…Ket­tle­bells Build Strength & Ath­leti­cism

COULD KET­TLE­BELLS JOIN BAR­BELLS AND DUMB­BELLS IN THE RANKS OF GREAT STRENGTH-BUILD­ING TOOLS?

Muscle & Performance - - Contents - BY AN­THONY J. YE­UNG, CSCS

We don’t know you, but we’re guess­ing you want to pile on the weight with your squat, bench and dead­lift. We get it. You should. But there’s more to boost­ing your strength than just bar­bells and dumb­bells. In fact, there’s an­other, less pop­u­lar gym tool that will not only in­crease your num­bers but also make you a bet­ter over­all ath­lete, re­gard­less of your age or ex­pe­ri­ence level. Here we show you why ket­tle­bells are so ef­fec­tive for in­creas­ing strength and ath­leti­cism and share a few ways to start adding them to your work­outs.

THEY DE­VELOP POWER AND EX­PLO­SIVE­NESS

To build more strength, size and speed, you need to tar­get your fast-twitch mus­cle �ibers with power-fo­cused ex­er­cises. When you fo­cus on mov­ing the weight faster, you in­crease your mus- cle-�iber re­cruit­ment. But in­stead of do­ing Olympic lifts that re­quire bumper plates and com­plex tech­niques, use ket­tle­bell ex­er­cises such as swings, snatches and cleans that blast your fast-twitch �ibers and ac­ti­vate your ner­vous sys­tem for big­ger num­bers on the other lifts. And they’re much eas­ier to learn.

THEY BOOST STA­BIL­ITY AND CORE STRENGTH

For more strength on your lifts, tense your en­tire body to cre­ate a � irm foundation for push­ing and pulling heavy weight. When you ac­ti­vate one mus­cle, you spread ten­sion and neu­ral ac­tiv­ity to sur­round­ing mus­cles and un­lock more strength and po­ten­tial. That’s where ket­tle­bell ex­er­cises come in. For ex­am­ple, in­stead of do­ing a gob­let squat by grasp­ing a ket­tle­bell with both hands, hold it only on your right or left side to build core sta­bil­ity. Also, do “bot­toms up” car­ries, which force you to tighten all the mus­cles in your body; the in­stant you lose ten­sion, the ket­tle­bell will fall over.

THEY IN­CREASE YOUR GRIP STRENGTH

If you want to get strong and add mus­cle, you need to build pow­er­ful fore­arms and a strong grip: You’ll squeeze your weights harder, en­gage more mus­cles and gen­er­ate more force to lift more weight, es­pe­cially on all your pulls. With ket­tle­bells, you can do heavy weighted car­ries to build your grip strength; a good start­ing point would be 50 feet. Once that be­comes easy, use heav­ier bells or add to the dis­tance. You can also do one-arm car­ries to fur­ther en­gage your core.

THEY’RE GREAT FOR CON­DI­TION­ING AND RE­COV­ERY

If the only car­dio you do is walk­ing from the car to the gym, you’re lim­it­ing your strength gains. Hav­ing bet­ter aerobic con­di­tion­ing al­lows you to push harder dur­ing your work­outs and re­cover faster be­tween sets and on your rest days. It also en­cour­ages blood �low, which speeds up mus­cle re­pair. But you don’t have to do a long, slow jog to boost your aerobic ca­pac­ity. With ket­tle­bells, you can do a light, in­vig­o­rat­ing cir­cuit of swings, cleans, snatches and car­ries to im­prove your con­di­tion­ing and en­durance while build­ing strength and power at the same time.

THEY RE­DUCE WEAR AND TEAR

If you’ve been blast­ing your joints and ten­dons with a lot of heavy weight, you can switch to ket­tle­bells to take pres­sure off your body while still get­ting great re­sults. The rea­son why ket­tle­bells spare your body is that it takes less weight to get the same ef­fect. For ex­am­ple, if you front squat 250 pounds with a bar­bell for sev­eral reps, two 28-kilo­gram (62-pound) ket­tle­bells might feel just as hard be­cause of the ad­di­tional mus­cle re­cruit­ment that’s re­quired. Do­ing so will take a lot of pres­sure off your spine and joints while di­rectly ad­dress­ing your core and quads. 

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