cleans, jerks, and presses I can do with a simple dumbbell. :-))))))

  • Rocky

    KB's are pretty expensive compared to DB's. So i don't have them but i have used them once and they make your workouts fun. It's like a totally different feeling on your body compared to the DB and if i had the extra cash i would def get me a set of KB's.

  • Leor

    Hahaha I love this post. I have my HKC (practicing for RKC snatch test) and I was about to react to the bicep curls comment until I saw the second line. Hilarious.

  • Linda

    I bought kettlebells this week, starting with 9 lbs. I have to wear a boot on my right foot due to plantar fascitis and marrow edema which is very painful, but I do not want to lose on work outs that will help me to stay in shape no matter what difficulties I am having. I am hoping that this is the answer for me.

  • Rob

    “Klearing Up the Kettlelbell Konfusion”

    K.K.K.? Seriously?

  • Laur

    Love the KB swing – really good for the derierre while having fun!

  • Kevin Holloway

    KBs have kicked my butt every time I use them. My wife has even started using them, and she is not an athletic type of person. As we get older (50+), we are working hard to remain healthy and lean. I feel great every time I use them! I agree with your blog, KBs are an important tool in my toolbox.

  • Deanna Jordon

    I am a military widow raising triplets, and broke my leg this summer. I'm just now getting back to somewhat normal. I have found that kettle bells are something I can actually do without hurting myself again. I would love more information on using them.

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Oh no!!1! I must b rassist!

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    True story! Swings are my fav KB movement. So much fun and you really can get a decent metabolic workout with just that.

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Your strength inspires me, Deanna. Please email me from the “contact” page on this site. I'm going to send you some resources.

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Glad to hear it, Kevin. I find that my clients who are 50+ really enjoy KBs and tend to explain that they're just easier on joints. What are your thoughts on that?

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Hey Linda,

    Sorry to hear about the troubles. It sounds like KBs will be the answer for you, mainly because you don't have to move the feet too much. As long as you can stay planted and swing, you'll be fine!

    KBs are a good choice.

    Good luck with the recovery!

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    You're most welcome, Amy. Thanks for the comment and good luck with the training!

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Heh, I was hoping someone would pick up on that.

    KB bicepz curlzz!!

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Well said, Randy!

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Great points, Joe.

    I would say that in addition to KBs, you might want to address the shoulder stiffness directly with bodyweight movements. TIYs and Wall Slides, for example, are great.

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Thanks so much for the kind words, Helle! Really appreciate it.

    If your backside is seeming improvement at week 5, imagine week 20!

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Correct. In my opinion, the swing is everything. It's where the KB makes it's mark,

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Regarding the hair, are you talking about me, personally? Just a question =)

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Thanks, Celeste! I appreciate the comment. Keep reading for more learning and laughter =)

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Hulamom,

    definitely give them a shot – I'd be curious for your reaction.

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Good instincts, Mary. I always recommend getting a coach to show you the movements the first time.

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Heh, right on with the Jillian comment.

    Clubbells have a place, but I like them mostly for grip work, wrist/forearm strenth, and shoulder warm ups.

  • Scott Iardella

    Hey John,

    First, let me say, I really respect your knowledge and opinions. I think you are one of the few great ones out there. I even had the opportunity to meet you a while back at JM’s TD event. So, I had to respond to this post because I have to respectfully disagree on a few major points and give you some additional perspective on kettlebells.

    My background is this. I’ve been training for almost 30 years (and for 6 years I was ‘completely obsessed’ as a competitive bodybuilder, no surprise I was obsessed being a bodybuilder, huh?). I’m also a former sports physical therapist and current RKC level II (and CK-FMS, Certified Kettlebell Functional Movement Specialist).

