Kettlebells—and what else?

Kettlebells—and what else?

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Tucson Strength is not a “kettlebell gym.” Kettlebell classes are not our only classes, the kettlebell is not the only tool we use, using it is not the only skill our instructors have, and we know better than to try and make it the implement of choice for all our clients. And yet, walk in the front door and the first thing you see will be a wide open floor space and dozens and dozens of kettlebells in rows up front. The kettlebell might not be the only thing or the best thing, but we believe it is extremely valuable for a number of reasons and it has some important advantages over other training implements—which is why kettlebell training is one of the staple programs we offer here. 

  1. The kettlebell grooves fundamental movements

In other articles, we have discussed basic movement patterns. The squat, the hinge, pushing and pulling, and so forth. Properly performed kettlebell exercises are perhaps the fastest and easiest way for a trainee to learn these patterns well. Take the kettlebell goblet squat, for example. Most people who cannot squat well either lose their balance, don’t have the requisite ankle or hip mobility or have trouble activating their core musculature. The goblet squat is naturally instructive. Holding the weight high in front offers a counterweight that fixes the balance issue, as well as that of poor ankle mobility, and teaches the trainee to ‘sit back’ and into their hips. The elbows being in front means they can be pushed to the inside of the knees to ‘pry’ them out—prying goblet squats are an excellent tool for better hip and ankle mobility. Finally, the front-loaded weight makes bracing the abs tight that much easier, much more so than a load on the back. Other basic exercises like the swing and the overhead press have similar benefits for fast, accurate learning of the push and the hinge pattern. Kettlebell exercises lay a great foundation of coordinated movement and can do it as part of good strength training. No need to back off the weights to get your basics down. 

  1. The kettlebell is great for crosstraining

We work with a lot of athletes, from youth soccer and football to professional cyclists and high-level amateur triathletes. Our clients swim, hike, do martial arts, and of course, we have had many military/fire/police train here as well. The kettlebell is a great tool for all of them. When you don’t need to be the strongest, biggest or fastest but just something to ‘fill in the gaps’ while not getting injured, the kettlebell is a great tool. A simple training diet of swings, presses, and squats would strengthen the lats, glutes, quads, core, and shoulders; open up the hips, develop explosive potential for jumping, build grip strength, and help with conditioning. Those ‘problem areas’ of delicate shoulders and hips and weak abs and hands tend to end athletic or service careers early. The ballistic kettlebell drills like swings and snatches; and the various front-loaded and overhead movements will fix all of that. 

  1. The kettlebell prepares potential lifters

We are proud to work with many powerlifters of all ages, sizes, and strength levels. Our team members are not only competitive but known for their great technique, low injury rates, and that they do not sacrifice day-to-day function for their lift numbers. The kettlebell has played an instrumental role in all of that. Lifting kettlebells prepares trainees to lift barbells the same as it helps an average person do anything—teaching the fundamental patterns well. If you can hinge with a load (i.e. do kettlebell swings with good form) learning to barbell deadlift will be pretty easy. After lots of presses, carries, and goblet and front squats with kettlebells learning to stay tight for a squat or deadlift will be a breeze, too. Plus the kettlebell is a great accessory for powerlifters. We tend to keep various loaded carries and heavy kettlebell swings in almost every powerlifting program. 

  1. The kettlebell as a standalone option

Finally, the kettlebell is really a very good tool to train with all by itself. Apart from the aforementioned benefits—helping learn good patterns, helping stave off aging/wear and tear issues like tight hips and unstable shoulders, and working well with other forms of weight training—the kettlebell is all that some people need. For those who are healthy enough and have been trained to perform a fair variety of kettlebell exercises with good form and no risk, a complete kettlebell workout is definitely an excellent option. Our kettlebell classes move through a general warmup, skills/exercise technique practice, a strength portion, and a conditioning finisher that could include lots of kettlebell ballistics, weighted carries, or things like rope slams, medicine ball throws, sled pushes, and calisthenics. These classes are one of our main offerings here for a reason—they’re fun, safe, offer a great workout without absolutely trashing people and risking injury, and they do help with pretty much any day to day activity that could come up.

  • written by Aris Demarco

If you’re looking for help getting stronger, improving your technique, or you’d like to meet with one of our instructors for a free consultation, please give us a call at (520)445-6800 today and we’ll be happy to help.  OR, fill out the information below and we can reach out to you. 

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