Picture a cannonball. Now add a handle. That’s a kettlebell! Originally used in 18th century Russia, kettlebells combine a cardiovascular workout with strength training. They also help with flexibility training, especially in the legs, shoulders and back.
Kettlebell exercises use the whole body to build both strength and endurance. Typical kettlebell exercises such as the deadlift and swing, involve the hips. Since movements with kettlebells use many muscle groups at once, they burn calories faster than other kinds of exercises with weights that only work one muscle at a time. Additionally, kettlebell moves are typically repeated more often than reps with other kinds of weights, adding to the aerobic benefit.
The stiff leg deadlift is a good way to get used to handling kettlebells. Place a kettlebell on the floor in front of you and then stand with your feet about shoulder width apart. Bend at the hip and grab the kettlebell with both hands. Leave your knees slightly bent and use your hips to pull the weight all the way up. Bend again at the hips until the kettlebell is on the floor and lift it again. Each time, keep your face forward, not looking down. Keep your back straight and use your hips to complete the entire motion.
The kettlebell swing is another good move for beginners. Place a kettlebell on the floor in front of you and then stand with your feet apart so they are wider than the width of your shoulders. Bend to grab the kettlebell with both hands, keeping your arms loose and your hips back. Bend your knees a bit and swing the kettlebell forward just a little then back between your legs. At this stage, you’re building momentum. On the second swing forward, try to swing the kettlebell forward until your arms are straight out.
There are a number of excellent videos that demonstrate the correct form for beginning kettlebell workouts. Women should consider starting with a 6kg or 8kg kettlebell at the very beginning. These weights are ideal for upper body work. For larger muscles in the lower body, women can quickly adapt to 10kg or 12kg kettlebells. When you can easily complete 12 reps of a kettlebell exercise, it’s time to move to the next heaviest weight.
A standard Russian kettlebell is made of cast iron and increases in size as the weight increases. A more expensive option is the professional grade kettlebell that is the same size, regardless of weight. Look for smooth, rounded handles that are wide enough so you can grab the kettlebell with both hands. A flat bottom that ensures that the kettlebell will rest on the floor and a paint that won’t chip is also important.
Kettlebells are efficient workout tools that can be used by people of all ages, both genders and all fitness levels. According to the American Council on Exercise, a typical kettlebell workout burns approximately 20 calories a minute.
Author: Rebeca Espinoza