Five More Reasons To Love Kettlebells

by Josh Hanagarne on September 4, 2009

It’s time.  I’ve gone too long without talking about kettlebells.  If I put it off one more day, I’ll have to change the logo.  Never!

And so, as if you needed any more reasons other than the bond and the freaking fantastic lessons of the RKC weekend, here are five more reasons to love the greatest and most fun strength tool of all time.  The kettlebell.  Da da da DA!

1.  They take over your life, but it’s an obsession worth having

I submit as exhibit A, the greatest birthday cake of all time, made just last month for my brother-in-law Ben:

kb cake

Ben's B-day cake - 27 lbs for the little tyke

A conversation Ben recently had with my little sister:

Ben: I was thinking that if I’d never met you…

Lindsey: Yes?  (pre-swoon)

Ben: I wouldn’t ever have heard of kettlebells. (because he wouldn’t have met me)

True story, and for the record, I introduced Ben to kettlebells.  Bwahahahahaha!

2.  Kettlebells force you to focus

Enter any gym in America and you’ll see a group of guys in string tank tops doing bicep curls while watching the aerobics class.  That’s not focus.  That’s what Dan John calls the “It’s all you bro!” school of fitness.

Strength is a skill and it requires you to pay attention.

Try getting cute with a kettlebell and you’re going to smash your face in or wreck your feet when you drop it.  Once it starts whipping around you wouldn’t notice that you’d stumbled into the middle of a writhing harem all crying out “Sultan of swings!  Please pay attention to us!”

Hmm…that analogy definitely had men in mind.  I can’t think of the equivalent for females.  Maybe stumbling into a lair of sexy vampires or those time traveling vikings and highlanders that are on the romance novels?

Sorry…

3.  Kettlebells teach you how your body works

Nearly every movement you do with a kettlebell requires that your whole body do something.  If one part breaks down, the movement either fails or puts your body in a compromising position.

I’ve been coaching my wife Janette and she has changed in the last three weeks.  Her whole body is gaining strength and it is so fun to see the confidence she’s getting.  We’re not working on a dainty tricep here or a shapely calf there.

Everything hardens up and gains strength at once.  It’s a great feeling.

4.  Kettlebells force you to get stronger

Assuming you actually pick them up and don’t just use them for your blog logo, when used properly, kettlebells are going to make you stronger.  You don’t have a choice.  The only way you can fail to gain strength with these beautiful monsters is to let them collect dust.

Results.  Kettlebells deliver results every single time.

5. Kettlebells are fun to use

The pistol

The pistol

It feels cool to do stuff like this.  It’s fun.  More importantly, a movement like this is impossible if your whole body doesn’t work together.  You learn things about yourself because you have to practice.  You can’t improve without practice and it’s more fun to practice than to “work out.”

I said in an earlier post that bumping into someone who uses kettlebells is like running into an old friend you’d lost track of.  Nobody runs into a fellow bench presser or jogger and says, “No way!  Me too!!!!”

Kettlebells are fun, brutally difficult, wonderful tools that become a lifestyle.  I haven’t met many dumbbells I can rave about for this long.

And I submit with the most fervid ardor, a dumbbell certainly wouldn’t look as good as a cake.

Josh


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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach September 4, 2009 at 2:40 am

Kettlebells ROCK! Love those beasties – they’re just plain fun to use. Anything that requires you to engage ALL the muscles in your body is a Very Good Thing indeed.

Love the KB’ed Twitter birdie too! :)

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Laura - The Journal of Cultural Conversation September 4, 2009 at 4:14 am

Josh – quite convincing as usual. I know you suggested that I try it in a previous post and I, admittedly, haven’t done it. I’ll keep you posted – I’m aiming for at least once in September and that will feel like an accomplishment (as is just getting to the gym these days!)

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Casey September 4, 2009 at 5:42 am

6. They make great door stops when not being swung around!

So right on all this Josh, I don’t think KBs can ever just work a single muscle.

Glad to hear your wife is getting into them too. Any suggestions on how I can get my wife to try picking them up?

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Pete | The Tango Notebook September 4, 2009 at 6:04 am

I’ve always been an advocate for bodyweight exercises. Aren’t kettlebells dangerous?

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Josh Hanagarne September 4, 2009 at 7:39 am

Pete, I love bodyweight stuff too. Using kettlebells can be dangerous if you use them incorrectly, just like dumbbells, barbells, driving, shaving, etc. Whenever anyone gets hurt using a kettlebell, it is their fault. If you learn how to do it properly, you’ll be fine. If you try to go it alone based on you tube videos, you could be in trouble. I say that as someone who has gotten hurt–it was my fault.

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Josh Hanagarne September 4, 2009 at 7:52 am

Casey, what are her goals? That’s the first question to ask her. A question I often get is, “I should be in great shape before I try those, right?”

Nope.

Just like with any tool, everything can be scaled down to fit the person. The intensity, weight, and choice of movements can all be adapted.

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Josh Hanagarne September 4, 2009 at 7:53 am

@Barbara Ling. Thanks! I got that Twitter bird by trading some copyediting to a fellow blogger. It turned out so well.

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Casey September 4, 2009 at 8:03 am

Let’s not forget the wicked logo, it would have been a shame for you to have to take it down!

My wife just hates all her “extra padding” and would like to get rid of it. Guess thats not an uncommon complaint.

