What are kettlebells, and are they safe? In 18th century Russia, a “kettlebell”, called a Pood”, was mentioned in numerous early documents. It was commonly used as a weight for weighing grain and other crops. Bored farmers could toss this 36.11 lbs (16.38 kg) weight around at the marketplace. Competitive kettlebell-lifting dates back to 1885.
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Many cultures around the globe have used these as a strength tool or a weight – from Shaolin monks in China to Highland Game athletes in Scotland. At times they were called “ring-handled weights” or “stone padlocks”.
Sometime around the turn of the nineteenth century, Vladislav Krayevsky, the personal physician of the Russian czar, popularized kettlebell training in the Russian army.
In the late 19th century, they were used for competition and recreation in Russia and Europe.
In Germany, England, and Greece
Many German training manuals and diaries from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries featured weights like the kettlebell.
Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, a German physical educator, created a gymnastic system. Old photographs show his students using kettlebells.
In England, the term kettlebell was used since the early 20th century. Greece also used similar weights compared to the modern kettlebell.
Why Did the Kettlebell Suddenly Explode into a Fitness Tool in 21st Century America?
During the late 1800s circus strongmen came to America, and sometimes settled there. They opened gyms and introduced kettlebells.
In the late 1990s, Pavel Tsatsouline, from the Soviet Union, made kettlebells popular in the United States. Around the year 2001, Pavel started the Russian Kettlebell Challenge. His marketing genius is what started the kettlebell fitness phenomenon that is with us today.
Are Kettlebells Safe?
Kettlebells, like any other piece of fitness equipment, must be treated with respect and great care.
Anyone who starts kettlebell training needs to follow the kettlebell journey step-by-step, they need to earn their rites of passaage, there are no shortcuts.Taco Fleur
Over time, kettlebells became a fitness tool. Today, they are made from cast iron or cast steel and are covered with colorful vinyl. They have a handle on top made of a comfortable vinyl or rubber grip.
Using a lighter-weight kettlebell allows you to work on perfecting your technique and form. As you become more comfortable with the exercise, you can increase the weight of the kettlebell.
Exercises Using a Kettlebell
The word ballistic comes from the Greek word, meaning “to throw”. It is a form of training that involves throwing weights and jumping with weights. Ballistic training requires the muscles to produce the greatest amount of force in the shortest time possible.
The kettlebell provides these types of fitness.
- Kettlebell weightlifting – Kettlebell exercises build strength and endurance in the lower back, legs, and shoulders, and increase grip strength.
- Partly aerobic and partly like HIIT (high-intensity interval training).
Parts of the Kettlebell
If you grab a kettlebell and immediately begin doing snatches, you will get injured. It is just like training in any other sport. You can’t go from the bleachers to the football field or hockey rink without training and practice.
Progression is the key. Step-by-step you learn the conventional double-arm swing. Work your way up to the single-arm swing, cleans, presses, and more.
Start out slowly to build muscle endurance, train, support your joints, and prevent injury. If done correctly, kettlebells are an effective weight that will build muscle strength.
There are many types of kettlebell exercises you can do.
Bowflex Select Tech 840 Kettlebell
This is the way one coach approaches it.
- Assisted single-arm clean
- Bodyweight Squat
- Bodyweight Hip Hinge
- Kettlebell Hang Lift
- Kettlebell Dead Lift
- Dead Clean
- Conventional two-arm swing
- Two-arm clean
- Single-arm swing
- Single-arm swing clean
- Front squat
- Bent-over rows
- Strict press
- Push press
- Turkish get-up
The kettlebell swing, (also known as the double-arm swing, conventional kettlebell swing, or the Russian swing), is basically a ballistic exercise.”
Use kettlebells correctly to avoid injury. Have a certified personal trainer show you the proper technique. Look for personal trainers at your local gym or fitness center.
- Learn the feel of the kettlebell, and how it responds in your hands as you move it about.
- Start with lighter weights.
- Begin slowly.
- Breathe normally when exerting yourself.
- STOP immediately if you feel sudden or sharp pain during your workout!
We have discussed what kettlebells are, and if they are safe.
Kettlebells come in many weights. Begin with lighter weights and build up to heavier weights as you advance. Watch the video above and choose the safest exercises for your routine.