    You make a point about why people don’t call themselves ‘barbell specialists’ and maybe they should. Kettlebell training, is indeed, a specialized type of training. And without the proper baseline training, no kettlebell instructor should be teaching it because they simply don’t have the proper knowledge to teach people. I say this as the former physical therapist. Kettlebells is about movement man. The learning curve is quite extensive. You don’t learn to play golf in a week, it’s a a game of neuromuscular control, among other things. Kettlelbells is very similar. And the simple ‘kettlebell swing’ is simple, but NOT easy. Most people struggle to learn how to perform the swing correctly. It takes time. It’s a motor control or patterned type of learning. Kettlebells don’t hurt people, people hurt people, by not knowing how to perform these exercises correctly. That’s why the proper level of training is essential. Doing the swing and get up takes time and practice to learn correctly, but once you do, as you know, the results are outstanding. It’s totally different from anything else out there, in my experience. I’ve done it all in my 30 years, and this is the #1 tool in the toolbox, not just another tool. Now, I certainly am not saying this is the be all and end all, that’s not the case at all brother. But, I do feel there is something truly innnovative and unique about this training modality.

    Personally, I’ve gotten in the best shape I’ve been in years,(stronger, more hypertrophy, accelerated fat loss, improved cardiovascular performance, etc, etc,) I’m in significantly better shape now, as a man in my early 40’s, than in my bodybuilding days back in my 20’s. I feel better, stronger, more fit, healthy, and do it in less time than I ever thought possible, instead of spending hours and hours in the gym. I don’t have time to be in the gym for long time periods anymore, which is another outstanding benefit of kettllebells, the time efficiency of the training.

    The study you mentioned is absolutely no surprise. I would argue that there no better exercise for total back health than the kettlebell swing and no better exercise for shoulder health than the Turkish Get up. I’m also a back patient myself (I had a disc herniation that required surgery), so I speak from a back patient perspective in saying that performing the correct kettlebell swing is quite excellent for injury prevention (by improving strength and muscular endurance). This is also the findings of Dr. Stuart McGill, as I’m sure you’re aware of.

    One final point is that while there are similarities between the barbell clean and jerk and the snatch, the similarities are just in the name only. These ‘movements’ are quite different. The shape and offset handle of the kettllebell is what makes the training so different and these exercises are difficult to perform, whether using a barbell or kettlebell, but are entirely different from each other.

    John, I think you wrote a great article and offer your unique opinion, which I value and respect. As a long time, passionate, dedicated, and experienced ‘exerciser,’ my opinion is that there is simply nothing like kettlebells and this is really a form of elite fitness and performance training. But, that’s not saying it’s the only thing someone should do, there are certainly many other outstanding training methods to incorporate and consider for each individuals goals.

    From a guy that’s had a lot of different experience, kettlebells have blown me away. The key is to learn how to use them properly. Kettlebells offer better movement, improved performance, and addresses any fitness goal you could ever want. Thanks for the great post and stirring up some passion!

    My Best Regards, Scott Iardella, MPT, CSCS, CISSN, RKCII, CK-FMS

  • Leah

    Great articles, I read them all and send them onto my Boot Camp trainer. I do weights 3x a week and Boot Camp 3 a week because I am hopeless at doing cardio on my own. I am very disciplined but just never get a good enough cardio workout unless someone tells me what to do for the hour! Love the KB routines you mention, just need to practice a bit more – not sure I have correct form. Love this blog thanks for the great info.

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    Hey Scott,

    Thanks for the comments, and for the kind words. You make a lot of really good points.

    The one I'll touch on is that KBs are about movement – much agreed.

    As I mentioned in my post, I find that RKC's are, as a group, some of the best movement coaches I've ever come across.

    Most of your post is agreeing with mine – despite the beginning part of the post, 3/4 of what I wrote is in praise of KBs.

    In fact, I'm not really sure what you're disagreeing with?

    Unless you're not disagreeing and simply fleshing out my points–which is truly valid and I really appreciate.

    (You make an especially good point about the comparison/contrast between BB cleans vs. KB cleans for example.)

    I'll just reiterate that I HAVE NOTHING AGAINST kettlebells or kettlebell practitioners.

    I simply hate DOGMA.

    HATE.

    Again, I agree with what you said – your points are spot on.

    However, ALL OF THAT SAID… it wouldn't matter if KBs made everyone 6% bodyfat, 6 feet tall, and added 6 inches to their penis–I'd still hate the cultist mentality.

