Why I Keep Coming Back to Kettlebells


One thing I pride myself on as a coach is that I have firsthand experience with most types of training equipment, and “styles” of training.

Because I’ve achieved a certain level of competence in different modalities and understand how to blend them together, I am sometimes overwhelmed with choices. Imagine choosing the right dish from a menu with 10 variations of 100 different menu choices.

Yet, this gives me the freedom to effectively utilize whatever I would enjoy the most. Having fun in your training is one of the two most important components of long term effective training and consistency (I talk about the other here).

Over the past 10 years, the truth is that my kettlebell usage has gone up and down in waves — like most things in life, it’s cyclical. That beings said, today is about the kettlebell and it’s awesome qualities that keep bringing me back.

Bottom Up PressesBottom Up Press 2
The argument against kettlebells always involves some variation of, “Well you could do that with a dumbbell…” Much of the time that’s true, but the bottom up press does not fall in that category. I really can’t say enough good things about the bottom up press. This movement and one arm swings alone are worth the price of a kettlebell.

Oh bottom up press, how I love thee. Let me count the ways:
1. Improved grip strength, coordination, and enhanced rotator cuff activation.

2. Nearly guaranteed proper technique. Because of the leverage, a vertical forearm, and control throughout the entire movement is not encouraged, but required. Additionally, the weight is further from your center of gravity, the core must work harder to stabilize.

3. Reliable diagnostic tool of healthy shoulders. When I perform an evaluation, one thing I look for specifically is the gap between a standard one arm military press, and a bottom up press. The bigger the gap, the greater the dysfunction.

Let me give you two examples of how I might interpret information from that assessment:
Fella #1: Standard KB Press: 48kg / Bottom Up KB Press: 24kg
Fella #2: Standard KB Press: 28kg / Bottom Up KB Press: 24kg

Fella #1 is very strong and can press 48kgs overhead with one arm, but there is a massive discrepancy between his bottom up press. What we have here is a lot of horsepower and torque with no handling on bald tires. This is a recipe for a problem.

Fella #2 on the other hand, has a reasonably small gap between his normal press and bottom up press. This means his shoulders are operating at near optimal levels. This gives him a much lower chance of injuring himself.

We should also look at the left/right discrepancy. Let’s consider up to 25% a normal baseline, but strive to get them together.

Other movements can be performed bottom up as well, such as squats, carries, or lunges. These are all fantastic exercise that encourage reflexive core stabilization in addition to the above benefits of the bottom up press.

Freedom
There are several types of freedom that the kettlebell allows.

The first is the ability to take it with you outside, throw it around, and carry it in a variety of ways.

The second freedom is the ability to seamlessly transition between many exercises without setting the kettlebell down. This leads to an unlimited number of combinations for kettlebell complexes, or chains.

Athleticism
The kettlebell lends itself to a sweet variety of power-based movements. The swing is one of the most user friendly ways to perform weighted full-body power movements. Power in the hips is the foundation of most athletic movements, so do your swings.

Obviously I’m a fan of kettlebells; I teach certifications around the world, I wrote a book on the subject, and put together an instructional video series.

Kettlebells rock, bottom-line, and making them a part of your training program will make you better.

Better every day,
-Max

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