Kettlebells and Dumbbells: Why They’re Different and Why Should You Care

Back in March of this year I wrote a post titled, “Turn up the Intensity….Learn to Use a Kettlebell” (http://kelvingary.com/?p=126). A couple of experiences that I had in the gym this week, along with a scary trend that I’ve been seeing over the last year, prompted me to write today’s post. The other day I walked over to our functional training area to set-up for my next session when I noticed an older gentleman standing in front of the kettlebell rack just looking at them. At first I thought he was just picking out the weights that he wanted to use but after about 2 minutes of just looking at the kettlebells I knew it was more than that. I walked over to him and asked if he was looking for a particular weight. “No,” he replied, “I’m just trying to figure out what the big deal is about them.” “Why can’t people just use plain old weights?” he asked. I tried to explain the difference between the two (center of gravity, levers, increased torque, etc.). He looked at me and shook his head as if he totally understood what I was talking about but I could tell that he was totally lost. Fast forward a day later, when I saw a couple working out together who were both using KB’s in a way that over time would surely earn them a trip to the spinal surgeon.

So what’s the big difference between the two? Strength coach Mike Davis did a great job of condensing the explanation in his article on strengthcoach.com. He explained:

“In general, a kettlebell is a solid (metal i.e. steel, iron, etc.) ball with a handle attached in a way that resembles a tea kettle without the spout. By virtue of its design (the center of mass is displaced from the handle), the kettlebell offers a variety of ways to manipulate the resistive component of a lever system. This differs from the dumbbell in that with the dumbbell the center of mass is relative to the handle and this relationship remains constant as long as one uses the handle. In other words, no matter how one grabs the handle of a dumbbell, the angular torque or direction of resistance is relatively the same. A kettlebell can be handled in a variety of ways including the traditional carrying position, rack position, bottom up, palm pressing, or on the side of the handles. Each grip offers a different degree of torque or angle of resistance.”

Said in an even simpler way, you can use a 20 lb dumbbell and a 20 lb kettlebell and they will feel like two different weights because of the effect that the “design” of the kettlebell has on your body. This is also one of the reasons that it’s easier to injure yourself if you have bad form while using a kettlebell. For this reason, I always recommend finding a good coach or trainer, even if it’s for a few sessions, if you’re just starting out with KBs.

Just a little something to keep in mind.

Just What is a Plyometric Exercise? (Video)

Today’s post is an add- on to last week’s post: “Plyometrics for Runners?”  I wanted to take a second to clearly define what plyometrics are, why we use them and give a few examples of some basic plyo exercises.  I could put this all into my own words, but I think Wikipedia did a good job of hitting the nail right on the head:

Plyometrics (also known as “plyos”) is a type of exercise training designed to produce fast, powerful movements, and improve the functions of the nervous system, generally for the purpose of improving performance in sports. Plyometric movements, in which a muscle is loaded and then contracted in rapid sequence, use the strength, elasticity and innervation of muscle and surrounding tissues to jump higher, run faster, throw farther, or hit harder, depending on the desired training goal. Plyometrics is used to increase the speed or force of muscular contractions, providing explosiveness for a variety of sport-specific activities. Plyometrics has been shown across the literature to be beneficial to a variety of athletes. Benefits range from injury prevention, power development and sprint performance amongst others.

With that in mind, in the video below I give a few examples of some basic plyo exercise that almost anyone can put into their routine.  Have a look and give them a try.

Plyometrics for Runners?

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Jack Rabbit NYC Running Show. I was only able to slip away from the gym for a few hours but I was lucky enough to hear a presentation from Dr. Jordan Metzl and Heather Williams, DPT on Preventing Injuries in Runners. As the presentation went along I would mark off in my head all of the guidance and facts that were in line with what I’ve been telling my runners. It was like I was in high school and the teacher was going over the correct answers to an exam I had just taken. With each correct answer I would give myself a silent round of applause.

Then we got to a part in the presentation where Dr. Williams flashed a number of pictures up on to the screen, similar to the one below. “What,” she asked, “Is so interesting about all of these pictures?” I totally knew the answer but I’ve been told that I’m too much of a “know it all,” so I gave the crowd a second to answer. After no one really answered I raised my hand and said, “Those pictures show that running is a dynamic single leg balancing act.” Those may not have been my exact words but it was something close. “That’s correct,” she said.

I wanted to give myself a high five but I refrained. At that point I thought back to a former client, a 19-year-old female who was preparing for the New York City Marathon. In a nutshell, she wanted to have fun with her workouts and I wanted her to have fun too. More importantly I wanted to be strong and structurally prepared to run a Marathon. For her, boxing and running sprints was fun and plyometrics was boring and “sucky.” When we finally progressed to single leg stance and ploymetric exercises, she would always complain and ask to do something else. As much as I tried to drive home how important this part of her program was she wouldn’t listen. Did she run and finish the NYC marathon, Yes. Was she out of commission for 4 weeks after with a foot injury? Yes.

So if you’re a runner and you don’t have single leg stance and/or ploymetric exercises in your cross training plan, then it’s time to make some changes.

Later this week I’ll be posting a video on the basics of plyometrics.

