Ask the Expert: Kettlebell and Core Strength Training

Kettlebell training

Phaysane Oudom, a physical therapist with Sharp Rees-Stealy, answers questions about engaging your core and pumping up your physique with kettlebell, a popular strength-training workout that builds muscle, burns calories and tones trouble spots.

What is the role of conditioning within fitness training?
Conditioning is physical and mental training through the use of controlled movement (exercise, poses, motor patterning, etc.) to push the body past perceived mental and physical capacity. Conditioning is performed through a scientific and systematic approach of overloading to produce a training effect — improved strength and function, as well as improved lean muscle mass/body composition. It is not pain; conditioning should cause some discomfort during exertion.  But it should not cause injury or overtraining; smart conditioning should improve function, not hinder it. Conditioning must be performed consistently as type II muscle fibers atrophy in just one week without exercise.

What principle is utilized for conditioning?
Conditioning utilizes the “Overload Principle,” defined as the need for the body to experience challenging stress greater than that of expected status quo. If you already walk five miles a day, there will be no change in your body composition by continually keeping this pattern of physical activity.

How does kettlebell exercise differ? Are there advantages?
The primary advantage of kettlebell exercise is that of natural physics. Unlike most gym machines, kettlebell exercises are performed in physics that work with our bodies rather than against our bodies. Many who experience joint pain after traditional gym exercises typically do not feel this with kettlebells.

Is there a reliable measure to follow for conditioning?
There are a lot of exercise protocols, plans, systems, etc. A reliable measure for conditioning is using a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). The Borg RPE scale is measured from 6 – 20; 6/20 being no effort at all, 13/20 being somewhat hard, and 20/20 being maximal/terminal exertion.

A suggested program for individuals new or returning to conditioning would be:
a. 3 sets of 10 repetitions, at 50% of Maximum RPE (i.e., light weight)
b. 3 sets of 10 repetitions, at 75% of Maximum RPE (i.e., medium-light weight)
c. 3 sets of 10 repetitions, at 85% of Maximum RPE (i.e., medium weight)
d. 3 sets of 10 repetitions,  at 90% of Maximum RPE (i.e., medium-heavy weight)
e. 3 sets of 10 repetitions, at 100% of Maximum RPE (i.e., heavy weight)

Once you’ve reached 100 percent RPE, progress your number of repetitions until you reach 3 sets of 20 repetitions. Once you reach 20 repetitions, increase to a new weight class and begin fresh at 3 sets of 10 repetitions — continuing this process for each increasing weight class until your goals are met.

What are key kettlebell exercises to address trouble spots?
Key exercises to address trouble spots (i.e., abs, arms, thighs, glutes) are: Pull Overs, Hot Potatoes, Windshield Wipers, the Kettlebell Military Press and the Functional Squat.

Is there anything else that I should keep in mind for kettlebell and core training?
Kettlebell and core conditioning can be fun, inspiring and rewarding; professional instruction is highly advised to avoid injury and ensure best results.

For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's weight management services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find health general information, read the General Health News archive.

Phaysane Oudom 

About the Expert
Phaysane Oudom is a physical therapist with Sharp Rees-Stealy.