A kettlebell is an alternative to traditional barbell free weights. It takes the shape of a spherical weight with a handle attached. It can be held with one or both hands. They were developed in Russia for strength training in the Soviet army. Although they have been used in Russia since the 1700’s, they did not become popular in the United States until recently.
What is different about a kettlebell is that the weight extends beyond the hands. This builds additional grip strength during strength training. They are traditionally measured in poods, which is a unit of measurement equivalent to about sixteen kilograms or thirty-six pounds. Modern kettlebells are often measured in kilograms or pounds. Common weights are half pood (8kg), one pood (16kg), and two pood (32kg).
The exercises that are designed for kettlebell use are different than the exercises that are commonly seen with barbells in the gym. Barbells can be loaded with more weight than kettlebells can, so the two tools have different strengths and purposes. Kettlebells are a great choice for a whole body work out and for building explosive power. They target the posterior chain. The posterior chain are the interconnected muscles, ligaments, and tendons that run from the shoulders, down the back, and through the buttocks and hamstrings. These muscles are an important component of the core. Explosive power combines speed and power to go from rest to fast, powerful action. It is especially beneficial in many sports such as baseball and football, where quick action from a standstill is prized.
The basic exercise using this equipment is the kettlebell swing. This movement starts with a wide stance with bell resting between the feet. When the kettlebell is picked up, it is swung between the thighs and up to shoulder height and back. This swinging between the thighs and straight ahead up to shoulder height is repeated as fast as possible and as many times in a minute as can be done. It is important not to sacrifice proper form for speed. This will not allow the best benefits of the exercise to be seen. Common errors are swinging the bell too low and straining the lower back and swinging it too far forward. The shoulders should be kept square. Once the basic swing is mastered, there are more exercises that can be done. Another good exercise for beginners is called the kettlebell get up. This exercise starts with the athlete laying flat on their back with the bell raised straight up in the air. The athlete slowly stands up, starting with the kettlebell-side leg. The exercise is then repeated with the other hand so that both sides of the body are worked equally. Basic exercises can also be made harder by increasing the weight of the bell.
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