Also the two presenters I mentioned are both very well known and respected in the running community and I would recommend checking them both out. Dr. Metzl (www.DrJordanMetzl.com) is a Sports Medicine Physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City which many believe to be one of the top orthopedic hospitals in the country. In addition to being a doctor, Dr. Metzl is also a 25 time marathon runner and six time Ironman triathlete, which to me means that he can practice what he preaches.

Dr. Williams is also an accomplished marathoner in addition to being a physical therapist. She, along with a partner created, “RunMetrics: A Runners Guide to Polymetics and Core Strength Training” (www.runmetrics.net). I highly recommend checking out her site.

(Video) Dynamic Warm Ups for Running and Lower Body Workouts

Earlier this week I spoke about the importance of movement prep when it comes to exercising and working out. In the video above Joanna shows us some movement prep/dynamic warm up moves that you can do prior to running, cycling, swimming or any activity that involves the lower body. This routine is aimed at getting your hamstrings, glutes and quads warmed up and ready to work. In order the moves shown are:

1. Squat with Overhead Reach
2. Lateral Lunge
3. Knee Pull
4. Leg Cradle
5. Butt Kicks
6. Straight Leg Kicks

Try each of these for 1 to 1 ½ minutes each as a warm up before your next run, bike, sporting event or workout and see if you notice a difference.

Movement Prep & Cross – Training: The Key to Better Performance

In the Northeast the spring season is upon us. A number of du(bi)athlons, half marathons and bike tours have already taken place. Soon there will be a number of events including triathlons and the like every weekend. While some of the people who participate in these events will be serious professional athletes, the vast majority of participants are your typical “weekend warriors,” the type of person that works all week long, trains a little bit and goes out running on the weekend when they have time. This post is for you guys (although if you’re an athlete and you’re reading this, feel free to keep reading).

The inspiration for this post came from my interaction with someone at the gym. I see this guy all the time and all he does is stretch for 2-3 minutes and spends 40 minutes on the treadmill running as fast as he can. When I approached him and asked if he was training for an event he replied, “yes, and I’m in a running club.” To make a long story short; we discussed what it takes to run faster. I agree that if you want to be a better runner, you need to run more. The same way you need to play more golf to be a better golfer or practice your jump shot to be a better basketball player. However, there’s a lot to be said about having a strong foundation in movement and strength.

The analogy that I like to use is building a house. A good house that holds up for the long term must be built on a strong foundation, with really strong materials. If you build a house on a bad foundation and with poor materials, it’s not going to last as long as you’d like. Same goes for your body, with movement being your foundation and a strong functioning body being the house, you want to build something that will last.

So if you are planning to participate in a marathon, bike ride, triathlon etc. please make sure you incorporate movement prep and resistance training into your plan.

For this week, I’m going to be focusing on movement prep, which isn’t the same as stretching. Movement prep is warming up and preparing your body to move in the way in which you’re going to be using it. This might mean dynamic warm-up, foam rolling, activation exercise or multi-planer movements. This week I’ll be posting videos showing simple movement prep exercises that you can add to your current routines to make your cross-training more effective.

Is the Way You Move Slowing You Down (ReBlog)

Over the past few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with New York City based Health & Nutrition Counselor/Pilates Instructor Lara Dalch.

  Check out Lara’s blog post on the Functional Movement Screen that I performed with her to help her prep for another half marathon. 

http://laradalch.com/2011/02/25/is-the-way-you-move-slowing-you-down/

Lara has tons of great nutritional information that you can find on her website (www.dalchwellness.com) and on her blog “Marketing to Mat” (http://laradalch.com/).

If you have any questions for me on the Functional Movement Screen and how it can help you, feel free to ask.

Enjoy!

Build Your Better Body On a Budget!





At my gym, I’m known for carrying around a black bag that contains a number of different workout tools. Some of my co-workers jokingly call it “Kelvin’s Bag-o-Tricks,” a name that I’ve affectionately adopted. It comes in handy during prime time training sessions in the gym when there’s usually a wait for equipment.

I created the “Bag-O-Tricks” during my early days as a personal trainer. Back then I would train my friends in central park in NYC before and after work (when I still had an office job). I said to myself, “How can I create a workout that would use minimal tools but have maximum impact?” I love working out, but I wasn’t about to schlep a bag of medicine balls and dumbbells all over New York City. With that my collection of tools was born.

So what’s in this bag you ask? Six easy tools (you can click on the photos below to read more about each of these tools):

1 – Set of 4 Mini Bands (Light, Medium, Heavy and Extra Heavy Resistances)



2 – All Purpose Exercise Bands (1 -Medium, 1- Heavy Resistance)


 

2 – Super bands (1/2 inch and 1 inch)



1 – Jungle Gym XT (Show above for bodyweight exercise)

Right now you’re probably saying, “Great Kelvin, now what does that mean for me?” Over the next few posts I’m going to show you some cheap tools that you can use anywhere to ramp up your workouts. No longer will you be able to use, “I don’t have time to go to the gym” or “it’s too expensive” as an excuse. The most expensive tool in my bag is $89 bucks (it’s literally its own gym) and the cheapest is a set of $2.50 bands that, when used correctly, will have your legs and arms looking and feeling toned in no time.

With these simple tools, I can give anyone one hell of a total body workout, anytime, anywhere. Over the next few posts I’ll should you how you can put these cheap tools to work for yourself. So put those excuses away and let’s get ready to work!