  • http://www.championshiptkd.com Shane Hylton

    I absolutely love this article. I think that the cultist mentality, while a small vocal part of kettlebell instructors, is more of a human problem than just a trainer problem. It is evident in politics and even the martial arts world. I am a martial arts instructor and an RKC. I have been involved in sports on every level from grade school to college to international martial arts competition. That being said, I have very little time for myself and kettlebells gave me the ability to do just that. I was pushing 310 lbs and 35% body fat. The RKC got me back on track, I am down 30lbs and best guess 10% body fat. Nutrition is what got me there along with the kettlebell. Like you said, it is a tool in the box, but like the crescent wrench the most used one in my box. The ability to do so many different exercises with one tool is advantagous to someone like me with so little self time. In my experience, I have not found another tool with this much diversity. Mix that with martial arts body weight exercises and its perfect. Do I feel it is the be all end all no. But until a better crescent wrench comes along I will still grab for it first. Thanks for the great compliment and the great article.

  • Risto Uuk

    I don't personally use kettlebells very often. However, when I've used them, I've totally enjoyed the snatch and the swing. The main thing that makes them so enjoyable is the aerobic effect — you get the sweat out pretty quickly.

    One of the toughest exercises to perform with the kettlebell is definitely the Turkish get-up. I don't think I've even learned to do it properly.

    I agree with you completely that they are just a tool and should be used whenever it seems that it's the best option for a particular goal. And fat loss does seem to be one of those goals. But now it definitely depends on who you are working with; it probably isn't a good idea to try it with a very overweight person.

  • http://www.RomanFitnessSystems.com John Romaniello

    …dude. It was here!

    Where the eff is it?

    THat's fackin weird. I'll get my web guy on this. THANK you for pointing that out man, wouldn't have noticed!

  • http://www.theleanlook.com Tim

    I don't like dogmatic talk either John. My way or the highway lacks intelligent thought. Anyway's, the kettlebell swing is one of the best exercises i've ever done. Nothing, and I mean nothing, gets my heart pounding like a kettlebell swing. But like you said, I only use it for certain things.

  • Tim F

    I think kettle bells have their place, but are not the end all, be all fitness tool. I love doing KB swings and cleans. However, I substitute dumbbells in those exercises when I am somewhere without access to kettle bells. I couldn't see it being a replacement for barbell exercises. Keep up the good posts, Roman

  • http://my.opera.com/sale-franchises/blog/ Franchise

    From the weight loss and work out point of view,it is not bad.Carry on to share with us.

  • http://www.rittasports.com/ Ritta TT

    Your point of view is exactly how every athlete should look at workouts and exercises. I conquer every word you said about Kbs and their connection to other workouts.
    Thank you. Cheers . Ritta 

  • http://www.RadicalStrengthCoach.com/ Steve

    We had kettlebells but now we have dumbbells. If you’re going to use them make sure they have a swivel handle. IMO they fuck your discs up, they are good for isolation, are good for a change of stimulus. Thick bar training is the way forward…

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  • ssohara

    I LOVE the Kettlebell. I had type IV cancer and thanks to the chemo I was left very weak with a compromised immune system. I also gained 50 pounds, which, on my 5’2″ frame, was a BIG deal. Prior to the cancer, I’d been reasonably athletic – not in terms of going to the gym, but in terms of having fun. I’d hiked several 14′ers (14,000+ foot mountains), I liked to ski, swim (I used to swim a mile at the beach), canoe, raft, play racquetball, dance, garden, etc.

    After cancer, I was not only FAT, I was also unable to do the fun stuff I loved. So I HAD to get into shape. Unfortunately, NOTHING I tried worked for me. I tried doing lots of cardio – that just made me sick a LOT. I tried lifting weights with a personal trainer. I did gain some muscle, but lost hardly any fat. And I was watching my diet carefully… finally, 2 months ago I started working out with kettlebells. After the first month, I hadn’t lost any weight, but my pants were looser on me and my posture was better, plus I just felt stronger and more energetic. After the second month, I had lost 5 pounds and my pants are even more loose. Plus, working out with kettlebells is fun, it feels more like play than a traditional workout. I only work out 30 minutes 3 times a week, the other days I try to go for walks, garden, etc. But it’s gentle enough that I don’t get sick and while I am SORE (I ache in places I never realized I had muscles!), it’s a good sore, not an injury.

