Monday, February 16, 2009

3 Reasons I Love the Kettlebell

You've all heard the old adage about the 3 most important things to consider when purchasing real estate:  "Location, location, location."  I always thought it would be fun to own a copying or printing center, because then I could tell you about the 3 most important things in that business:  "Collation, collation, collation."  See how it rhymes???

Anyway, on to the kettlebell.  My top 3 reasons I love the kettlebell, in no particular order are:

  1. Hip power.
  3. HIP POWER!!!


If you're wondering why I care so much about hip power, think of a frail aging 90 year-old.  Why are they bent over?  Tight hip flexors, weak glutes and low back.  What are they afraid of?  Falling.  Why do they often fall?  Lack of coordination and balance at the hip joint.  Why are they unable to recover and catch themselves when they start to fall?  Slow, weak hips.  Solution to all of the above?  Develop strong, powerful hips at a young age.  They will not forget you when you are old.


The kettlebell swing is phenomenal for developing fast, powerful hips.  There are some great movements out there for getting strong in the hip region.  There's the squat, the deadlift, and dozens of variations of each.  The problem with each of these is that they are by nature slow movements, which if not taught carefully often end with muted hip extension (to borrow a term from Crossfit co-founder and performance coach extraodinaire Greg Glassman.)  Because of the tight hip flexors and low backs mentioned in the past few posts, we often substitute lumbar spine extension for proper hip extension in the heavy barbell lifts.  This leaves are hip flexors and glutes under-trained, weak and slow.

When we add kettlebell swings to our repertoire, we are forced to open up the hips at the top of the movement.  There is no way around this.  If we try to pull the same kind of nonsense we've been doing in our squats and deadlifts, and hyperextend the lumbar spine, we will be flat out on the couch with low back pain after the first session.

Another key factor here is that with most movements, form often deteriorates as the weight goes up.  Don't believe me?  Check out youtube videos of elite level powerlifters deadlifting or squatting during competition.  Their form is atrocious.  I'd never let a client lift like that.

With the kettlebell swing on the other hand, the need for proper form increases as the weight goes up.  If you try to perform a 5 rep max kettlebell swing with improper form, their is no way you will lift your max weight.  Full hip extension at a high rate of speed is key to getting that weight up.  And that's where your hip power development is going to come from. 

Power = Work / Time

This means that when we increase the speed with which we move a weight through a range of motion, we have increased the power output.  Once we reach a maximum speed with a given weight, we continue to increase power output by increasing the weight.

For some great, free instruction on the kettlebell swing, check out the videos by Jeff Martone on this page.

Here's to powerful hips and a long life!

Train smart; Eat right.

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