9 reasons police officers should work out with Kettlebells

Kettlebell training is popular among the physically elite because it builds muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, anaerobic power, and grip strength


Kettlebells are cast iron or steel weights shaped like a cannonball with a handle that have been used in physical training throughout Russia and Europe for many years, but are relatively new to the United States. 

Pavel Tsatsouline is the man responsible for bringing the kettlebell to the West. He has used them  to train many elite military forces including SEALS, marines, and the Spetsnaz. 

Kettlebell training is popular among the physically elite because it builds muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance, anaerobic power, and grip strength through high intensity ballistic training that is easy on the joints. The kettlebell has become a popular training tool of MMA fighters and Cross Fit, but there are numerous law enforcement specific benefits to training with kettlebells, too. 

1. Anaerobic Power Training: Many police officers train for muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance, but one area of your physical training that may be lacking is anaerobic power. Anaerobic power is the ability to produce short, intense bursts of maximum effort. Power is how quickly one can apply strength, often referred to as “being explosive” in athletics. Training for power will help you sprint faster in foot pursuits and utilize more power when you need it most. 

The most common ways to train power are with the Olympic lifts, which have a high degree of technical mastery, and plyometric training, which can expose an officer to injury risk. Kettlebell training is a reliable way to train for power without the high technical difficulty of Olympic lifts or the injury risk present in plyometrics. 

The most basic kettlebell movement, the two-handed swing, is a fantastic way to train the glutes and hamstrings in a powerful ballistic manner. More advanced kettlebell movements — such as the snatch and clean and press — mimic the Olympic lifts while requiring less technical mastery. 

2. Time Efficiency: One of the biggest obstacles for officers when it comes to physical training is not having enough time. Balancing the demands of the job and family time can make it difficult to find time to work out. Kettlebell training is high-intensity training, which means ten minutes can provide many of the same cardiovascular benefits of a long run in a much shorter time frame. 

Complexes — a series of multiple kettlebell exercises performed back to back with no rest — will allow you to complete strength training and endurance training at the same time.

3. Cost Efficiency: Kettlebells are inexpensive compared to other home gym equipment. Pavel Tsatsouline recommends that men start training with a 16 kg and 24 kg kettlebell and that women start with a 8 kg, 12 kg, and 16 kg kettlebell. These can each be purchased for less than $150 and will last a lifetime. 

4. Protect Your Low Back: Low back injuries are very common among police officers. Kettlebell training can help prevent these injuries. Kettlebell swings, snatches and Turkish Get Ups all help to build a strong back. They also help build strong hamstrings, glutes, and abdominal muscles; the main muscles that support the low back.

5. Build Grip Strength: Kettlebell exercises are a fantastic way to build grip strength to aid in weapon retention and subject control.

6. Simulate a Fight with Complexes: Kettlebell complexes can simulate the kind of muscular endurance an officer needs to survive a street fight without the need of a sparring partner.

7. Fat Loss: The high-intensity nature of kettlebell training makes it a great tool for burning fat. A ten-minute kettlebell routine will leave you dripping with sweat, which will continue burning calories long after your workout is over. 

8. Functional Strength: The Turkish Get Up is the king of functional strength. The movement requires learning to use full body strength and is fantastic for building shoulder stability. Long before bench presses or squats existed, strongmen measured their strength with Turkish Get Ups. 

9. The “What the hell?!” Effect: The WTH effect is well known throughout the kettlebell community. Training with kettlebells has a habit of improving many other areas of fitness. There are many stories of overseas operators training with nothing but kettlebells and increasing their deadlift strength or time in endurance runs. Kettlebell training has a way of tying everything together and creating operational strength. If you train regularly with kettlebells, the WTH effect will make your next physical agility test a breeze.

Getting Started with Kettlebell Training
If your gym doesn’t have kettlebells, purchase a few of your own. Tsatsouline recommends that men start with a 16 kg (35 lb) and 24 kg (53 lb) kettlebell and that women start with a 8 kg (18 lb), 12 kg (26 lb), and 16 kg kettlebell. I use and recommend Rouge Fitness kettlebells. I have found they are the best combination of quality and value. Rogue is also the brand used by Crossfit. 

There are many great beginner programs available online. I recommend Pavel Tsatsouline’s Kettlebell: Simple and Sinister. It focuses on the two basic kettlebell movements; the swing and the Turkish Get Up. 

Kettlebell training offers a host of benefits and I believe it should be a staple in any officer’s physical training routine. 

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