The Right Tool for the Job

Are Kettlebells the Answer?

How many times have you experienced a problem or delay because you simply didn't have the right tool for the job? With the proper tools, you can accomplish just about anything in record time.

When it's time to make some changes in your life, and with your body, selecting the right tool for the job is a vital consideration. As a firefighter I really get this. In my line of work, using the best tool for the job can mean the difference between life and death. Try raising a 20 foot ladder to a third story window and you'll immediately grasp the idea.

But today we're talking about fitness... about strength, conditioning and health, and there seems to be many tools that perform the same exact job, with lots of confusion surrounding how to get started.

Over the years we've seen everything from the Ab Lounge to Zumba. There's surely no shortage on programming selection, and therein lies the potential problem. The safest and most sure-fire method is hidden within a sea of misinformation.

Take a look around. In an average day you'll see people that look extremely fit, strong, and healthy, and others that are obviously out of shape and need work. But be careful, as many people will disagree on what looks good, even on what's healthy or what constitutes fitness. So your definition of fitness, or at least your expectation of exercise, mandates that you pick the right tool(s) to get your specific job done.

Exercise is not a new concept. Barbells and dumbbells have been around for a long time in the Unites States, and kettlebell lifting has existed for over 100 years in Eastern Europe. People have been running and walking for improved performance, health, and weight loss since the dawn of time.

But for the last thirty years the fitness industry has been bombarded by many changes, such as Universal and Nautilus type machines, treadmills, and the like. We've also seen nutrition science improve, and as a society have we almost accepted the fairly common use of steroids and growth hormone amongst professional athletes and bodybuilders.

But the question remains; what do you expect to gain from working out? It's an easy enough question, and the answer will simplify this entire process.


Most people will say one or more of the following...
  1. Weight Loss
  2. Muscle Tone
  3. Muscle Size
  4. General Conditioning
  5. Health and Wellness
  6. Sports Performance
  7. Work Performance
  8. Strength
  9. Endurance
  10. Flexibility
Any type of exercise will work - to a degree. Remember, in this article we're discussing the selection of the BEST tool for the job at hand. Picking something that has a built in ceiling (IE:weight lifting, Olympic lifting), is costly or inconvenient (IE:expensive gym membership) is just plain gimmicky (IE:most products on the home shopping network at 3 AM) or has a high potential for injury (IE:heavy weight lifting machines, kickboxing) might not be the best long-term plan for you. So after defining your major goal, find the most effective means of achieving that goal. In the next section, I'll help you break down those goals.

I derived the above list from three parent-categories. First up is Appearance, as the first three items deal directly with how you look. Bodybuilders have known for years how to isolate muscles and pump up. Lift medium to heavy weight for moderate reps and eat a lot. But talk to a bodybuilder over aged 40 (sometimes much younger), and after he tells you about his list of tears, separations, and other nagging injuries, you should be convinced this may not be the road for you.

Kettlebell training at high reps with moderate or even light weight can deliver that toned, lean and very fit looking body everybody's looking for, and with little risk of any overuse injury. This is an added bonus when compared to kettlebell training's extreme effect on performance.

The lifter needs to follow the right program, be diligent in his or her training, and get on a sensible diet program, but muscle tone and weight loss are easily and rapidly achievable for most kettlebell lifters that seriously embark upon a kettlebell fitness plan. I do agree, building pure mass is best left to the barbells, machines, and bodybuilders.

The next category, and numbers 4 through 7 on our list, deal with General Performance, with items that are a little more difficult to measure, but are at the core of why most people are training in the first place. Conditioning and overall performance at their sport or chosen profession, as well as general health, are big part of why some people feel the need to workout. Shoveling snow, playing basketball, fighting fire, jogging, are all dramatically improved and enhanced by a sensibly executed kettlebell program.

Combined with other training, or stand alone, in my 25 years of experience I've seen nothing come close to high rep kettlebell sets for transforming individuals and improving performance, whether for an upcoming FDNY test or a ten minute kettlebell set.

Time under the bell prepares the human body for greater and greater work. Slowly, steadily, kettlebell training provides the lifter with the most quantifiable way to push his or her limits - safely. And with no injuries, results keep coming.

Next up are the obvious qualities of strength, endurance, and flexibility, qualities that are relatively easy to measure and we'll call, Specific Fitness. We're hard pressed to find any one exercise that can make huge advances in all areas, but high rep kettlebell sets are my choice for big gains with the most even balance of all three. Of course, if you want to squat more weight you need to squat with a heavy barbell, and that's a very specific goal.

In general your strength will improve dramatically with high kettlebell reps, as well as the obvious benefit of off-the-chart muscular and cardio endurance.

Extremely high reps with a relatively light weight can improve your one rep max - it's that simple. As tendon and ligament strength improve over time, strength goes up dramatically. It may not be the fastest road, but it's the safest and most long lasting. Flexibility is also greatly enhanced because of the necessity, and improved capacity, to release muscular tension on most lifts.

If this article seems to be a commercial for kettlebells, I want you to know it's just an accurate account. As a Master Coach and Trainer with the AKC / WKC, I've experienced these positive results with many students for myself. For more information on kettlebells and program selection you can go to: Kettlebell Info