I’ve been “Russian Kettlebell Certified” for a little over 2 years. My logo is a kettlebell. I have kettlebells on my shirts, pants, hoodies; I have kettlebells in my living room, bedroom, and 600lbs of them in my truck. So it’s not surprising when people ask me, “Why kettlebells?” I’m obviously a fan. There are many reasons for this but none of are probably what you think and none of them are dogmatic.
First of all, kettlebells are simple. They are canonballs with a handle. No one is worried about breaking them and they come in a relatively small array of sizes so there’s less wrangling of equipment and accessories. A group can grab a dozen or so in one trip and pile them all up outside in short order. Clean up is quick and no one asks, “how does this thing work.” It’s heavy; you pick it up; sometimes you carry it around. Done.
Secondly, kettlebells are weird. The sizes are weird so it’s less likely someone’s ego is wrapped up in showing off with a 24kg bell instead of a 20kg bell. You just grab one that looks right and monkey around with it. There’s nothing intimidating about them, but they are heavy enough to inspire a sense of conscientious safety. They are also just weird enough that even experienced people keep an open mind about experimenting with them. Do you have 60 incoming college freshmen who’s 300+lb “squat” will probably result in the death and injury of 40% of them by the end of the season? Hand them one 24kg bell, tell them to go all the way down, step back and watch the learning that happens when you take ego out of the equation.
They are convenient. You can buy them anywhere, they require no maintenance and will last two dozen lifetimes. If I want to go to the park or a beach, I can just grab a bell from my trunk. If they get sand or goose poop on them, I just hose them off. You can scatter them around your life to insure that you are never far away from the ability to train (hence my own scattered collection). I’ve been known to bang out an easy strength workout in my school parking lot. I once carried 40kg in each hand for distance in a McDonalds parking lot. You can’t beat that kind of convenience.
They are social. Something as convenient as a kettlebell can be used in contexts far more conducive to fun than a gym. Most of my friends have a bell or two of their own that they can throw in their trunk and join me on the beach. We can each have our own or share. No one gets territorial about a hunk of iron that is impossible to break. We can train in a circle; we can form conga lines of different-sized bells. We can even leave them in a pile and run sprints because no one is going to mess with them. And frankly, anyone who manages to steal a 24kg kettlebell earned it.
They are just better for some kinds of exercises. You can’t really swing a dumbbell. The asymmetry makes pressing, get ups, and jerks more intuitive. The unstable load makes bottoms-up pressing, get ups, squats, and carries a lot more informative. The handle helps you learn to use your grip to generate tension in goblet squats, pressing, and goat bags. And the handle just screams, “pick me up and carry me!”
They are relatively inexpensive. My entire collection averages around $1.25/lb. None of the bells will expire, rot, or become obsolete. I can do every human movement with them, store them all in milk crates, and loan them out to needy exercisers without much worry. Plus, I have trained four people with a single 16kg bell. That’s value.
Finally, they are attached to pretty excellent system of strength training: the RKC. I could go on and on about the RKC system, but it’s hard to do without sounding like I’m in a cult. So I’ll just say that Mark Reifkind and Brett Jones are Master RKCs. Also some guy in Utah.