The kettlebell has been accredited with increasing the weight of underweight people and decreasing the weight of overweight people. This suggests that there is a right weight. For all around human challenges, that is, not extremes like bodybuilding which produces overheavy athletes or marathon running which produces underheavy athletes, that perform intensive work, I do believe that this statement is true.

If you’re a white collar yuppie with no access to either an axe, a sledge hammer, a shovel or heavy farm equipment, the kettlebell is just the right tool to get in a condition where they can perform heavy work whether that takes the form of 400m sprints, lifting boxes, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or hockey.

Case in point, I used to weigh around 155lbs (at 6’2″)—your basic lanky geek. After two years of training I got myself up to 180lbs with a 44″ chest (and a 34″ waist) while being able to run 400m in 1 minute. That is about as high as I could go in weight with that training regime and the warrior diet.

Today I lift less and play hockey and with swords. Consequently, my legs are now 1″+ larger, chest and waist are now 42″ and 33″ respectively, and I weigh 175lbs. My weight essentially moved into my lower body.

The body simply adjusts to and becomes a combination of what you do and what you eat. Show me any person and I can offer a very good guess as to their diet and the form of their physical activities.

So to put it bluntly, if you are fat, the problem in its most basic form is that you eat too much and work/move too little. If you are skinny and can’t gain weight, the problem is that you eat too little and lift too light (not intensive). Anything beyond that is fine details (and the foundation of a wasteful/senseless billion dollar industry).

Now, the title suggests a “right weight”. Obviously this is normative statement indicating that I somehow think that some weights are better than others. Obviously it depends on what you do, but if you want to be well rounded and good at both strength based and endurance based work(*), high intensity work outs cover both bases.

(*) I’d like to say that if I can’t beat you up, I can outrun you, and if I can’t outrun you, I can beat you up. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a pretty good survival strategy (in hockey too, where “beat you up” means crashing the net—we don’t fight).

So what is the “right weight”. It is whatever weight where you can do the following. Suppose you’re a guy and weighs 175lbs. Then I think you should be able to lift a total of 5000 pounds from the ground to overhead (no need to floor or deadhang it, just move the weight from somewhere under your knees to a 0.1 second lockout) in ten minutes. That’s like 50 reps of 100lbs. I would consider that decent. If you can do 10000lbs I would consider that amazing (you’re a better man than I then). If you weigh more, just scale linearly e.g. 200lbs turns into 200/175*5000=5714lbs. Women on a weight to weight basis should reduce this by about 25% for physiological reasons (different body compositions), so if you’re a 130lbs woman, the number is 5000*130/175*(1-0.25)= 2785lbs from the ground to overhead in 10 minutes.

If you can’t meet those numbers, you’re either overweight or underpowered. The kettlebell will fix this for you. I recommend RKC kettlebells (those are the ones I have) although I have also heard good things about Ader. Other fixes include crossfit or clubbells. I have also heard good things about the P90X system (as seen on TV), but I don’t know enough about it to comment.


Jacob comments: For those who know their lifts, the lift I’m talking about is the clean and jerk, or the clean and push-press or if you’re feeling particularly strong, the snatch, but what it really comes down to is the “anyhow”, that is, you can make the lift anyhow you like. I just think the C&J is the most efficient.