I am not discounting the assertion that kettlebells are without limits–because why would I do that? Most of what I write about involves using kettlebells, and I’m admitting freely of my bias. I think they’re amazing, as you know. But I will say this. Because sometimes people claim things about the kettlebell–my most beloved utensil, which I hold so preciously close my heart, and cannot hardly tolerate to see its reputation ever so blemished or besmirched–that are wrong, misleading, or just generally not very nice. Say what you want about me, or my children, even. But I’ll be damned if you talk badly about my kettlebell.
Any so-called critics of the kettlebell are merely mistaken, of course. They just don’t know anything. And one cannot get too angry at a person for not knowing anything, seeing how there are so many of those kinds of people around. For you would be angry all the time, if that were the case. Rather, you must accept it in your heart as your responsibility to educate. So here I am.
Kettlebells for Strength?
The first criticism of the kettlebell is that it is not a good tool for building strength with. The barbell, some will say, is better. And to this I don’t actually have much of an argument. I myself would prefer a barbell in many cases. But to say the kettlebell isn’t sufficient for gaining strength, is highly incorrect, and a very stupid thing to say. Gaining strength is a matter of Repetition and Resistance. The tools are less important than the principles. The kettlebell–or, in most cases, a collection of kettlebells–are more than enough for you to build a very solid and useful level of strength with.
Kettlebells for Conditioning?
Now admittedly it is a pretty apparent fact that the kettlebell’s most useful amenity is that of a conditioning function. The kettlebell can build strength, yes–like I said. And fortitude, no doubt. And the kettlebell can make your body mobile again. But the best use of the kettlebell is for wind. It’s a conditioning tool.
This is where I think people can get a little mixed up. They see people touting the kettlebell as the greatest invention in strength training since the birth of Dan John (sign of the cross). And I can get why this would arouse some criticism and retaliatory comments. Because it’s not. But where the kettlebell is killer, is for conditioning.
The swing is a great exercise and so are many other exercises like that. But the clean–ah yes, the clean–well the clean is one not so often spoken about. Mostly it is seen as a sort of transitory move, a way of getting from one exercise to the next. But hasn’t the clean any merit of its own. Is it not more than just some connector piece? The answer, of course, is the clean is amazing.
High rep swings, cleans, snatches, etc–and even more so their doubled up counterparts–are all such wonderful moves for stripping away fat and making you more handsome and capable. Double cleans, in particular, have a very fine conditioning effect. Take for example, the following:
8 reps x double clean + 30 second rack hold. 8 rounds. Men use 2 x 24 – 32kg; Women, 2 x 16 – 24kg.
Kettlebells for Muscle?
But what about for building muscle, now? Are kettlebells useful there, at all? Why yes they are, as a matter of fact. But once more, we must return to the idea that, again, tools are less important than principles. The criteria for gaining muscle remains unchanged whether you are using a kettlebell, a barbell, dumbbells, or kitty cats. You must employ progressive resistance. And you have to eat a lot.
I don’t train to have all that much muscle on me, because I don’t care all that much about it. I prefer a leaner, somewhat skinnier look. Because I think skinny is the new sexy, like how it was the old sexy, before strong came around. Skinny, but with some muscle–just a tad, you know. And very strong. Kind of a 300 look, I guess you could say. To which people are somewhat surprised to see just how muscled I am when I wear a spindly shirt like that–what Christine calls my No-Sex Shirt, as in, I will not be getting any tonight, if I go out in that thing. She says it “embarrasses” her. To which I respond, “Yes, well, that is called body shaming, my dear, and I simply will not stand for it.” It pays to have such a principled position, you know.
But to finalize my argument, I will finish with this. The kettlebell is a versatile and useful, functional tool. Functional, of course, is a word of which its use has almost been entirely worn out. But let us take it for what it is: The kettlebell has many practical applications and a few of them are absolutely phenomenal. You can build strength and muscle with kettlebells, indeed, for that I what I have been telling you, but even more is how fantastic they are as an agent of torment when used as part of a complex, circuit, or other such thing as that.
And so, I leave you with these. Go ahead, and see for yourself.
PS – You might also enjoy my Inner Circle because kettlebells, kettlebells, kettlebells.