What does kettlebell training do for your body?

Let’s talk kettlebell training. There’s TONS of options for exercise out there. I’m a big fan of picking the right tool for the job, so let’s talk about what kettlebells can do for you. Keep reading to learn how. (Plus get my FREE pdf kettlebell equipment guide!)

Kettlebells are a form of functional training that makes everything else in your life feel easier.

Kettlebells are a form of strength training. The foundational kettlebell skills are based on functional movement patterns – aka movements that are required for daily life and most sports.

This includes squatting, hinging, pulling, pushing, lunging, and gait.

…and if you do these exercises, you get all the core training you need without extra exercises. 😉

Kettlebell training is particularly effective for functional strength, because of the shape of the handle. It mimics what you might have to carry in day to day. A good example of this are kettlebell farmer carriers. They mimic carrying heavy grocery bags! Another example are kettlebell deadlifts, which teach you how to hinge and pick heavy things off of the ground. (This post explains how to do a kettlebell deadlift the right way!)

Another bonus of kettlebells? They’re convenient AF. You can get an incredible, full body strength workout at home with as few as 2 kettlebells. 

Kettlebells can help you maintain or increase muscle mass 

If you’re in the “Oh gawd, I don’t want to maintain or gain muscle!” camp, I’m so sorry that fitness influencer culture has taught you to fear something essential for your health. Strength work can also help you feel good and support aesthetic goals. So let’s discuss why muscle is a GOOD thing and what “kind” of body kettlebells might give you.

Kettlebell training involves whole body movement and strength – aka functional training. This means the exercises target multiple muscle groups at once. They also use heavy enough weights to build strength and maintain or put on a small amount of muscle (“tone.”)

This is the sweet spot for those of us who don’t aspire bodybuilders. As we age we lose muscle (sarcopenia). This results in less strength, increased pain, and decreased independence as we get older. It’s also helpful if you have an aesthetic goal, as it supports looking a bit more muscular or “toned” without living in the gym.

Kettlebells may improve or maintain bone density

Muscle isn’t the only thing that women lose as we age. We also lose bone mass. When we lose enough of it, it results in osteopenia and osteoporosis and an increased risk of fracturing your hip or spine. Not fun. Strength training exercises, including kettlebell exercises, can place enough mechanical stress (this is GOOD stress!) on the bones to stimulate your bone forming cells for stronger bones. 

If you’re wondering if Pilates reformer or yoga is enough to build your muscles and bones, it’s unlikely. This is because you need a certain amount stimulus to activate your bone forming cells. While there are lots of benefits to yoga and Pilates, neither provides enough mechanical stress to stimulate bone production for the majority of people. So while what you’re doing may be challenging or may provide a certain amount of strength, it’s not the right kind of stimulus to get the job done if you are looking specifically at bone health. 

Training with kettlebells may decrease pain and risk of injury

One of the biggest myths about strength training is that lifting heavier weights is dangerous or will hurt you. Ironically, the opposite is true! At this point, there is extensive research and data supporting the idea that strength training improves tissue, bone, and muscle health, while also decreasing the incidents if injury, which makes sense, because healthy tissues tend to be less fragile. 

Beyond that, there’s strong evidence that strength training can decrease pain, because it strengthens central pain inhibitory pathways, which is a fancy way of saying that it makes you less sensitive or less likely to experience pain.

If you have a history of pain or injury, I totally get why you may be hesitant to try kettlebells. BUT it’s worth noting that there are a lot of ways to modify the exercises to make them work for your body. There’s nothing wrong with mastering technique first and increasing the weight second. Strength is a long game.

Want to learn the full benefits of strength training from a research perspective? This 2020 academic paper in Sports Medicine is excellent. This paper also discusses how strength training can improve heart health beyond cardio alone and help with blood pressure regulation. Suffice to say, there are many benefits to lifting weights!

Kettlebell training can improve your flexibility and mobility

Another no-good-very-bad myth about strength training is that it makes you stiff and inflexible. The opposite is true. Especially with kettlebells!

Kettlebell exercises, such as Turkish get-ups, deadlifts, and goblet squats, require moving through large ranges of motion with weight. When you do this, you increase your strength and flexibility, aka mobility.

So, while it’s great to do mobility work or stretching outside of kettlebells, you may see improvements in flexibility and mobility from kettlebells alone.

In summary, kettlebells are an efficient, effective, and functional way to get all of the aforementioned benefits of strength training with limited equipment, which is perfect if you’re just starting out or want to strength train at-home.