How to Use Kettlebells for Strength Training

by Capt James Rodgers | March 01, 2023

The kettlebell is a common piece of gym equipment. For most of you, your ongoing experience with kettlebells is tripping over them while making your way to the squat rack or the platform. Except for novices, they do not have much value when it comes to getting stronger, since barbells are the superior tool for strength training due to their ergonomics and incremental loading. This prompts the question: what can you do with the set that you bought during COVID, still sitting in your garage in pristine condition? To help you out, the following will be my humble attempt to keep the materials and heat energy that went into making those kettlebells from going completely to waste. A kettlebell is mostly useless, but not completely useless. Here is a helpful list of things that you can use kettlebells for to enhance your strength training.

How To Prop Up Your Phone With a Kettlebell

Use a small kettlebell to prop up your phone to record your sets. An amazing advance in technology over the last fifteen years or so has been the transformation of the cell phone into a pocket computer with wireless internet and video recording device. This has a few implications for people who are training for strength. Use a kettlebell to prop up your phone to record lifts at an appropriate angle and submit the videos to a coach for review, regardless of geographic or scheduling constraints.

kettlebell supporting a phone for a video recording

For example, I have coached someone in Yellowknife, North-West Territories while in my home located in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Those two places are about 5,800km apart by road, so remote video coaching is advantageous. Something that secures the camera is essential to make all of this possible, since a smart phone will not stand up on its end all by itself. The kettlebell’s flat bottom, smooth rounded surfaces, mass and convenient handle make it a versatile prop for resting your phone against while you do your fives.

Using Kettlebells to Hold Down a Squat Stand

Use heavy kettlebells to weigh down loose squat racks. The optimal squat rack is one that is bolted to the floor or to the platform. Unfortunately, that is not always available, so you are faced with the situation of dealing with a squat stand that can move around on a platform. One thing that you can do to make it less of a bad deal is to put something heavy on the legs to keep the thing from moving around when you’re unracking and racking the weights. Once again the kettlebell’s benign mass and favorable geometry will come to the rescue. The large kettlebell’s spherical shape, flat bottom and chunky handle mean that there is a fair bit of mass (and resultant weight) that can be concentrated over a single point, making is more efficient for holding down the legs of the mobile squat rack without taking up that much floor space.  

kettlebells used to weigh down squat stands and increase their stability

Use a Kettlebell for Companionship

I have named this one “Lalo.” Strength training can require you to take a really long time resting which means that you’re going to be sitting around a lot. Long rest periods are important because the intent of the program is to add weight to the bar as fast as possible for as long as possible. The downside of this approach is that you can spend a lot of time waiting around in between sets, and during this time your mind can… wander. A psychologically healthy thing to do is to get someone to talk to, but since there is a good chance that you’re doing this all on your own, and are already sort of a weirdo, the logical thing to do is to make a new friend out of a kettlebell. Feel free to dress yours up with a face if you want. Your new kettlebell friend will never wander off, get bored or ask you how many sets you have left, because it is a chunk of metal. Be warned that if it starts talking back to you, seek help.

kettlebell humanized with a drawn on face and wearing a hat

Kettlebells Make Excellent Focal Points

Use brightly colored kettlebells as focal points when doing your squats, deadlifts, cleans and snatches. A very important part of training for strength is remaining balanced. This lets you execute the lifts in the most mechanically efficient manner possible, enabling the use of the heaviest weight which elicits the greatest strength adaptation. When lifting there is a temptation to look around, which diminishes the contribution that vision makes to staying balanced. Using a brightly colored kettlebell to concentrate on fixes this, since the lifter will be looking at a high-contrast object that is close by on the floor. Gaze direction is also important in the squat and the pulls because the gaze determines head position which affects the torso angle.

Use the Kettlebell to Make the Weak-Willed and Lazy Leave the Squat Rack

To train properly, you will need the proper equipment. There will be a limited number of squat racks and benches available at commercial gyms, since those things are used by people who train seriously, and people who show up to train seriously don’t make commercial gyms money. However, if you’re okay with being dishonest to prey on the weak-willed and lazy, tell the person on the rack that he doesn’t need to do hard stuff like squats and bench presses to get big and strong, the secret is to use Perislavitch Tzerinyoukostautchis’ forbidden Bashkortostani kettlebell routine to quadruple barometric workflow output. Demonstrate a few exotic moves to entice the weak-willed and lazy into leaving the squat rack so you can do some actual work.

james demonstrates super secret kettlebell bosu contraption training

Some Money is Better Than No Money

Sell your kettlebells to offset the cost of buying a proper home gym. I am sure that almost everyone has a few of these things.. The good news is that there are people willing to buy these things. Selling your kettlebells won’t pay for a set of quality equipment, but it will cover some of the sales tax.

In short: kettlebells are mostly useless, but not completely useless. Just mostly useless.

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