    I started off with 5 pound kettlebells, then moved on to 10 pounds, then to 15… soon I will be ready for a larger weight.

    For ME, for what _I_ want to do – lose weight, get more energy, have functional fitness and have an exercise I will enjoy doing – this is working for me. HOWEVER, I totally see how it’s not for everyone. From what I have read, if you want to bulk up your muscles, you’ve got to do barbells, dumb-bells, etc. I am actually planning to add one workout per week with dumb-bells, not because I want to bulk up (I don’t!) but because I think it will be good for me to also do another modality. As I get stronger, I am going to be adding more active things on my cardio days – bike rides, hikes, dancing, etc.

    I don’t consider myself a kettlebell cultist by any means – however, FOR ME, this has worked really well. :)

  • Chris Martins

    I mix kettlebells, bodyweight, free weight, interval training, endurance training and martial arts… Every component makes the other ones more effective. The core training is martial arts with some kind of resistance and some kind of cardio depending on my goals. It works for me. I couldn’t JUST do one type of exercise over and over again, I’d kill myself with boredom.

  • Patrick Brophy

    I love KB exercises. Started them about a year ago, and did them almost exclusively, and noticed some nice muscle gain all over my body. Now I’m doing barbell work and KB where I can (but my focus is my BB program). Agree 100% that it’s a tool in a box, just like a barbell, dumbbell and your own bodyweight are tools in the box.

  • aaron

    I just started doing swings a few months ago because a friend had one laying around. It was the only excercise I remembered how to do correctly. I’ve added some extra exercises since then, and I see the “great tool to have” angle fully. But I don’t see me using nothing but kettlebells anytime soon. There’s too much else out there to get hung up on one thing forever. I just don’t typically like kool-aid.

  • Tamara

    Sweet! Im looking to reincorporate kettlebells into my training and this is just what I was looking for. Yay, thank you!

  • Elsie

    I actually really like using kettlebells for swings, goblet squats, and suitcase carries. I agree with you that they are a tool in the tool box.

  • Manu P

    As a trainer and coach I completely agree with your assessment of the kettlebell. It is a tool that I use everyday and whose use is determined by the specific goals, experience and ability of my clients. It drives me nuts when people see the kettlebells we have and immediately assume we are a crossfit gym all while missing the power racks, dumbbells and other equipment you would expect to find in a gym that predominantly trains competitive athletes.

  • Catherine

    I like KBs as one tool among many in my training. Thx for sample workouts – looking forward to Neghar’s book.

  • Pia

    I love KBs because I can get a quick workout at home when my day is too busy. Looking forward to your wife’s ebook coming out.

  • Savannah

    I love the kettlebell swing. I often do it as a finisher for my lower body days

  • Rebecca

    I really only have experience with the Kettlebell swing, I would do it in between sets at the gym, now I can’t go to the gym and I am working out (or not working out) at home so it makes things difficult. I’d really like to get a program that I like and that works and isn’t too time consuming

  • sara

    What are your thoughts on adjustable kbs?

  • Rabia

    I luurrve kettlebells even though, or maybe because, they kick my butt. Thirty seconds of swinging, and you can feel it everywhere. I started swinging bells a few years ago, and I agree with your stance that they’re great as part of a whole toolkit of workout gear and exercises. Your lovely wife has lots of kettlebell things in her coaching programs (she’s coaching me now!), and those are usually my favorite parts of the workout.
    The ONLY issue I have with kettlebells is that people are swinging them without the faintest idea of what a proper swing looks like and where the motion originates from (the hips/glutes v. the arms). Considering I’m not a trainer or anything, just a KB user, and that peoples’ forms while they attempt to swing KBs makes me cringe, it’s alarming. What is more alarming is that I see personal trainers having their clients use KBs improperly. Again, if I’m not a trainer or certified, and I can see the form is incorrect, that’s not good.
    All that aside though, YAY kettlebellz!

