The kettlebell may look like an ugly old piece of metal, or a cannonball with a handle welded to the top, but it's a fantastic tool for strength and conditioning, particularly if you're involved in throwing sports. If you play baseball or football, or compete in a field event such as the javelin, discus or hammer, you need to build your throwing muscles in the gym, and what better way to do that than with kettlebells.
Despite it seeming like the upper body muscles are the main ones used for throwing, your core plays a hugely important role. Any single-arm throw requires a massive amount of core rotation power and strength to stop the movement so you don't over-rotate. The Turkish getup is one of the most challenging core exercises you'll try; it involves standing up from a lying position while holding a kettlebell in one hand above your head. It builds proprioception, strength and control, claims strength coach Negar Fonooni. Kettlebell side bends hit your oblique muscles and are performed simply by standing with a kettlebell in one hand and leaning to the side. You can hold a kettlebell above your head to make situps and crunches harder, too
Your shoulders are the main powerhouse behind any throwing movement as they have to generate a high amount of speed and force. You can't go wrong with kettlebell overhead presses, where you stand upright, hold a kettlebell in one arm and press it straight up overhead. Other pressing variations include two-handed presses, seated presses or floor presses, where you lie flat on the floor and press the kettlebells up -- these focus slightly more on your chest and triceps.
The lats are the muscles that run from your armpit down to your waist, and are responsible for numerous different actions at the shoulder joint, hence they play a massive part in throwing. Try kettlebell rows with your nonworking arm and leg supported on a weight bench. You can also do kettlebell rows with a bell in each hand, and standing up -- this increases abdominal activation and gets your core working at the same time.
When training for sport, train your whole body in each session, focusing mainly on exercises for your throwing muscles. If you've not used kettlebells before, ask a qualified instructor to show you the ropes. A 14- or 15-pound kettlebell is an ideal starting point if you're used to weight training, advises Sarah Lurie, kettlebell coach and founder of Iron Core Kettlebell Strength and Conditioning in San Diego. If you've never used weights before, 10 pounds should suffice. To build your strength in the throwing muscles, use a weight that's relatively challenging and perform four to five sets of six to eight repetitions on each exercise.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.