Maybe you’ve seen people in the gym swinging kettlebells around and have been intrigued, but you’ve never worked up the courage to actually pick one up. Maybe you don’t have the first clue about what you’d do with one even if you did.
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Fear not, kettlebell newbie, because we have some great exercises to get you started with this awesome piece of exercise equipment.
There are a number of reasons why kettle bells make a great addition to your gym repertoire. Unlike some other clunky equipment, they provide conditioning for your whole body. In kettlebell training, “the body learns to work as one synergistic unit linked strongly together,” according to personal trainer Henry Marshal. Because so many muscles are being worked at once through dynamic, full-body motions, using a kettlebell can help burn calories very effectively and improve your functional fitness. They also have been shown to help improve range of motion and mobility, increase strength and help develop injury resistance.
Newbie Kettlebell Exercises: A Caveat
While using a kettlebell for exercise can yield fantastic results, improper form can result in injury. As with any exercise, listen to your body and stop doing the exercise immediately if you feel pain or discomfort. Consider learning how to use kettlebells under the tutelage of a personal trainer who is experienced with kettlebells to ensure that you’ve mastered the techniques and are performing the moves correctly and safely.
Having said all that, here are some great newbie kettlebell exercises that’ll have you getting all the benefits of a total body workout.
1. Kettlebell Sumo Squat
The kettlebell sumo squat is similar to performing a squat with bodyweight, barbell or dumbbells.
- To perform a kettlebell sumo squat, you will take a wide stance and angle your feet outward slightly.
- Hold the kettlebell between your legs with both hands, keeping your arms straight.
- Use your core to keep your stomach pulled in and your back straight.
- Bend your legs and lower down. As you lower, your back should stay straight, and your hips should move backward.
- Avoid letting your back round as you go down, and don’t let your knees go past the fronts of your feet.
- Similarly, make sure that your knees stay in line with your toes — don’t let them drift to the left or right.
- Lower down as far as you can go without losing your form, then press back to the top to complete one repetition.
- Try doing three or four sets of 10 to 15 reps each.
2. Kettlebell Squat Thruster
This exercise is similar to the kettlebell sumo squat. You will use two kettlebells though, and you will grip them differently.
- Take a kettlebell in each hand and hold them near your chest in what is known as rack position.
- In this position, your elbows should be facing down, and your wrists should be straight, with the kettlebell resting along the outside of your forearms.
- Squat down, maintaining the same form in your legs and back as with the kettlebell sumo squat.
- Extend back to standing, and at the top of your squat, press the kettlebells up over your head.
- Try to make this one smooth motion, so that the momentum of your squat fuels the shoulder press.
3. Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing is a ballistic, explosive motion. Unlike some exercises where you move slowly and discretely throughout the motion, swings are meant to be done smoothly, all in one go. Even though the following description will break things down into steps, remember that it all needs to happen together.
- To perform a kettlebell swing, hold one kettlebell in both hands between your legs, as in the sumo squat.
- Start with your feet about hip-width apart. Keeping your back straight and looking forward, fold forward at the hips, bending the knees slightly.
- This action may be easier if you imagine that you’re preparing for a vertical leap.
- Then all at once, straighten your legs and come to a standing position, letting your arms rise to shoulder height.
- The force of the swing should all come from your legs and hips, not from your arms or shoulders.
Throughout, keep your abs tight to protect yourself. If the technique sounds tricky to you, try it a few times without weight before you add load.
4. Kettlebell Chop Lunge
- Start with one kettlebell held in rack position in your right hand.
- Thread your left hand through the opening in the bell and place it in your right hand.
- Step forward with your left leg and perform a lunge.
- Rotate your core to the left and lower your hands in a chopping motion to your left side.
- As you do this, make sure you keep your core engaged and your back straight.
- Return to the starting position and step your left leg back to meet its mate.
- Make sure you repeat this exercise on both sides.