Friday, October 25, 2013

How Do I Choose the Right Sized Kettlebell?

With so many sizes to choose from which kettlebell is right for you?
Selecting the right sized kettlebell can be a bit of a challenge.  Like the dumbbell and the medicine ball, the kettlebell comes in a wide range of sizes.  Some are manufactured in pounds [usually 5lb increments] and some in kilograms [in 2kg or 4kg increments].  With multiple choices in weight, can we make some recommendations on what size is best to start with?

The short answer is...yes.  When choosing weights with a few things in mind, even having 3-4 different sized kettlebells can be more than enough to keep your training varied and intense.

Let's break down the major movements for a moment.  When lifting a kettlebell with one hand there are three primary points on the body that you can lift it - to the hip, to the shoulder, and overhead.  You are at your strongest when moving weight from the ground to your hip - as in the deadlift.  Bringing the weight to your shoulder, as in the clean, will be your second strongest position.  And moving a kettlebell overhead will be the most challenging position requiring the most effort as in the snatch, push press, or push jerk.  All common sense stuff...  Sure, there's the swings and figure-eights.  But even those movements still focus on moving the weight to or around a certain area of the body.

In order to keep the movements challenging but not out of your strength range, we suggest three different weights or sizes of kettlebells are necessary.  We'll call them Heavy [to the hip], Moderate [to the shoulder], and Overhead.  Notice we didn't call that last one Light... picking up light things won't challenge you and won't change you.  An appropriately sized kettlebell for any one of these movements should be a challenge after a few reps.  

For those new to kettlebell training, we suggest you begin with an Overhead kettlebell weight.  This size kettlebell will keep all of your movement options open - to the hip, shoulder or overhead, and it's a great size for warmups.  With the Overhead kettlebell weight, you can concentrate on proper form in the movement before adding too much of a challenge.

Sample Workout with Heavy, Moderate or Overhead weight:

4 rounds
20 Kettlebell Short Swings[Heavy] or Cleans [Moderate] or Shoulder Press [Overhead]
20 Pullups
20 Double Unders / 100 Single Unders

With a workout like this in mind, choose a weight that makes you feel that after Round Two, this workout was a bad idea.  Seriously.  That means the weight was challenging.

You don't have to have three kettlebells on Day One to get a great workout.  If there's room in the budget for one to start, grab the Moderate or the Overhead first.  Either of those will open up the most amount of exercises from the very beginning.  And, should you start with the Moderate weight, as your strength increases, the kettlebells can shift up the 'ladder' or graduate to the next level.  The Moderate weight now becomes the Overhead and you replace the old kettlebell with a heavier one.

See our Kettlebell selection here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Many Uses for the Medicine Ball

The Medicine Ball has a lot more to offer than just the Wall Ball exercise.  Walk in any functional fitness gym and you will find them piled up against a wall or, more likely, in use!  If this sport has taught us anything, it’s the fact that any exercise can be intensified and it doesn’t take a boatload of expensive machinery to do it.  We love the Medicine Ball so much that we've incorporated it into all of our Equipment Packages and counted it in our Top 5 Equipment Items you should own.  No gym should be without this versatile item.

It is true that for the most part, the Wall Ball is the most widely programmed exercise for the medicine ball and some might think that's a large investment for a small return.  But, there are tons of other uses for the Medicine Ball in your programming.  And even though the you might not include the Medicine Ball as frequently as say, the pullup, it is much more friendly and useful than many give it credit for.

The medicine ball is, in fact, a very universal piece of equipment that, when incorporated into the proper exercise can challenge even the best athlete, yet it’s soft exterior makes it a little less daunting to the beginner.  Even kids like the medicine ball - they can throw it, kick it and carry it.  What’s more fun [and safe] for a kid?

Uses for the Medicine Ball

  1. The Wall Ball - The most widely known use for the medicine ball.  Face the wall with the ball gripped in front of the chest with both hands.  Perform a deep squat and as you stand throw the ball to either a 9 foot or 10 foot target on the wall above.
  2. Body Squats - Intensify the air squat by holding the medicine ball in front of the chest.
  3. Sit Ups - Some of the benefits of a GHD can be gained by using a medicine ball in the sit up.  From the sit up position, extend your arms overhead to grab the ball behind you.  Keep your arms overhead while raising your upper body.  To increase difficulty, sit in front of a wall and throw the ball to a point on the wall equal to your height.
  4. Lunges - The lunge is an excellent warmup exercise.  Add a medicine ball hoisted overhead to add intensity.
  5. Back Extensions - Keep the ball tucked to your chest while performing back extensions either from standing or on a Glute Ham Developer.
  6. Weighted Pulls - Squeezed between the ankles or knees, you can add weight to pull-ups, dips, V-Ups, Knees to Elbows or Muscle Ups.
  7. Squat Training - the Dynamax Medicine Ball measures in at 14" in diameter which is also a great indicator of proper squat depth.  Keep one of these behind you when performing Air Squats to ensure you are going low enough.
  8. Training for the Clean - excellent to incorporate in a warmup or to learn technique, using a medicine ball for cleans and squat cleans is a great way to encourage that muscle memory with a light weight.
  9. Overhead Squats - Again, a great way to intensify this exercise or to graduate from a PVC stick before moving to a bar.
  10. Partner Throws - The medicine ball can be used to train more explosive movements when used with a partner as well.  With two athletes facing each other in the sit up position, have them throw the ball to each other as they reach the top of the sit up movement.  The catching partner catches from the top position, lays back and coils up to throw.  Add intensity by moving the partners further away from each other, or adding plyo boxes between them.
  11. Russian Twists - also known as Kayak Sit Ups, move the medicine ball from one side to the other.  Add intensity by keeping the feet off the floor with knees bent and further add difficulty by trying to keep the legs straight with feet off the floor.