  • Jess

    I heart any and all KB exercises..I tend to favor swings, snatches, windmill, turkish get up and the ab circle exercise ( not sure the name, ha!). These are are a great exercise to implement into any workout regimen :)

  • Marcie

    I started my journey w/Kettlebells & love them but I also love my barbell! Can’t wait for the launch

  • susan swain

    i keep one 20-lb kettlebell in my car as my mobile gym. nothing better than ending up at the park with some monkey bars, a running trail and my kb.

  • Ryan Graczkowski

    Sure, I’ll throw a comment on the fire.

    I never drank that kool-aid. My brother did, but I was drinking barbell flavored kool-aid, so I just kind of ignored him. Eventually, though, after I got off that stuff, I tried them out and they turned out to be a pretty cool tool. Could probably see doing them as a finisher after a day of pulling movements, but that means having them in the first place.

    Oh well, not a perfect world. :D

  • nick

    I’d like to get it for my wife.

  • Amy

    I like KBs, but would love to know more about how to use them. Only do two-arm kettlebell swings and goblet squats with it at the moment unfortunately! So yeah, teach me.

  • haley

    I wouldn’t say I’ve “drinken the koolaid”, but I love my kettlebells – mostly because swings work my body in a great way, and kettlebells are compact. Can i also just say how stoked I am for neghar’s new program!!? Love her!

  • Jonathan

    “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” KB’s are a tool.

  • Lisa

    very interested to see Neghar’s new program!!

  • Elis Einarsson

    Not much experience, but definitelly see them as another tool in the toolbox and good where appropriate! I’m trying to slowly get used to them and figuring out exercises, will probably be doing some swings later today! Just picked up Negar’s program for inspiration to work with my female clients! :) Looking forward to see the bonus!

  • Joe Olivo

    Love Kettlebells, though I do not drink the kool aid – I look at them like a Swiss Army Knife of a tool. Their versatility is great from beginner to advanced.

  • FN

    I had just started seriously considering trying out kettlebell training, and now Neghar brings this out! Her technique is awesome…

  • But I’m not cute…

    I have a question for ya:
    I recently started Home Workout Revolution (loving it so far!) and I’m wondering if I can add a few kettlebell swings to my HWR workouts without doing too much. If so, is it better to add them at the beginning or the end?
    I like the sound of L&L. If I wasn’t so broke I’d buy it in a sec!

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    Good stuff!

  • Rock Capuano

    While KBs provide excellent training, to focus solely on them is cheating yourself…and your fitness.

    Beware of the fads. It’s the new kid in town (marketing-wise). KBs are a welcome member of the club. Just make sure they don’t take over the club and kick the other beneficial members out – old, current, and future.

    This is what makes fitness great. The variety that keeps your mind and body guessing and growing. And keeps it progressing.

  • Rory

    Convinced me to add KBs to my strength training for climbing/parkour! Thanks, I needed the slight push.

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  • Javier Lozano Jr

    I’ve been training in the martial arts for about 23 years and I’ve gotta say that kettlebells are one of the pieces of equipment that really help the body work in the same manner as karate. You are usually using the same body parts to propel or move a kettle bell as you would use to execute punches, kicks, blocks, or body movement. Either way, great perspective on your thoughts about KB’s

  • joe Daniels

    great article John . even as the owner of a competition kettle bell lifting facility SwingThis KEttlebell and Strength. Kettlebels are by no means the only thing you should do. we use barbells, try, multiple stability trainers, ropes, dumbbells and bodyweight. the best thing to do is to use all there is out there for a fully functional approach. keep it up. by the way some one stole my man 2.0 book lol http://www.swingthiskettlebells.com

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  • IgnoreLimits

    I have to agree the kettlebell swing is a fantastic exercise (as is the Turkish getup) however the majority of people I see performing it are doing it horribly wrong, personal trainers that aren’t qualified with kettlebells are just as bad… instead of using the hip hinge and driving through there it turns into more of a rounded back front deltoid raise..
    Am I the only one that’s noticed this?
    SJ
    http://www.ignorelimits.com

  • imre

    I bought LeanAndLovlely program for my girfriend, and it is very good value. Even, everybody is on sale page writing “you shall get future upgrades” but Neghar is a rare example who actualy did it. Thanks Neghar and Roman