Kettlebells have become a very important and enjoyable part of my training. The kettlebell originated in Russia, and resembles a cannonball with a handle. It also somewhat resembles a kettle (albeit an extremely solid and heavy one), and no doubt “kettlebell” is a catchier name than “cannonballbell”.
Because of its size and shape, the kettlebell can be used in a very wide variety of exercises, including traditional lifts such as presses, cleans, squats, etc. It can also be used in less-familiar exercises particularly well-suited to the kettlebell, such as swings, which work the whole posterior chain of muscles. With some knowledge and practice, k-bells can help develop a variety of athletic qualities, including brute strength, muscular endurance, and balance. It’s handy to have a way to do serious weight-bearing exercise at home without requiring large equipment that wastes space! It’s also small enough that I frequently bring one on trips.
While it is true that dumbbells can be used in a similar manner, the unique shape of the kettlebell offers some advantages. I find that the kettlebell handle is better suited to accomodate both one-hand and two-hand lifts. Also, lifts where the k-bell rests on the forearm provide some unique lifting options and angles. Lastly, there are also certain exercises in which the ends of the dumbbell may hit your legs or other parts of your body, whereas the k-bell’s rounded shape alleviates this problem.
Kettlebells have had a big surge in popularity in the last couple years. There are now several companies that sell them. One disadvantage of k-bells is that because of their design, when you want a kettlebell with a heavier weight, you have to buy another one, and they’re not cheap! Great for kettlebell salesmen, but not for you! It’s also worth mentioning that when you buy a kettlebell and have it shipped to you, the shipping costs are VERY high.
[Note: Excuse me, shameless plug coming up!] One company has solved this problem. Kettlestack sells a special handle to which you attach weight plates that you can buy very cheaply at any fitness store. Then if you want to do an exercise with more weight (or less!), you simply change the plates instead of buying another kettlebell. The handle is extremely well-designed and sturdy, and can accomodate up to 90 lbs.! I have two of these, have a lot of fun using them, and have attained excellent measurable training benefits.