The innovative company that I have elected to build and grow, Onnit, is the creator of several stylized lines of kettlebells called Primal Bells, Legend Bells, and Zombie Bells. Each line is fully functional and features an artistic rendition of primates, mythical figures, and horrific zombies. Each line has something else in common: they all get criticized sometimes for their existence.
The most hardcore home-gym warrior usually says something like, “What difference does the face make? A hunk of metal is a hunk of metal!” They’re usually angrier than that for some reason and use various expletives, but you get the point.
Why would you want a face, essentially an aesthetic enhancement to a typical kettlebell, added to a piece of functional workout equipment? Why change something that isn’t broken?
There are lots of reasons to take something functional and make it unique and interesting. Imagine if we were satisfied with our cars simply getting us from point A to point B with no regard for aesthetics or style? No need for smooth lines, shinny paint, interesting display layouts, hand-stitched leather, or more than one design for that matter. Just a single, aerodynamic box that moves would suffice.
As we all know, humans aren’t programmed that way, and that is one of the reasons why we’re successful as a species. We have stylistic opinions and preferences that literally make us feel certain ways… maybe a particular color makes you feel strong or powerful, or a certain design inspires you to take action. You may see something that is purely aesthetic and then act or plan for the future. Why shouldn’t a prized tool that you use daily deserve the some kind of aesthetic treatment?
Here are three reasons why your kettlebell deserves to be a piece of art.
If you look through the history of warriors, you’ll find a variety of aesthetically enhanced tools of war that seem to have no direct correlation to the core function of said tools. Why is there ornamentation on swords, shields, or helmets?
One reason I could understand is a commitment to to mastery; when you truly commit to mastering a tool, you should come to an understanding and respect for it and it’s use. That respect may be evidenced by decoration, an external representation about how you feel expressed externally. Why should your kettlebell be any different? If you are committed to having good form in technical lifts, sweat and slave over it day after day, and you continually seek progression and education in its use, how is that not a commitment to mastery?
Art is different things to different people, but most would agree that art is essentially inspiration, a calling to experience the feeling of the artist. The observer will of course apply their unique perceptions, feelings, and personal experiences to the art, providing them with a specific inspiration.
When this definition is applied to stylistic kettlebells intended for workouts, like primates, legends, or zombies, the desired inspiration is what you consciously or subconsciously choose it to be. A primate may inspire you to exhibit the raw strength, power, and agility of our cousins on the tree of life. A legend may inspire you to be an epic hero battling evil. A zombie may inspire you to challenge things that terrify you. Each one has a different purpose for each person; you decide how it will impact you and your training.
One of the core values of art (at least to me), is the process of creation. Taking raw resources and applying them in such a way that generates something new and useful is what makes us special. One of the things you’ll hear John Wolf and I continually say during the Onnit Academy Certifications is how unconventional training methods, including kettlebells, give trainers the ability to create new movements for whatever they need them for. They could be complexes, flows, or completely new patterns applying different stances, rotations, and locomotions. They could hit particular muscle groups, condition the body for specific uses, or work around weaknesses or injuries.
While a stylistic kettlebell isn’t essential for this process, it does serve as a reminder that your kettlebell is a creative tool to be used in such a way that solves your physical progression as it does the people you train. Staring into the eyes of a Primal Bell could remind you that the body is a dynamic, versatile organism that evolved in the jungle swinging from trees. The face of a warewolf may inspire you to create movements that can transform you into a beastly version of your weaker self. A zombie may inspire you to get moving before the world bites your head off.