Kettlebell exercises have been around for a while, but they have only recently become a sizzling hot fitness trend – and for a good reason! Whether you’re looking to tone up, bulk up or slim down, these old-school “bowling balls” can work miracles on your body when used correctly. What is a kettlebell, you ask? Picture a round hunk of iron with a handle on it, and you’ll get a pretty good visual. But it’s actually a lot more than that.
BENEFITS OF KETTLEBELLS
The reason why kettlebells provide such a thorough workout lies in those little handles. Balance, strength, and endurance are all required to keep the weight centered as you lift and move the kettlebell. Most exercises performed with kettlebells also work unique groupings of muscles for a much more holistic approach to fitness.
The list of benefits from kettlebell exercises is quite long and includes rapid calorie burn, cardio conditioning, improved balance, better posture, increased strength, and resistance to injury. Studies show that working out for an hour can burn as many as 1,200 calories. Depending on your gender and body weight, that’s almost an entire day’s worth of calories burned off in 1 hour, so go ahead and have that second helping of food.
Although fitness experts agree that kettlebell is an excellent workout, most of them strongly encourage first-timers to take a class upfront, see a trainer or seek professional instruction of some kind. Kettlebell exercises are not like lifting traditional free weights or dumbbells, and the chances of dropping the weights, pulling a muscle, or injuring oneself in other ways are much greater.
More and more gyms are beginning to stock kettlebells in their weight rooms, but the best way to get started is to take an instructional class either at your gym or another specialized facility. Start with the light weights, listen to your body, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You may feel silly at first, but you’ll be seeing those results and feeling like a pro in next to no time!
KNOW THE LINGO
Like any other workout craze, there are many terms and moves to familiarize yourself with before diving in. The most basic kettlebell exercises are probably some variation of the swing. The swing involves holding the weight out in front with either one or two hands, bending and lowering the body, and then boldly “swinging” the body and the kettlebell out in front for 12-15 repetitions each. Other popular moves to know and eventually master include the row, the clean, the kettlebell snatch, and the jerk. There are kettlebell workouts for men and kettlebell workouts for women.
Kettlebell exercises are the way to go if you want to lose weight, build and tone muscle and improve your fitness. They deliver all the health benefits of intense cardio workouts and all the muscle-building benefits of traditional dumbbell training. If you’re looking to burn body fat, it may interest you to hear that a 20-minute beginner-level kettlebell workout can torch more than 300 calories! Yes, it’s no wonder why most gyms now stock kettlebells. Here are two popular exercises that will help to get you started.
THE TWO-HAND KETTLEBELL SWING
This is one of the most popular kettlebell exercises for beginners, and it targets the back, shoulders, hips, legs, and glutes. To do it, start by standing up straight, spreading your feet until they’re slightly past the distance of your shoulders. Next, with your arms extended downwards and palms facing down, squat down and grab the kettlebell grip with two hands. Holding the bell between your legs and bending your knees slightly, pull your hips back. Now, using your core strength, thrust the hips forward as you swing the kettlebell upwards and return to the standing position. Then, allow the weight to swing down between your legs again, bending the knees slightly at the same time. That’s one repetition. Maintain this swinging motion for 15 reps, and do 3 sets. There’s also a one-hand variation of this exercise that’s a little bit more challenging.
THE KETTLEBELL SQUAT THRUSTER
Here’s another one of the popular kettlebell exercises that is suitable for beginners. It works the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and shoulders. It’s great for building up strength, endurance, and cardiovascular fitness. To do this workout, you will need two kettlebells of matching weight. To start, separate your feet, ensuring that they’re a little more than hip-width apart. Grab a kettlebell in each hand and pull your fists up to your chin – your elbows should point downwards, and the weights should rest on your outer forearms. Be sure to keep your arms close to the body. Now, holding the weights firmly in position, squat down. Using the power in your hips and glutes, thrust upwards into the standing position, driving the kettlebells up until your arms are fully extended. That’s one repetition. You’ll want to do 3 sets of 10 reps for fitness results.
KETTLEBELL EXERCISES: TIPS
Kettlebell workouts can be particularly demanding, even with lighter weights, so don’t get into the heavier bells until you are certain that you’re ready for them. Rather start off slowly and then increase weight gradually as you gain confidence. Also, kettlebell exercises are all about technique, so work on perfecting that before you start focusing on reps and weight.
The good technique prevents injury and makes each exercise more effective. Lastly, always do pre-workout warm-ups, such as stretches, to prepare the muscles and tendons for strain – just be sure to warm up the correct muscles.