Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on November 16, 2008
The last time I went to a personal trainer, he tried to talk me into buying one of those big medicine balls. He said it was one of the most versatile exercise tools around. All you needed was a wall to balance on / bounce off and you could work on your six-pack, improve core strength and build up your legs.
I didn’t buy one. Instead I bought a treadmill. I wanted something that basically did the work for me. All I had to do was turn it on and walk on it. No bouncing or balancing required.
Bad choice. The treadmill is really boring and completely un-“G”. If only the trainer had recommended the Russian kettlebell.
Never heard of it? That’s okay, neither had I. But after a little research, I want one.
What is it? It’s a traditional cast iron weight that some believe is the only piece of fitness equipment you’ll ever need. According to The Russian Kettlebell Challenge, it replaces “barbells, dumbbells, belts for weighted pullups and dips, thick bars, lever bars, medicine balls, grip devices, and cardio equipment.” And the official Soviet armed forces strength training manual says kettlebell workouts are among the “most effective means of strength development”.
It looks sort of like a cannonball with a handle. And unlike my treadmill, it’s portable, versatile and free to operate. But does it work? According to Wikipedia, kettlebell workouts “increase strength, endurance, agility and balance, challenging both the muscular and cardiovascular system with dynamic, total-body movements.”
It seems the kettlebell will help you lose weight or build you up, depending on the way you use it. And apparently it’s such an amazing tool that some owners have been known to give them names or even tattoo them onto their kettlebell-toned bodies.
Wow. That’s quite an endorsement.
While the word “kettlebell” first appeared in a Russian dictionary in 1704, it gained popularity in the last century after being heralded by Pavel Tsatsouline, a former physical training instructor for the Soviet Special Forces and World Champion Valery Fedorenko.
The kettlebell comes in a variety of sizes but the most common is 1 pood. (A pood is a Russian measurement amounting to roughly 16kg or 35 lbs.) Doesn’t sound heavy enough? You can always try the 53-pounder, the standard Russian military size. Or if you want to be a he-man, there’s a 70 and an 88.
And to help you learn how to use your new kettleball, Tsatsouline has a series of books and videos that provide instruction. Or if you’re in Los Angeles, you can train with a master. Venice Beach based Kettlebell Boxing is an outdoor training group run by Alex Stowell, who says “kettlebells are like weightlifting times ten.” They offer six different programs.
According to one of his websites, Stowell and his wife are “minimalists, environmentalists, animal lovers, artists, and well tuned athletes.” He’s also a Soviet Strength Training Specialist and certified Kettlebell instructor who competes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Oh, and he’s a musician, too. He plays metal.
Not only is that way cooler than my treadmill, it’s way more “G”. I’m calling him today.