Kettlebells & the Top 10 Reasons to Use Them

By Dr. Robert Silverman, DC


In the world of athletic performance and rehabilitation, there is a lot of buzz these days about kettlebells. Kettlebell workouts can increase strength, endurance, agility, and balance while challenging both the muscular and cardiovascular systems with dynamic, total body movements. Of Russian origin, the kettlebell is a cast iron weight that looks like a cannonball with a handle attached to it.
Kettlebells come in several sizes and weights, ranging from 5 lbs. to 106 lbs. They can be used for standard weight-training exercises, including bench and overhead presses, curls, squats and rows. Unlike standard weights, kettlebells can also be used for ballistic (fast exercise) work using movements called snatches, swings, cleans, and jerks.

1)  It’s an all-in-one workout tool

The kettlebell develops all-around fitness and teaches what’s known as kinetic linking. It helps the practitioner get connected to the ground, drawing energy from the ground up and transferring that energy through the shoulders. The kettlebell enhances awareness of posture, position, breath, and grip, and the cardio benefits are significant. It’s also easy to apply interval training principles (slow, fast, repeat) with kettlebells.

2)  Kettlebell workouts burn calories quickly!

A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse Exercise and Health Program and published in ACE FitnessMatters revealed that the average participant burned about 20 calories a minute during a kettlebell workout. That means that 400 calories were burned during a typical 20 minute workout, which is equivalent to running a six-minute mile or cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace. Researchers proposed that the rapid calorie burn was due to the interval training format of kettlebell workouts, and noted that participants also achieved an exercise heart rate and maximum oxygen uptake. This suggests that kettlebells provide a more intense workout than standard weight lifting.

3)  Kettlebell training improves cardio-respiratory fitness

Since many kettlebell exercises take place with the arms in an overhead position, the muscles most responsible for assisting the breathing process are engaged in muscular activity. This limits their ability to aid the respiratory process and forces these muscles to play an even larger role in cardio-vascular fitness.

4)  Kettlebell training eliminates the need for a large training facility

This training is ideal for small facilities or where space is limited, as kettlebells take very little floor space and don’t require any racks.

5)  Kettlebell training reduces overall training time

That’s because there’s no waiting on a machine or walking from one end of the gym to the other.

6)  Kettlebells allow functional human patterns

The primary benefits of kettlebell training lie in the philosophy of the movements that allow functional human patterns. Kettlebell drills have historically focused on working many muscle groups in unison, while dumbbells in traditional western weight-training techniques are more commonly used for isolation drills. Kettlebells are actually more challenging to use than dumbbells. The handles are much thicker, firming the practitioner’s grip in no time. Also, the off-centered weight of a kettlebell forces users to engage more stabilizer muscles and work the targeted muscles through a longer range of motion.

7)  Kettlebell training is great for backs

Kettlebell exercises strengthen the glutes and stretch the hip flexors. In most cases of back pain, hip flexors are tight and glutes are weak.

8)  Kettlebells develop back extensor endurance

Whereas decreased endurance in back extensor muscles is usually associated with chronic back pain.

9)  Kettlebell provides sensible ballistic loading, which  appears to reduce the risk of arthritis.

10)  Kettlebell “bracing” technique is superior to “hollowing” for spinal stability

The bracing technique used in kettlebell training is considered the standard for core activation, which aids in stabilizing the spine. That’s because it involves a 360-degree co-contraction of all surrounding core musculature.

Dr. Robert G. Silverman, DC, is a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Sports Nutritionist, Kinesio Taping Practitioner and Corrective Exercise Specialist. He specializes in the diagnosis of joint pain, soft-tissue management and non-surgical treatments incorporating proper nutrition protocols. His office, NY ChiroCare, is located at 280 Dobbs Ferry Road, White Plains, NY. Every third Wednesday of the month, Dr. Silverman conducts a free, progressive series of hands-on programs called ATNP – Achieve Top Notch Performance from 7 to 8 p.m. The next one is September 22. For more information, call 914.287.6464 or visit

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