Why Kettlebells Are a Non-Negotiable
If you were stranded a desert island with Tom Hanks and you could only bring one piece of fitness equipment with you in the hopes of not dying early, you would be wise to choose
Wilson a heavy kettlebell. Here’s why, and here are the reasons why we include the kettlebell as part of P360’s training foundation.
Recall that we train four types of strength at P360, and the number one way we train explosive strength are the partial Olympic lifts and the kettlebell swing. Getting stronger and adding muscle is ultimately about motor unit recruitment (MUE), how much of your muscles you’re able to activate when training. Among multiple ways we can increase MUE, there are two worth illustrating for this example.
- We can lift heavy weight, slowly — For example, a 5R back squat progressively increased over four weeks.
- We can lift moderate weight, explosively — For example, a 70# kettlebell swing for twelve explosive reps.
By focusing on our explosive strength output in the swing, we’re targeting type-ii muscle fibers that make us strong and athletic.
The lats are a very important muscle in the body, acting as spinal stabilizers, the baseline for shoulder health, and facilitators of strength in absolutely every upper body that we perform (and lower body, believe it or not). It’s not an outlandish statement to say that every single kettlebell movement we perform at P360 trains them quite exceptionally.
- The swing — explosive prime movers
- The goblet and rack position — trained isometrically by holding heavy weight
- The overhead press — slow prime movers
Most people think of lats as the bro at the gym walking with his arms out to his side desperately trying to seem big, but in reality strong lats are really just about being properly activated. Strong lats and the ability to have them contribute to movement will always yield strong, and typically, healthy movers.
Ever shaken someone’s limp ass handshake and thought…”Ew.” That’s a very innate primal reading you’re making about someone because a weak grip is quite indicative of being a weak person, and someone who gives you the dead fish is basically, “Take my lunch money.”
You don’t need to greet people like Dutch and Dillon, but you do need to be strong with what you can hold. As we’ve written about, your grip is the gateway to the Central Nervous System which is your body’s internal motherboard for controlling strength output. Swings, carries, even goblet squats all stress our ability to hold onto the weight and that in and of itself is a major benefit just solely looking at the grip demand. If you have a strong grip there’s simply no physical way for you to be a weak human being.
Enhancing your grip strength is low hanging fruit to improve the strength across the rest of your training.
Whether the core is transferring force explosively in a swing from the lower body to the upper body, or it’s bracing your spine in a goblet squat, the core is an essential muscle system in all kettlebell movements. All you have to do is look at how the kettlebell is comprised to be able to conceptualize just how tough it is on the core. It’s a bowling bowl with a handle with the load incredibly condensed into a small object. It’s the reason they are so challenging to move and why they are so beneficial.
If abs are a goal of yours, ditch the extra crunches and move heavier kettlebells.
Time Under Tension
Time under tension is essentially how long your muscles are under load (stress) in a given movement, typically expressed by performing a high number of reps without stopping (12+ reps), a high total amount of work in a short amount of time (10′ density circuit), or performing a movement slower (tempo training). Our typical prescription of kettlebell movements at the gym is usually above ten reps, making it an excellent tool to build muscle and enhance conditioning with time under tension.
One of the fastest and most effective ways to build a firm backside is by dialing in your technique and your load on the kettlebell swing. While back squats, heavy lunges, and RDLs are all excellent to build a luscious booty, remember that we don’t just want slow, heavy movements to recruit and develop all of our muscles. We also want fast, explosive contractions. It’s about hitting both the type-i and the type-ii muscle fibers and developing the well rounded, athletic physique.
On the simple to complex spectrum, kettlebells are very easy to learn, they’re one of the safer tools we can use, and have the incredibly broad application to all things fitness and getting stronger. You’d have to pry them away from our cold, dead fingers.