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Fit for Duty: April 2014


March 26, 2014
By Sherry Dean

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Kettlebells can be dated as far back as ancient Greece. In Russia, early kettlebells called girya were used to weigh grain and other goods before being developed by Dr. Vladislav Kraevsky in the late 1800s for athletic training.

Kettlebells can be dated as far back as ancient Greece. In Russia, early kettlebells called girya were used to weigh grain and other goods before being developed by Dr. Vladislav Kraevsky in the late 1800s for athletic training. The kettlebell has gained popularity since the turn of the millennia and is commonplace in workout facilities.

Kettlebell workouts incorporate whole body engagement and endurance. Training with these weights improves power, grip strength and balance, and is directly beneficial for fire fighting. The movements are fairly easy to learn and the workouts don’t require a great deal of equipment. The premise is to use a manageable weight over higher repetitions to improve both musculoskeletal and cardiovascular conditioning.

As always, good form is extremely important and it is easy for misuse to become habit. If you haven’t worked with kettlebells before, ask for help. Don’t worry about the amount of weight you are lifting until you are comfortable with the movement. Kettlebell training uses lower body power with core control and upper body support for balance and additional lift. A good neutral spine and a comfortable stance – shoulder width apart or a little wider – are excellent foundations for your movement.

Sometimes there are exceptions to this rule, but make sure you understand why you are changing your position when you do.

Add kettlebells to your existing workout or try a whole new routine. Our fire station has a good supply of kettlebells and our members will often switch up their routines and leave the dumbells on the rack. It is a nice change and challenges us to a good workout. Here is one of the routines we use. Don’t forget to work smart – and hard.

Start your warm up with 45 seconds of each of the following: running on the spot, jumping jacks, plank twists and alternating lunges. End your warm up with one minute of jump rope.

Kettlebell swings are one of the fundamental exercises that focus on posterior muscles. The strength and power of this movement comes from the legs and hips. If you are unfamiliar with deadlifts, it may be a good idea to start with those and work up to kettlebell swings. With your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, place the kettlebell between your feet in front of your hips. In a squat position with both hands on the kettlebell, and keeping your chest open and your back straight, begin to stand up and thrust your hips forward. This will cause the kettlebell to start to swing forward (no higher than eye level). Do not muscle the kettlebell up with your arms. Allow the movement to be fluid and come from momentum. As the kettlebell lowers, squat and allow the bell to swing back between your legs. Repeat for 30 reps.

Start kettlebell power plank rows in a straight-arm plank position. Place a kettlebell below your chest and alternate lifting the kettlebell in a row while maintaining your plank. Try not to twist your body too much and keep your plank position strong. If you are comfortable with kettlebells, use two of them and position yourself so that you are balancing on them rather than alternating. Repeat for 30 reps, 15 reps on each side.

Your start position for kettlebell figure-eights is essentially the same as with kettlebell swings. Pick up the kettlebell in your left hand and maintain a bent knee, or high squat, position. Pass the kettlebell between your legs and behind your right leg, reaching back with your right hand, passing the kettlebell from one hand to the other. Swing the kettlebell around your right leg and back between your legs from hand to hand in a figure-eight movement. Either change direction half way or do one direction for one set and the other direction for the next set. Repeat for 20 reps.

Engage your abs and glutes to protect your back during kettlebell halos. Pick up the kettlebell in both hands so it is upside down in front of you. Circle the kettlebell around your head so it drops behind your head as it would if you were doing triceps and continue until you have made a complete circle. Try to keep your body stationary and move only the kettlebell. You can do half of the 20 reps in one direction and then change direction, or you can change direction after each rep. 

Kettlebell lunges are very similar to dumbbell lunges. You can do stationary lunges or travelling lunges. Travelling lunges will challenge your balance as the kettlebell passes from one hand to the other. 

Start a kettlebell half get-up by lying on your side with your knees bent and hold the kettlebell with both hands. Roll onto your back and lift the kettlebell straight up toward the ceiling. Let go with your left arm and balance the kettlebell in the right arm. Keep your right knee bent, straighten your left leg and place it out to the side slightly. Place your left arm out to the side at a 90-degree angle from your body. Now roll slightly to your left side and press your left elbow into the ground raising yourself up onto your elbow. Continue the motion until you raise yourself up to balance on your left hand with a straight left arm. Keep the kettlebell directly above your eyes at all times. Reverse the motion to return to your start position. Complete 10 reps on each side. This movement is a great introduction to full Turkish get-ups.

A quick YouTube or Google search can provide video demonstrations of each of these exercises.


Sherry Dean is a career firefighter/engineer with Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency Service. She is an NFPA level 1 instructor with hazmat technician and special rescue certifications. Sherry has more than 20 years of experience in fitness and training including the Scott FireFit Challenge, competitive body building, team sports and
personal training. Contact her at sbdean@eastlink.ca 


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