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James Sjostrom September 4, 2009 at 8:34 am

Josh,
What if you started teaching a class? What if it was at a convenient location? What if everyone was able to experience your passion?
@Casey, I know I am a bit of a drive for you (your wife), but Kelly John started a class here Thursday Nights at 630pm. It is very beginner friendly. Lots of women swinging Iron. Great bunch of women. (some men too)
@Pete, the nature of the RKC training is that the kettlebell becomes an extension of the body, so it is really a body weight movement first. Not only safe, but better for you, because you have to manipulate a tool, many do harm with Calisthenics and Plyometrics.

Oh yes, I love Kettlebells too!

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Josh Hanagarne September 4, 2009 at 8:52 am

James, I get the hint:) I’ll call you today.

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Matt September 4, 2009 at 10:17 am

1. I hope no one ate that cake. It would be a shame to destroy such a thing of beauty.
2. As someone who has seen Josh with kettlebells, I can say that when he works out he is intensely focused. I swear I saw him levitate a pair of kettlebells with his mind.
3. I have yet to work a kettlebell exercise that didn’t require me to activate my abs.
5. Great pistol (one legged squat). I had to try one this morning. I was not even close. It made me so mad that I almost set a goal to learn how to do them. How long did it take you to do your first one?
7. Kettlebells are great for conditioning. A few minutes of swings or snatches gets my heart racing through the roof. One of my favorite Pavel sayings is that kettlebells will melt fat without the dishonor of aerobics.

Please pass the kool-aid.

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Josh Hanagarne September 4, 2009 at 11:09 am

Matt, it took me months to be able to do a pistol. I now know there are ways to go about it more effectively than I have. This is what I would do if I were starting over: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/mahler2.htm.

I think the cake got eaten, but I’ll double check.

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Casey September 4, 2009 at 10:26 am

Hey James thanks for the invite!I’ll bring it up tonight and see if I can talk her into it.

I really need to find a good (or at least decent) excuse to come back down there.

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Suzannah-Write It Sideways September 4, 2009 at 5:25 pm

Josh,

I didn’t even know what a kettlebell was until today. Is that unforgivable? I feel so sheltered.

I’m not likely to be picking up a kettlebell for the next three months, because I’ve been diagnosed with an acute case of pregnancy.

However, once I return to my former flabby state, I might consider it. Or, maybe instead I’ll just make a kettlebell cake like you and eat it.

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Josh Hanagarne September 4, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Suzannah, I didn’t know what a kettlebell was until I happened to see one in a book about 18 months ago. If you’re sheltered, I am too.

It wasn’t my cake, by the way, and I certainly didn’t make it. I actually didn’t even get to lay eyes on it.

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Ben Owens September 4, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Great post, Josh. I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. Kettlebells really do take over your life. Many a night I lay awake thinking about the workout I am going to do in the morning…though laying awake probably isn’t the best thing to do the night before you kettlebell.

As for the cake, it did get eaten. How do I know? I ate it. Although it was a thing of beauty, I couldn’t resist. It was amazing. Lindsey can make just about anything taste 10X better than you can imagine.

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Pete | The Tango Notebook September 4, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Yesterday I signed up for an adult gymnastics class. I’m fascinated with olympic rings and tumbling. Kettlebells might be in the future since I do hear so much about them.

@Josh – I like the pic of the kettlebell birthday cake. My family’s bakery has made specialty cakes of celebrities, historic cars, you name it. If anyone’s ever seen that SNL skit with the erotic cakes, we’ve made a few of those, too ;) The people that order them might surprise you!

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Josh Hanagarne September 5, 2009 at 8:00 am

Pete, Dan John loves tumbling, but I’m too scared to try it. I’m 6’8″ and I just know I’d find a way to break my neck or cut my head off.

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Pete | The Tango Notebook September 5, 2009 at 8:23 am

Then, by all means Josh, live vicariously through me! I’m a shorty at 5’10″.s

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Adam T Glass September 6, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Eat your wheaties my friend! 7 days left. I blew up an Air matress and than thought about how well it will work for you and your height. questionable.

I will give you a call Thursday when i have some down time. We are exited to have you out.

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Josh Hanagarne September 6, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Wheaties, check. Air mattress long enough? Story of my life, no worries. Cars, girlfriends, beds, clothes–nothing’s ever long enough. I can’t wait.!

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Ronnie September 24, 2009 at 2:57 pm

I have a 18, 26, 44 and 62 # KBs. I injured my shoulder back in March 2009 and just started back up 3 weeks ago.

Going slower this time. Doing 200 reps of passes with 26 and 100 reps with 44. It will be awhile before I use the 62 again.

Feel great overall and my shoulder feels better than it has in 3 years.

I really like the whole body workout with kettlebells.—–

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Josh Hanagarne September 24, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Ronnie, what was the injury?

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Ronnie October 1, 2009 at 8:07 am

Hey Josh

Well it was cold day last March here in Houston and I didnt warmup enough. I started with my 62 # doing passes (around the back) and pulled a muscle or ligament in my left shoulder. Never felt anything like it before. Asked some weight lifting friends and they said to lay off lifting anything for 4 months.

Seems to have worked, shoulder feels very good now. I warmup with pushups, jumping jacks and walking before lifting now.

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Josh Hanagarne October 1, 2009 at 8:53 am

Ronnie, that’s how I hurt my own shoulder–not enough warmup during an outdoor workout in November. Nothing too special, but it was enough to screw me up for a while. Lessons learned, huh?

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KAL April 25, 2012 at 2:27 pm

How did you make that AMAZING Kettlebell cake? I want to make one for my boyfriend’s birthday!!! Any help would be GREATLY appreciated. THANKS!

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Josh Hanagarne April 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm

KAL, I’m going to have Janette send you an email. She made it.

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KAL April 25, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Thank you so so much!!!!

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