If you've followed my column, you no doubt know by now that I don't like fads. Fads in fitness do little more than cause injury and exacerbate existing postural distortions that lead to injury. The human body has not changed, nor will it, so there is no machine or gimmick that will suddenly appear on the market and instantly give you firm glutes and six-pack abs.
That said, let's delve into the newer world of kettle bell training. Kettle bells have been around for years. They came to us from the former Soviet-bloc countries and have long been used by strength and power athletes. They are used to generate power and speed while providing an external stimulus that is unstable and slightly unbalanced. A lifter is able to swing and use momentum, which is not possible with a dumbbell. The additional range of motion that can be attained with the kettle bell allows deeper activation of certain muscles, particularly the core and abdominal wall.
Now, we all know there is no way to exercise specifically for public safety. No two calls or situations are ever the same, and we must use balance, coordination, pushing, pulling, lifting and agility with every response. The kettle bell can be a powerful adjunct for staying fit and strong throughout your career. Disclaimer (and there is always one): Kettle bells are for advanced lifters only. If you do not have full range of motion, flexibility and balance, the risk of injury is simply too high to gain any benefit from the kettle bell. So go back through our article archives and practice stability and flexibility first.
The trick to kettle bell training is to use a balance of force/momentum and speed, but keep it under total control. Strict attention to body position and joint positioning is key; the risk of doing these exercises wrong is high. Avoid any back extension and knee locking, and please be sure to not use a weight that is too heavy. These suckers are available from 4 to 100 lbs. and up! In my facilities we generally use the 12-, 35- and 60-lb. kettle bells, and occasionally use the 80-lb. for outdoor lifts and paramilitary-type training. The exercises I've included are some of the basic and safe lifts we can perform. Next month I will delve a bit deeper into the more complicated lifts. If you do not have a kettle bell, you can use a dumbbell for these basic movements. Good luck, and be safe.
Kettle bell row: With your back flat and chin tucked, row the kettle bell to your side, pause and return to the start position. Keep your back flat and chin tucked, and do not shrug.
Kettle bell sumo squat: With a stance wider than hip width, hold the kettle bell between your legs. Slowly squat to parallel, pause and return to the start position. Avoid locking your knees, keep your back flat and head up, and do not lean forward.
Kettle bell single-leg reach to row: Standing on one leg, position your body as shown. This exercise is the same as the kettle bell row, except balance and stability are keys. Keep the extended leg still and the balance leg in a half squat.
Sets: 2-3, Reps: 10-20. Control and speed are the keys to these exercises. Pay strict attention to body and joint position. Perform these movements once a week. The rest of the time, follow a normal fitness routine.
Bryan Fass is the author of "Fit Responder," a comprehensive wellness plan for the first responder (www.fitresponder.com) and the Fit Responder Blog (www.fitresponder.wordpress.com). Bryan has a Bachelor's Degree in Sports Medicine and is certified as a licensed athletic trainer and a strength and conditioning specialist. He was a paramedic for over eight years, and has authored four books regarding fitness, wellness and human performance. Bryan is available for consulting and speaking on Public Safety Fitness Testing along with Fitness, Wellness and Injury Prevention Programs. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.