Kettlebell workouts have exploded in popularity in recent years, mainly due to their ability to whip people into shape with just a few short workouts a week. Kettlebell workouts can be designed to either increase strength, improve cardiovascular endurance, or both, making the kettlebell a versatile piece of workout equipment. So what exactly is a kettlebell?
Picture a cannonball with a handle — that’s what a kettlebell looks like. Made of cast iron, they range in size from 4 kilogram (about 10 pound) baby bells to monsters weighing over 100 pounds. The kettlebell was developed in Russia and was originally used as a counterweight for farm equipment and as a standard weight measurement. Eventually Russian farm workers started using them for exercise, and the sport of kettlebell training was born.
The kettlebell gained popularity among European, Canadian, and U.S. strongmen of the early 1900s, such as Eugen Sandow and Arthur Saxon — in fact, you can often see these strongmen posing for pictures with their kettlebells. Kettlebell training in the West eventually declined, however, although in Russia it flourished, with the first Russian kettlebell competition taking place in 1948. Around the year 2000, the Western world was re-introduced to the kettlebell thanks to Pavel Tsatsouline, a former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor. Today kettlebell workouts are used by people from all walks of life who want to get in peak physical condition.
Though the kettlebell is a great conditioning tool, you can’t just pick it up and start swinging it around — you need to be trained properly on how to use it and do the different moves. In-person training from a certified kettlebell instructor is best, but if you don’t have access to one, there are some great instructional DVDs available. You can find both kettlebell trainers and DVDs at the Dragon Door website.