Kettlebells: powerful, effective exercise and rehabilitation tools
When Wendy Schauer, DC, severely injured her back ten years ago, she knew what to do--she tried all the same therapies she recommended to her patients. "I stretched, iced, and went for massage, chiropractic, physical therapy, and acupuncture treatments," she says. "I was receiving the best treatments available. At times I was in the offices of other providers five or six times a week."
After nearly five years of rehabilitation, however, she was still in pain. Then she discovered kettlebells. After working out with this simple equipment for four to six weeks, her back pain disappeared and she felt more energetic than she had in years. "I continued my routine and soon was getting muscles all over," she says. "My abdominals were stronger than I could ever imagine. My body became strong, supported, and erect. I now use my body to the fullest, and my energy is through the roof. This allows me to see my chiropractic patients until 6:15 at night. After that, I teach a kettlebell class for an hour, four nights a week at my center in Olympia, Wash. I have more energy in my mid-40s than I did in my 20s."
A kettlebell is a cast-iron weight that resembles a cannonball with a single-looped handle attached to it. Kettlebells come in several sizes, ranging from a few pounds to over 100 pounds. Although they can be used for standard weight-training exercises such as bench presses, overhead presses, curls, and squats, perhaps their greatest value is derived from ballistic work, such as snatches, swings, cleans, and jerks that result in more functional power. (1)
Long known as a highly effective strength-training method in Eastern Europe, kettlebells are gaining in popularity in the U.S. as more people discover the work of Pavel Tsatsouline, the former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor who is considered the modern "king" of kettlebells. (2,3)
"Kettlebell workouts increase strength, endurance, agility, and balance by challenging both the muscular and cardiovascular systems with dynamic, total body movements," says Robert G. Silverman, DC, whose practice is in White Plains, N.Y. "A kettlebell is an all-in-one workout tool that develops all-around fitness and teaches kinetic linking. Kettlebells get you connected to the ground--drawing energy from the ground up and transferring the energy through to the shoulders to generate enough power to control the kettlebell movements. Kettlebell workouts also enhance awareness of posture, position, breath, and grip. I especially like the cardio component it provides. It's also easy to perform interval training principles (slow, fast, repeat)."
The center of gravity for a kettlebell is a little farther away from the grip than other types...