Kettle bells are back!
It is nearly impossible to enter any gym without tripping over them or getting hit by someone doing swings. The question is: are they a superior training tool than dumbbells and barbells?
The main selling points are:
- Great for core strength
- Increased fat loss
Let’s take a little walk down memory lane to see where kettle bells come from and what they are good for.
The current madness is actually the second renaissance kettle bells are enjoying. They had their first go around in the glorious ’80s, when a former Speznaz (Soviet Special Forces) instructor brought them to America. Since it was the height of the Red Scare (we all watched Rocky IV), everyone believed that anything coming out of the Eastern Bloc must be super advanced but guess what? The Soviets used kettle bells due to shortage of materials: this is what they had!
The latest resurgence was caused by the crossfit gyms, where kettle bells are often used in dynamic overhead motions, such as swings. This combo presents a huge injury risk. Let’s face it: most people can’t even perform a simple body weight squat without leaning forward or their knees buckling inwards. Why on earth would you add any elements of instability, such as complicated, dynamic movement AND unbalanced, clunky weight? Is this person going to play in the NFL or hunt terrorists? No! Most likely, he or she just wants to look good at the beach.
Kettle bells have some utility:
- in rehab and mobility work
- if you compete with kettle bells, of course, you have to use them in training
- if you are in need of a doorstop
Outside of those areas, I do not foresee a scenario where kettlebells are effective for building strength. The main issues?
- thick handles are tough to hold onto past a certain weight. If you can squat or bench more than 50 lbs, kettle bells have no use whatsoever.
- not well designed for any type of pressing, so what you’re stuck with is a cumbersome and poorly built dumbbell.
Communism failed us again.
The above also rules out the fat loss argument, because during a diet the training is responsible for keeping muscle and strength, to keep the metabolism from dropping. Since kettle bells do not allow for heavy workouts, that goes out the window. But what about all of the core work? I’m glad you asked! A barbell squat and deadlift will train your core with more weight and less risk of an injury. How’s that for a trade off?
I am going to make myself unpopular and say that kettle bells are not needed for the vast majority of gym goers. In my opinion, they are just used by bad trainers to make up a “new and exciting” routine. The truth is that for the goals of most people, dumbbells and barbells are sufficient. And did I mention that building a physique is 80% diet?