In my opinion, the kettlebell is one of the best tools for developing strength and endurance. One kettlebell is really all you need to take your fitness to the next level.
The key to a successful relationship with your kettlebell is knowledge. The more you learn about and practice proper form, the more gains you’ll make with fitness while minimizing your risk for injury.
There are many sources of kettlebell knowledge, Cavemantraining.com being one of them, and several different styles of kettlebell training. My goal is to help you understand the differences between four different styles of kettlebell training:
Hardstyle Kettlebell Training
Let’s start with Hardstyle because that’s my background and that’s what I have the most experience in.
Hardstyle training is mostly composed of two different types of kettlebell lifts – grinds and ballistics.
Grinding exercises are slow and require lots of total body tension, like overhead presses and squats. In this style of training the more tension you can generate, the more strength you can apply to a given lift.
On the flip side, we also have ballistic, or explosive exercises like swings, cleans, and snatches. In these exercises, you go in and out of tension and relaxation during specific parts of each movement.
Relaxation promotes speed, helps with endurance, and allows for more flexibility. During the swing, for example, you explode up from the starting position while staying somewhat relaxed, you then hit a hard contraction at the top of the swing to fully express your power and then relax a bit as you go into your backswing. Rinse, lather, repeat. Always repeat.
Hardstyle breathing is also a distinguishing characteristic of this style. This type of breathing pattern helps to create intra-abdominal pressure, which provides a stable environment for the spine. You inhale through your nose during the negative or eccentric part of the lift and then exhale through your teeth making a hissing sound during the positive or concentric portion of the lift. For example, during a swing, you would inhale through your nose when the bell goes between your legs and then exhale at the top of the swing when you forcefully contract your abs, glutes, and quads.
Hardstyle kettlebell training can be good for athletic performance and general fitness goals like weight loss and strength. Spend time honing your technique and you’ll have rewarding workouts for the rest of your life.
Kettlebell Sport is an endurance style of training. This style is geared toward competing in specific events and competitions that are held worldwide.
One of the goals of this style is to become very efficient in your technique so that you’re able to conserve your energy and continue performing reps for long periods of time.
This is one of the major differences between Sport and Hardstyle. Sport is more efficient in terms of energy use, where Hardstyle is less efficient because the goal is power production. It’s like long-distance running (Sport) versus sprinting (Hardstyle).
Kettlebell Sport could also be great for general fitness goals like weight loss and strength. Focus on learning proper form first before you go try and set personal records.
First, let’s acknowledge that Kettlebell Juggling is super cool and impressive!
I’ve played around with Kettlebell Juggling, but I’m certainly not an expert. Writing this blog has actually inspired me to get back into it when the weather warms up, but I digress.
I’ve seen Juggling experts use both Hardstyle and Sports techniques in their practice, so I would recommend using the style that feels most comfortable for you.
Juggling can be a great compliment to both Hardstyle and Sports training and provide some nice variety while having fun with your kettlebell as you flip it around in the air. It’s also a great stand-alone workout as it trains strength, endurance and really emphasizes eye-hand coordination, which is important for everyone regardless of their fitness level.
This style can be done by anyone, but there are a few things to consider before you get started. First, make sure the environment you’re juggling your kettlebells in can handle the bell falling to the floor. Juggling outside in the grass, on the sand or dirt may be the safest environment. Second, make sure you know how to swing a kettlebell because if you don’t understand the basics of the Hardstyle or Sport style swing, then you’ll have a hard time flipping the bell around.
Kettlebell flows are a series of exercises done back-to-back without rest. They usually consist of two or more exercises. You would perform one rep of an exercise, transition to another exercise for one rep, transition to another exercise for one rep, and repeat depending on how many exercises you’ve selected. This can be done with a single bell or even with double bells.
This is a fantastic way to do a total body workout in a time-efficient manner. You can hit so many different muscle groups and movements within one flow. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced kettlebell practitioner, flows are a great way to improve your strength and conditioning.
Kettlebell flows can be performed with either the Hardstyle or Sport style technique. Again, make sure you’ve mastered your form before attempting a Flow workout. The more you improve your form, the more progress you’ll see over a longer period of time.
As someone who comes from a Hardstyle background, Flows are very similar to chains, but not to be confused with complexes. Chains and complexes could be a topic for another day.
All of the styles can help you reach your fitness goals, and one isn’t better than another. They’re just different. They are good at the right time for the right goal. If you want to compete in Kettlebell Sport, then train in the Sport style. If you want to get a Hardstyle Kettlebell certification, train in Hardstyle.
I hope this blog has helped you understand the differences between the various styles of kettlebell training. The most important factor for each style is to learn proper form. Once you do that, you’ll have rewarding workouts for the rest of your life.
Ryan Jankowitz, RKC II