Are Russian kettlebells worth it?
September 8, 2006 5:02 PM   Subscribe

Russian kettlebell training: great exercise for shedding fat and building muscle, or another fitness fad?

A relative has been touting the benefits of Russian kettlebell training, and admittedly he's in excellent shape. I'm in pretty good shape, but would like to add some muscle mass and increase stamina. What's your experience with them? Are they worth the investment?
posted by DakotaPaul to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have no personal experience with kettlebell training, but a good (Russian, natch) friend of mine does it regularly and has done for years, before its recent popularity. He's incredibly fit and strong, and has no interest in fitness fads of any kind. So my vote goes to "current fad, that is based in a valid workout regime".

However, one word of warning, he says there are no valid kettlebell training accreditations available, so pick your training class carefully (I'm assuming you want to do a class?). He has personally witnessed fitness instructors with no clue at all, teaching classes to people. Like any exercise, you can damage yourself if you/your instructor don't know what you are doing. If you were in LA, I would recommend his class, but looks like you aren't.
posted by Joh at 5:28 PM on September 8, 2006

Kettlebells are just a form of weight training. Nothing special about them, and not nearly as versatile as plate loaded (bar/dumb)bells.

The only real benefit I've heard people talk about has been increased grip strength due to the thickness of the handle, which can be achieved by wrapping a normal barbell with rope or foam to make it thicker.

Save your money and invest in some real weights, or a gym membership.
posted by Loto at 5:29 PM on September 8, 2006

FWIW, I've done a couple kettlebell classes and they totally kicked my butt. I'm in good shape (run regularly, lift a couple times a week), regularly do strenuous workouts, and I definitely felt the class the next day. I've never done them regularly, though, so I can't tell you what the long term effects are.

I'm a female BTW.
posted by elquien at 5:31 PM on September 8, 2006

I don't think it is the best thing for adding muscle mass or increasing stamina (although I'm not sure exactly what you mean by the latter). They are great for building explosive strength which is good for various sports and atheletic activities. I think they're a good once-a-week add-in to a standard weights if you're looking for that explosive strength, but not a replacement for more standard stuff.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:33 PM on September 8, 2006

The advantage of the kettlebell shape over that of the dumbbell is that the weight is even distributed in a compact package directly underneath the carrying hand, as opposed to evenly distributed in two equal-sized compact packages on either side of the hand.

The change in geometry means that some arm trajectories are possible that can't really be done with dumbbells (think close-to-the-body lifting motions) and that in the course of a motion you can safely rotate your grip along the kettle's handle (try holding a heavyish dumbbell with one hand and, still with that one hand, rotating your grip so that the side of the dumbbell formerly on your hand's left is now on the right -- this is much easier with kettlebells than a dumbbell), which enables yet additional trajectories. Moroever, if you're up for it the largeish and uniform kettlebell handle is much better suited for catching and snatching kettlebell weights from midair than a dumbbell handle.

So if you're interested in arm exercises with large, twisty, and close-to-the-body ranges of motion you might consider kettlebells, because they're convenient for that purpose. For doing standard weightlifting there's no real advantage aside from a theoretical increase in grip strength and wrist musculature. So they're really a mixed bag: if you're training to fight or wrestle I can see good uses for kettlebells, but for most everything else they're not appreciably better than the traditional equipment.
posted by little miss manners at 8:19 PM on September 8, 2006

Zero. No difference. Soon there will be the rock workout where you have to use rocks.
posted by filmgeek at 2:10 PM on September 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Zero. No difference. Soon there will be the rock workout where you have to use rocks.

Well, have you heard of sandbag training? That's pulverised rock :-) I've started using a sandbag simply out of convenience: it's dirt cheap, and I can work out in my back garden. There are plenty of evangelists out there for every weight training fad. Some fads do have merit of course, but ultimately it's just about hefting weights.
posted by ajp at 3:02 PM on September 16, 2006

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