Scientifically Proven – Kettlebells Get Results!

By February 4, 2015Uncategorized

We have known Kettlebell training gets results for some time, but until recently there has been very little scientific literature to back it up.

This very popular resistance tool has been attributed to the success of many athletes and even movie stars such as Bruce Lee who famously trained with kettlebells throughout his career.

Until now, nobody had quantified the mechanics and back loading during kettlebell training and the transference of kettlebell training to Strength, Power and Endurance.

Recent articles in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research have demonstrated a multitude of benefits from Kettlebell training.

McGill et al. (1) used electromyography, ground reaction forces (GRF’s) and 3D kinematic data recorded during exercises using a 16kg kettlebell. These variables where then put into a biomechanical model that explained the muscle activation levels required, GRF’s and spine, knee and hip compression and shear loads. As you can tell this was a very detailed research project that goes a long way to explain the physical demands of Kettlebell training.

The results of the research clearly demonstrated that kettlebell swings are characterised by

  • Rapid muscle activation of the lower back extensors and gluteals (very important muscles for emphasising posterior chain power development), up to 80% of maximal voluntary contraction.
  • Abdominal muscle activation levels of over 68% of maximum levels were recorded during the kettlebell snatch exercise.
  • Unique loading patterns were observed during kettlebell swings such as the posterior shear of L4 vertebra on L5 which is opposite to that observed in a traditional deadlift.

(Provides an insight into why many people credit kettlebell swings with restoring and enhancing back health and function)

Manocchia et al. (2) from the LaPalestra Centre for Preventative Medicine in New York researched how kettlebell training transfers to strength, power and endurance. This is always a question asked by gym patrons and even professional athletes after doing non-functional exercise programs that are so commonly prescribed in gyms and football teams around the world. As I previously mentioned Kettlebells are a popular tool in many strength and conditioning programs and their benefits are widely touted on the internet and in books and videos. This study aimed to prove that kettlebell training can transfer to strength, power and muscular endurance in weightlifting and powerlifting exercises.

After a 10 week kettlebell training program doing 2 sessions per week, post testing results demonstrated a significant transfer of power and strength to the following exercises.

  • 3 repetition max for Clean and Jerk
  • 3 repetition max for Bench Press

The authors noted ‘The idea that a 10 week kettlebell training program results in significant improvements in clean and jerk and bench press highlights the fact that peak forces during kettlebell training may effectively transfer to a variety of explosive movements.’

Another study by Lake and Lauder (3), looked into the mechanical differences between kettlebell swings and traditional exercises the Back Squat and Jump Squat. Force plates were used to determine the power and force demands of the different exercises.

Kettlebell Swings were shown to produce higher power output than Squats and were very similar to Jump squats. This highlights the large power demands associated with Kettlebell swing exercises and how they can be effectively used to increase a person’s ability to rapidly apply force.

Practical Applications

  • Kettlebell training is fantastic for developing your posterior chain and the ability to produce power
  • Abdominal strength and power will be increased by kettlebell training
  • Kettlebell training could be an excellent idea for people who have had back problems and have struggled with traditional training methods
  • Kettlebell training can be used to improve your ability to perform weightlifting and powerlifting exercises
  • Try adding some Kettlebell swings to your program if you want to jump higher and run faster!

 

References

  1. McGill, SM, and Marshall, LW. Kettlebell swing, snatch, and bottoms-up carry: Back and hip muscle activation, motion, and low back loads.  J Strength Cond Res 26: 16-27, 2012.
  2. Manocchia, P, Spierer, DK, Lufkin, AKS, Minichiello, J and Castro, J. Transference of Kettlebell Training to strength power, and endurance.  J Strength Cond Res 27: 477-484, 2013.
  3. Lake, JP and Lauder, MA. Mechanical demands of kettlebell swing exercise. J Strength Cond Res: 26: 3209-16, 2012
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