The Movement Advantage

EXCERPT FROM E-BOOK “THE MOVEMENT ADVANTAGE” WRITTEN BY SARA STOVER FOR KETTLEBELL KINGS

The use of kettlebell exercises in workouts will build strength, burn calories, and establish the foundation for a lifelong health and fitness program. Beyond these well-known benefits, kettlebell training also helps its user move better in daily activities.

A common misconception is that if calories are burned and muscle is built, then a workout is improving the health of the entire body. This is not consistently the case, as many individuals who are active in exercise routines struggle with injury. Other fitness enthusiasts may perform a traditional weight-training workout involving bicep curls or calf raises, only to struggle with common everyday movements such as lifting a box above their head to put it in the closet, or running up a few flights of stairs.

Often, we focus on exercises that isolate our individual muscles when performing workouts. This physical training can be useful in some circumstances, such as rehabilitation and aesthetic training for competition. The training of isolated muscles will not improve the movements demanded by daily life in the modern world, however, where the muscles of our bodies work as a coordinated unit.  

Improving the movements that daily life requires can be accomplished through functional movement training, which uses exercises that provide fitness that can be measured beyond the gym and applied to the routine movements of our day. To understand how kettlebell exercises are an essential component of functional fitness training, it is important to understand what functional fitness is, and is not.

Functional fitness trains your muscles to work as a unit, preparing them for daily activities by mimicking common movements performed at home, at work, or in sports. Functional fitness exercises emphasize core stability, while using various muscles in the upper and lower body simultaneously (Credit: MayoClinic.org/Functional-Fitness). Additionally, functional fitness emphasizes multi-joint and multi-exercise training. The goal of functional movement training is to enable the body to perform everyday activities in everyday positions, the way it was designed to.

Because functional movement training strengthens several muscle groups at once, strength is developed holistically and the body must function as a single unit. Coordination and neuromuscular control is also improved since multiple muscle groups are used simultaneously.

The sequence of functional movements, such as bending, kneeling, swinging, squatting, and twisting, simulate the way our bodies naturally move. Known as a kinetic chain, this functional workout sequence trains the body to move as a seamless unit by connecting multiple muscle groups and joints. There are six basic functional movement patterns, which are the basis for functional exercise programs: Carry, push, pull, squat, hinge, and lunge.

Functional fitness training is not the practice of lifting a specific amount of weight in positions promoted by gym equipment that often do not apply to normal movements in life outside the gym. Additionally, functional fitness training is not complicated or costly. Cardio machines and high-cost exercise equipment are not necessary as functional fitness workouts emphasize basic movements such as lifting, pushing, pulling, and squatting. By integrating a few pieces of basic fitness equipment, such as kettlebells, as well as body weight into their fitness routine, the user will have an endless combination of exercises for workouts.   

Kettlebell workouts are an essential component of functional fitness training that deliver total-body benefits, including the advantage of being able to move with ease through typical daily activities. Exercises with a kettlebell provide a complete body workout, building endurance, developing muscular strength, and creating dynamic stability, while mimicking the movements of real-life activities such as lifting a heavy shopping bag or sweeping the floor.

The brain forms connections when weight is shifted from muscle group to muscle group during kettlebell exercises, which teaches the body to function as a unit, making these exercises a valid alternative to lifting a specific amount of weight in positions promoted by gym equipment.

The clean and jerk, the snatch, the swing, and numerous other kettlebell exercises are ideal for a functional fitness session, which implements the six functional movement patterns that enable users to move better during routine activities.

These functional kettlebell exercises naturally carry over into real life by activating numerous muscles in the body while using up more energy. By recruiting multiple muscles, demanding more energy expenditure, and elevating the heart rate, an individual performing these exercises will burn calories, and replace unhealthy fat with lean muscle mass.  In a 2010 ACE study by Schnettler, Porcari, and Foster with Mark Anders, subjects performing a kettlebell snatch workout were reported to burn a minimum of 20 calories per minute, which is approximately the amount of calories burned if an individual were to run a 6-minute mile (Credit: Kettlebells – Semantic Scholar).

Since muscle efficiently burns energy, blood sugar levels will also drop to a healthy level in those performing functional fitness exercises regularly. As part of a functional fitness workout, kettlebell exercises will also enhance endurance. Personal trainers and gym owners use kettlebells for low-impact exercises that add load to the body. Increased stamina is a benefit of these high-power movements, since kettlebells function as an extension of the body in these exercises.

Unlike a steady cardio session, kettlebell workouts are a series of ballistic movements that result in maximal muscular force with minimal weight required. This enhanced muscular capacity produces force in all activities, from everyday movement patterns to endurance competitions.

Functional fitness training can make athletes less prone to sport-related injury. In athletes, functional movements can also improve core stability and mobility, and enhance performance when practiced with a focus on proper form throughout the movement. Functional fitness movements are often incorporated into a trainer’s program for their athlete, using the total-body movement patterns needed for sport.

Kettlebell training is beneficial for athletes of all sports since it provides functional fitness through kettlebell movements that emulate athletic movements. Exercises with kettlebells offer anaerobic and aerobic conditioning as well, helping athletes become more dynamic in their performance on the field, and move better off the field (Credit: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/articles/PMC4672163). In sport, athletes depend on an awareness of the body in space, known as proprioceptive awareness, for success in positioning and placement. In kettlebell exercises, athletes are on their feet performing movements with the weight that develops this body and spacial awareness.

With roots in physical therapy, functional fitness movements are an exceptional tool for injury rehabilitation when used properly. Functional training workouts often focus on abdominal and core stability, and combine upper and lower body exercises which can be used for injury prevention and pain reduction. Many injury rehabilitation programs use functional movement exercises for motion restoration by working on muscle groups that are used in daily movement.

A stable foundation for strength and endurance in a successful functional movement program, kettlebell exercises will help offer contact points for load application or reinforcement that enable improved activation, coordination, and motor recruitment for patients recovering from an injury.

Kettlebell training results in productive corrective exercise and rehabilitation, advanced performance in sports, and ease in completing daily tasks such as yard work or running errands around town.

There can be risks involved in performing a new fitness program, including functional fitness workouts that use kettlebell exercises. Prior to starting any new exercise program it is important to consult with a physician.

The fitness industry focus has been progressively moving away from isolated exercises that work individual muscles only in favor of the movement-based methods of functional movement training, which equips its user to move more efficiently through everyday motions. There are many lasting benefits of using kettlebell exercises in your functional fitness program, including improved endurance, reduced injury, and above all the advantage of being able to move with ease through typical daily activities.  

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