Kettlebells take up very little space, and you can get a total body workout with a single kettlebell. Begin slowly, and have a certified personal trainer teach you the proper and safe techniques for using the right sized kettlebell for you.
Please Leave a Comment!
I would love to hear from you! Do you use kettlebells in your workouts? What is your experience using them?
Disclaimer: If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. No content on this site should be substituted for direct medical advice from your doctor or another qualified healthcare practitioner. The information contained here is for informational purposes only. It is from my research and personal experience.
12 thoughts on “What Are Kettlebells, and Are They Safe?”
Thank you for sharing a bit of kettlebells history. I do remember back in 2001 that Russian Kettlebell Challenge. And as you have stated it has gone viral ever since.
I am amazed with how many exercises we can do with kettlebells. I have been training at home and having so many exercises available is good news!
Hi Abel, Glad you found the website useful. One small piece of equipment and all the benefit you can get from it! Using the proper technique will keep you injury-free.
Hello, I hope you are well and healthy. Due to confinement, I was looking for information on exercises at home until I found your article on Kettlebells, it has caught my attention, but before buying the product; I have a couple of doubts. The first is if I can start with that training or is it necessary to have been training a bit before trying Kettlebell?. Second, am I going to need one or two kettlebells? What dou you recommend?
Hi Johnny, thanks for stopping by. The kettlebell is a small piece of exercise equipment that can give you a total-body workout. This is one reason it is so popular.
I would begin with a light-weight kettlebell. Practice until you get the feel for the kettlebell and get good technique. Then you could progress to a heavier weight.
It would be best to have a personal trainer give you a few tips as you begin working with them. The video in this post give some safe beginning kettlebell exercises from a physical therapist’s viewpoint, so you don’t get an injury. (They exercise on the table solely for the camera. Those exercises should be done safely on the floor.)
There are YouTube videos that give good training as well.
So, yes, begin with a light-weight kettlebell, and enjoy learning good kettlebell technique.
Kettle balls are one of my favorite pieces of workout equipment. I feel they can be a little dangerous if proper attention is not given. Don’t be trying to hotshot with them. Just take it slow and find out where your comfort zone is. If used right kettle ball fitness is second to none!
Hi and thanks for stopping by with a comment. I couldn’t have said it better. Kettle bells are a great piece of exercise equipment. They don’t take up very much space, and you can get a good workout. Start with a lighter weight, and get comfortable with them. They have been around for a long time because they work.
Kettlebell movements are very dynamic. You will be swinging them around – above you, to your side, in between your legs, side to side – and this will necessitate that you are completely aware of your body. This focus and mind to muscle connection will develop, leading you to improved proprioception (coordination; the sense of movement of the body and its parts).
This is very different than conventional training with barbells or machines because the movements are linear and less dynamic.
Thanks Emmanuel for your response. Kettlebells are very different from barbells. Because to the wide variety of movement using kettlebells, it is possible to injure yourself more easily. For this reason a personal trainer is helpful in learning proper technique with kettlebells. That being said, using kettlebells are an easy way to get a full-body workout.
Hey! I started exercising from home during the pandemic. And I wanted to buy some equipment. It’s enough for abs, planks and pushups. But I was wondering if kettlebells were safe. I started researching about their history. I found your post and learned a lot from it. I even left a comment back then. But I now wanted to thank you for helping me make up my mind about buying kettlebells!
Hi Abel, thanks for stopping by with a comment. I am glad you found some helpful info on this post. If used correctly, kettlebells are an excellent way to get a total-body workout. I hope you enjoy the kettlebells!
Wow, how fascinating to learn some fun history behind the simple kettlebell. I have found these basic weights to be very versatile additions to a home gym. Kettlebell swings are great exercises that engage multiple muscle groups and help to keep the body strong, fit, and healthy! Plus, they can add quite a bit of resistance to other basic fitness moves/exercises!
Hi Aly, thanks for stopping by with a comment! Yes I find the history of kettlebells fascinating, as well. They are such a simple but so effective in building strength. There are so many aspects to fitness, and resistance training is an important part. Kettlebells strengthen many muscle groups.