Skip to Content
UW Health SMPH
American Family Children's Hospital

Are Kettlebells Right For You

KettlebellsMadison, Wisconsin - "Give us six weeks and you'll transform your body," reads an advertisement for a kettlebell exercise DVD. You may wonder, "Are kettlebells just a fad? Will they really transform you? And, what exactly are they?"


About Kettlebells


Kettlebells are ball shaped weights with handles. Developed in Russia in the 18th century, they were made of cast iron and often described as a cannon ball with a handle.


Today they can also be made from a variety of other products (sand, water, steel shot) which can add challenge to the workout, causing you to adapt as the filler shifts with movement.


According to Lisa Milbrandt LAT, CSCS, UW Health Fitness Center supervisor, while kettlebell use is not as widespread as dumbbells or medicine balls, kettlebells can be a valuable addition to an exercise program.


"Kettlebells can be a great way to make your strength training program more efficient and help you develop more power for your recreational sports and activities," she says. "And, adding strength work to your exercise program can offer many benefits including improvement in bone density, weight management through improved metabolism, prevention of muscle loss and increase ease of daily activities."


Share This Story

How They Can Benefit Your Exercise Routine


Kettlebells are used for developing strength and endurance. The lifts traditionally done with kettlebells are generally more functional movements, integrating many muscle groups to perform a coordinated movement. The traditional lifts performed more closely mimic daily activities around the home, such as shoveling or lifting heavy boxes. In comparison, strength training machines typically isolate one or two muscle groups, and are performed in body positions that are well supported but not as applicable to real life movement.


Kettlebell lifts are generally performed in a swinging motion. The shape and size of the handle helps facilitate the movement and is what helps develop strength in the low back, legs, shoulders, forearms and wrists.


What to Think About Prior to Starting a Kettlebell Routine


Milbrandt offers a few suggestions before getting started with a kettlebell routine, including:

  • Kettlebell work may give your cardiovascular system more of a workout than traditional dumbbells. If you are new or returning to exercise, consult with your doctor before starting a program.
  • Find an instructor knowledgeable about posture and form. The nature of kettlebell lifts can be dangerous if performed incorrectly. Your posture and form throughout the movements of the exercises is critical to injury prevention.
  • Ask your instructor whether they discuss your health history and do an evaluation of you before they write your exercise program. Find out whether your instructor has experience evaluating your body's strengths and weaknesses and make adaptations for any history of injuries or altered movement patterns. Ask whether they have worked with many clients similar to your abilities and limitations.
  • If you are new to exercise or strength training, ask your instructor if they have a preparatory program they will have you do before you attempt the more challenging kettlebell moves. In addition to having you practice the movements without weights, your instructor may have you perform a dumbbell or medicine ball routine to prepare your body for the accelerated efforts of kettlebell work.
  • Start with a weight that is appropriate for your ability. A weight that seems light as you hold it will become more of a challenge when moved with the swinging motion, especially after 10 - 12 reps!

Have You Used Kettlebells?


Do you swear by them, or do you avoid them no matter what?

Date Published: 09/16/2011

News RSS Feed