Simple But Not Simplistic – The Benefits of Kettlebell Training

This is a guest post from Josh Hanagarne, a fantastic blogger over at World’s Strongest Librarian. I have no doubt in my mind that Josh REALLY is the world’s strongest librarian.  He’s also one hell of a writer and a great guy.  Take it away, Josh!

Screen shot 2009-10-20 at 9.23.38 PMIf I never made myself stand up, my job would never require it of me.  I am a librarian.  This means I sit at a desk, answer phones, answer questions, and do a lot of typing.  In your head, what do I look like?  You might be picturing an elderly woman with her hair in a bun.  Or perhaps a portly man in his late forties, with a poorly tied necktie and sweat stains in his armpits.

Let me tell you about my desk. It probably looks a lot like yours.  It is made of wood and is covered in papers and books.  Underneath it, however, lurks a sinister army of Russians.  Every time a get a break, and every time I take lunch, I pull my kettlebells out from under my desk and I get to work.

I am 6’8” and weigh upwards of 230 lbs. I have very low body fat and I am strong as hell.  I am also a bookish nerd.

I owe it all—except my height and my learnin’—to kettlebells.  A simple iron ball with a handle on it.  Simple, but not simplistic.

Benefits of Kettlebell Exercise

Usable Strength – Kettlebell movements force your body to move in the way it was intended.  Your body does not need to do bicep curls, and the movement rarely occurs naturally in the wild.  Kettlebells make you pull, push, twist, deadlift, and snap your hips.  They produce the ability to generate strength over and over and over.  Endurance and power.

If you want to be strong, nothing is more important than mastering full-body tension.  Tension is what protects your spine when you pick up the laundry basket.  Tension is self awareness.  Tension is king in the strength game.  Tension is useful.  Kettlebells will help you get control of your body and make it do what it is supposed to.

Fat Loss – Kettlebell work is either fast and furious or slow and grinding.  The effort required for long sets of snatches and swings turns your body into a furnace where fat is not welcome.  The grinding effort required for pressing builds muscle.  Muscle burns fat.

Simple but not simplistic.

Focus – If you read a bodybuilding magazine, you will probably read about the “mind-muscle connection.” This is just another way of saying “focus on what you’re doing and you’ll do it better.”  And yet, every time I’m in a traditional gym, I see groups of thin men in tank tops doing millions of curls, all while watching the gyrating ladies in the aerobics class.

That’s the wrong sort of focus.

When you are using a kettlebell, you will pay attention or you will pay the price.  You will learn to focus and connect your body and mind.  They will both thank you for it.

Portability – If I can take one kettlebell to the public library and annihilate myself in ten minutes at lunch, you’ll probably be able to fit it in somewhere as well.  I love barbells and bodyweight work and heavy squats, but you can’t take that stuff everywhere with you.

You can get a lot of work done with a 35 lb kettlebell.  And it’s small enough to fit into the drawer of a desk.

I could go on all day, but lunch is quickly approaching and I have some work to do while the other people in the building play on Twitter for the next hour.

-Josh Hanagarne

Get Stronger, Get Smarter, Live Better…Every Day

About the Author: Josh Hanagarne is the twitchy giant behind World’s Strongest Librarian, a blog about living with Tourette’s Syndrome, book recommendations, kettlebells,  buying pants when you’re 6’8”, old-time strongman training, and much more. Please subscribe to Josh’s RSS Updates to sty in touch.

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  • http://worldsstrongestlibrarian.com/ Josh Hanagarne

    Steve, thanks for letting me crash the party here. I love your blog and everything it stands for. Keep it up and stay in touch.

  • http://worldsstrongestlibrarian.com/ Josh Hanagarne

    Steve, thanks for letting me crash the party here. I love your blog and everything it stands for. Keep it up and stay in touch.

  • Freedom

    First time I tried kettleweights was emulating the 300 workout.. doing the diagonal lift from the floor to an extended arm raise.. and the full-body movement felt so much more natural than so many forced exercises we’re accustomed to. Definitely need to do more of those types of workouts. Nice article btw!

  • Freedom

    First time I tried kettleweights was emulating the 300 workout.. doing the diagonal lift from the floor to an extended arm raise.. and the full-body movement felt so much more natural than so many forced exercises we’re accustomed to. Definitely need to do more of those types of workouts. Nice article btw!

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  • Jessica Goh

    Sorry I found this post so much later! Any alternatives if you can’t find a kettlebell or if your gym doesn’t have one? I have a pair of them at home, but each weighs only 6kg and I’ve just about outgrown them. Any ideas?

  • Jessica Goh

    Sorry I found this post so much later! Any alternatives if you can’t find a kettlebell or if your gym doesn’t have one? I have a pair of them at home, but each weighs only 6kg and I’ve just about outgrown them. Any ideas?

  • Krieghart

    There are some hollow kettlebells designed to be filled with different mediums so you can tailor the weight to your needs using household materials like sand, water, BBs, or ball bearings. Otherwise I’d say it’s time to step up to 12kg and plan on 4kg increments going forward. You won’t need to go beyond 16kg unless you want to develop some athlete level strength. At 12 and 16kg you’ll be able to have maximum intensity.

  • http://www.stylegirlfriend.com Style Girlfriend

    Just read this article while researching a piece for Style Girlfriend..great getting your perspective on the workout, Josh!