Sunday, June 17, 2012

Occupying the Middle Ground of Fitness With Kettlebells

This is another plea of mine to get people to take a more balance approach to fitness. The extremes of volume and intensity are just that, extremes. In the long term, it is far more beneficial to “occupy the middle ground” of fitness, and not the extreme ends of power and strength or of endurance.

I do have great admiration for ultra-endurance and power athletes, and I in no way want to insinuate that their achievements are anything less than spectacular. However, this type of over-specialization ultimately leads to injuries and physical limitations, and is not appropriate for most people. There are points of diminishing returns from ever increasing volume or intensity.

So what are some approaches to “occupying the middle ground” of fitness? There’s CrossFit, this “middle ground” idea is very much a part of core CrossFit concepts. However, CrossFit has its own form of exercise extremism. Another approach is the use of kettlebells, and if you have been reading my blog much in the past few months, you know that I’ve been touting the use of kettlebells for general fitness and as an excellent supplement to running.

There have been some studies recently that indicate that kettlebell training firmly “occupies the middle ground” of fitness, and these studies completely jive with my experiences in the use of kettlebells. They are good for cardio workouts but not as good as running. They are good at building strength but not as good as standard barbells.

My interpretation of these studies is that when working out with kettlebells you are automatically not over-specializing, and that you are probably forced to address more than one aspect of fitness when using kettlebells. One important thing that was not addressed by these studies was the potential benefits from emphasis on proper movement and technique required for kettlebell training. I believe this emphasis on proper movement and technique offers a whole host of less tangible benefits that standard weight training can’t provide equally as well.

One last important point that I want to make is that there is no magic bullet when it comes to fitness including kettlebell training. Every exercise modality has its strengths and its limitations. It is never a good idea to do exclusively one type of exercise. Variety is important, and in my experience, kettlebells can be an excellent way to add that variety, but certainly not the only way.

One final note - I don't usually like to quote scientific studies on my blog, particularly if I have not read them first hand. Unfortunately, there are too many people out there misquoting scientific studies, and doing a lot of harm in the process. If the reader feels that I have quoted these studies inappropriately, please feel free to chime in and tell me.

Links: 
How effective are kettlebell workouts?

Kettlebells for Cardio and/or Strength

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