by TJ Davis | August 12th, 2010 | Cardio, Strength Training

A kettlebell is a cast iron weight with a handle. Developed in Russia, the original kettlebells weighed approximately 35 pounds, but with the advancing popularity of kettlebell training in the US and abroad, the weights can be found ranging from 5 pounds to 175 pounds each. Used properly, kettlebells provide a great cardio workout and can also build strength and bulk.

What is unique about kettlebells as weights is that their center of mass is not fixed. This, and the handle, allow for swinging and releasing movements that are just not possible to do with traditional barbells. Because of the shifting center of mass in the kettlebells, balancing them requires the use of more micro-muscles, which proponents say leads to a better, more effective workout.

Like any weight, training with kettlebells can significantly improve your strength, stability and physique. Also similar to other weights, if kettlebells are not used in a balanced regimen, their use can create imbalances in strength and lead to joint and muscle pain. Injury can also easily occur if kettlebells are used with poor form, such as the bending of wrists and elbows, and hunching or rounding of the back. Keeping wrists and elbows straight during kettlebell exercises will ensure that the proper muscles are being used to lift and balance the weights. Trying to “assist” the targeted muscle groups by bending wrist or elbow defeats the purpose of the workout and will lead to injury. If you notice that you cannot keep your back straight – shoulders back, chest out – while training, it may be a sign that you are using too much weight or that you are fatigued.

If, before or at any time during your workout, you feel tired or fatigued, DO NOT use the kettlebells. Training with kettlebells is incredibly intense, and if you are not up to it, you cannot reap the full benefit of the workout and you risk serious injury.

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All health and fitness information is provided for educational purposes. Please consult with your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.