Kettlebell workouts a good way to increase strength, stamina

James Wilson of Elite Training Solutions Demos kettleball training



James Wilson of Elite Training Solutions demostrates kettleball training



The kettlebell workout is based on progression by regression, using an instrument to get away from weight machines and return to the basics of weight training.

The kettlebell is starting to regain popularity in the physical training world after being one of the most commonly used weight tools in the early part of the 20th century.

Nothing more than weight with a handle, the kettlebell is a traditional Russian training tool that has been used by professional football teams like the Tennessee Titans as a way to return to old-school weight training.

In the Grand Valley, one of the supporters of kettlebells is James Wilson, the owner of Elite Training Solutions.

Elite Training Solutions is a bare-bones facility that is not packed with equipment, but instead focuses on movement in open spaces for its training techniques. Kettlebells are not all Wilson uses, but they are a major part of his weight training. 

“If it is used properly, it can be great,” Wilson said. “You can do pretty much anything with a dumbbell that you can do with a kettlebell, but what makes the kettlebell nice is new people are forced to be mindful with the movements.”

In a mindset that goes back to original strongman competitions, kettlebells are more about technique and stamina than about how much weight someone can lift. Exercises like the swing and the Turkish getup, two of the more popular kettlebell routines, put focus on more muscles in the routine.

In the “swing” exercise, the person grasps the handle of the kettlebell with both hands and swings the weight up and down, focusing more on driving the weight up with the hips and keeping the core (the torso) engaged and less on putting stress on the shoulders.

Wilson said the swing can help increase anyone’s fitness and athletic ability.

“The swing is a beautiful exercise,” Wilson said. “It is one of the most athletic things you can do. If you want to jump farther, run faster and basically be a better athlete, learning how to do the swing properly can be great.”

The “Turkish getup” incorporates multiple movements into one exercise. It starts with the person lying on his or her back with the weight in one arm raised off the floor.

The individual goes through five different motions, from the lying position to standing up, then returning to the lying position, all while keeping the weight above the head.

It is a exercise that keeps the body under tension without working one particular muscle group.

“Kettlebells come from a sport background (competitions in Russia of who can do the most reps in a certain amount of time) and it is based on technique and execution,” Wilson said. “I love working with dumbbells, but for most people it is just a dumbbell. They have this thought about it: ‘I do three sets of 10,’ so kettlebells are completely foreign. They are more willing to learn with the kettlebells.”

One local youngster has experienced the difference lifting with kettlebells can make.

Owen Taylor was one of the key cogs in the Grand Mesa Major Boys baseball team’s run to the Little League Southwest Regional. Taylor has been training with Wilson since January and saw major improvement over the past baseball season in his ability.

“I had never seen kettlebells before, but they worked big-time,” said Taylor, 13. “I went from hitting bloopers to being able to hit 280-foot shots.”

Kettlebells have built strength for Taylor, but they weren’t the only thing he had been using. Wilson stresses that although kettlebells are gaining popularity and he likes to use them, they are not the answer to all fitness questions.

“There are people who will tell you that kettlebells are the way and just by touching a kettlebell you melt fat and build muscle, but that is not true,” Wilson said. “We teach people how to move, then add load, and kettlebells help a lot with those movement-based exercises.”

Kettlebells can also be expensive. One kettlebell can range from $30 to $130 (sportsauthority.com) depending on the weight.

“There are so many different ways that work,” Wilson said. “But if someone has some talent of coaching how to use kettlebells, it can be huge.”


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