Kettlebells, Pickles, and Vodka (What I know about the bells)

female using kettlebells strength training programme

I was completely turned off to using them, when I first heard about kettlebells in  2005.  They were what MMA fighters used, and I wasn’t into that scene, that genre.  But the same reason I shied away, is the main reason I use them now, both for athletes I train and myself.  But first, I had to get my head around why fighters need to train with them. Below, I’ll explain a few things that I know for sure, about the bells.

Kettlebells build your strength from infinite angles, whereas dumbbells and barbells are more limited.  When you hold a bell, the handle lets you lift it in any direction, from any angle, as opposed to one direction at one angle.  Ultimately, this renders our traditional gym equipment as useless.  Furthermore, our gym equipment serves to further decondition us, relying less on our ancillary muscles, less on our core, and this actually weakens us, as much as does an office chair (see the similarity….YOU ARE SITTING DOWN).


As a Coach and Trainer, I must follow the best people in the world when it comes to science.  I follow Gray Cook, one of the foremost Physical Therapists of our time.  He’s a certified Russian Kettlebell Instructor. With Kettlebells, you are working the muscles out the opposite way as with traditional weights.  With a clean and press, you use every muscle in the human body, muscles often being recruited for only a fraction of a second.  You are working more with the endocrinology of the human body, and with the skeleton, the heart, the lungs, and it’s pure athleticism.  With weights, you target one or two main muscles,  these muscles are contracted for 2-4 seconds for between 4 and 15 repetitions.



Using barbells daily breaks down your joints.  Use them, but not daily.  Insofar as you are holding a bar with two hands, you are loading and lifting that bar, the fact that it holds the opposite hand, arm, elbow and shoulder in one position, wearing the joints in the same place every time.  Furthermore, the muscles, no longer working together, pull your body out of alignment, both with the contraction, and with subsequent muscle tightening.  As kettlebells recruit all of the muscles at once, the way the body was designed to work, your skeleton is being pulled and pushed from multiple dynamic angles, agonists and antagonists both working more equally, which actually pulls your skeleton into better alignment, and away from harm.


Mixing kettlebells in with your strength training regimen, will give you tremendous strength gains in the short term and long term. When you switch from working out muscles one by one, to working out the entire body more naturally, the benefits are staggering. When your posture changes and corrects, your bodily organs sit inside of you more and more correctly, the way they were designed before you sat in that chair for 10-50 years.  Then your organs start working with less stress on them – Go figure.

When we train arms in the weightroom, we train from the elbow up to the shoulder.  But what about the rest?  With kettlebells, you get tremendous grip strength that builds week by week, year by year.  Why? Because you are both working all of the forearm muscles, and experiencing actual tendon hypertrophy (growth) in your arms, wrists and hands.  Let’s start using the other 64% of our arms…it’s just good sense.



By Dan Piper, CPT, RKC, FMS,

Strength Training at Dan’s Barbell and Kettlebell Club, Alameda, CA


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