Previously used solely for competition, kettlebells are becoming more popular in gyms and fitness spaces. Incorporating new, unfamiliar equipment into a fitness routine can be intimidating, so we turn to an expert in kettlebell training, Shannon Flanagan, to provide us with more information. Shannon has been a personal trainer for over 17 years and is one of our newest fitness class trainers. Shannon is a former college athlete turned marathon-runner turned kettlebell “junkie.” While she loves barbells and dumbbells, kettlebells are her favorite tools to help her clients achieve their goals. In this Movement Memo, we asked Shannon a few questions about her experience with kettlebells and about the benefits of adding kettlebell exercises into a training program.
Can you describe kettlebell training?
SF: There are two general forms of kettlebell training: hardstyle and sport. I practice hardstyle training, which emphasizes power and tension and is typically lower in repetitions with higher intensity. Sport [training] emphasizes endurance, relaxation, and technique and is typically higher in repetitions with lower intensity.
SHIFT group fitness classes incorporate exercises from the hardstyle form of kettlebell training.
Why did you initially become interested in kettlebell training?
SF: I ran long distances for over a decade. I needed to stop due to an injury, and that is when I found kettlebells. I fell in love with kettlebells because they fuse strength, power, and cardio into one. I rehabbed my injury, my body felt good, and I loved the aesthetic results.
Do you have any particular credentials or certifications for kettlebell training?
SF: There are two standard Russian Kettlebell certifications, RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) and Strong First. I am RKC certified, which requires passing various strength and technique assessment requirements.
What are some benefits of kettlebell training?
- Kettlebell training is very effective in improving strength and balance. Kettlebells often feel heavier than traditional dumbbells due to their center of gravity.
- Because of their structure (i.e., a thicker handle), kettlebells can also improve grip strength. The center of gravity moves with your grip, leading to more dynamic muscle contractions.
- Kettlebell training can improve overall posture due to the required focus on core stability when performing kettlebell exercises.
- Kettlebell training requires the use of various muscle groups. Using kettlebells across various movements can increase heart rate, meaning they can improve aerobic capacity.
SF: They are incredibly efficient. You can get an extremely effective total body workout in 20-30 minutes at your house.
How can kettlebell training be incorporated into a balanced workout routinE?
SF: You can use kettlebells for any routine. Substitute your dumbbells for kettlebells in just about every strength exercise. Here are a few reasons why I prefer using kettlebells as opposed to dumbbells:
- Kettlebells are a more compact tool, meaning a 45-lb. kettlebell is not as bulky as a 45-lb. dumbbell. As such, it is easier to use heavier weights in workouts.
- When using the kettlebell, the weight sits on the outside of the forearm, which forces more muscles to activate.
- The “horns” (handle of the kettlebell) make it easier to do complexes, such as hand-to-hand and unilateral exercises.
What is your advice to someone who is just getting started with kettlebells?
SF: My advice would be to hire a professional with a Strong First or RKC background. If the movements are done improperly, they may lead to back and shoulder injuries. It is worth the investment to learn the proper technique.
What would a sample kettlebell workout look like?
SF: When creating a workout, I like to combine power movements (such as swings or snatches), strength movements (such as goblet squats, rows, and presses), and mobility movements (such as halos and arm bars). For example:
Repeat for 3 rounds
Swings: 10-15 reps
Goblet squats: 10 reps
Sumo Rows: 8 reps each side
See Saw Presses: 8 reps each side
Halos: 3 reps each side
What is your advice on staying safe when adding new elements to a fitness routine?
SF: Kettlebells are extremely safe when used properly, but just like any form of exercise, there is risk. The key to staying safe in any new workout is working with a professional to ensure you are executing the exercises correctly.
Do you have questions about adding kettlebells into your movement routine? Reach out to your SHIFT team for guidance – we are here to help!
In Real Health,