Wondering what those round, cannonball-like pieces of equipment are lingering on the side of the gym? Those are kettlebells, and you better get acquainted with them if you want to step up your fitness game. From improving your day-to-day life to increasing your athleticism, there are a lot of hidden benefits that are stored away in those cast-iron bells.
A Full-Body Workout
Because of the unique way they’re designed, kettlebells are a versatile instrument that can work your body from head to toe. “With just one or two kettlebells you can get in a great full-body workout that addresses both strength and cardiovascular components in a short amount of time,” says Annie Brees, personal trainer and certified kettlebell instructor. One of the most popular kettlebell exercises is the kettlebell swing. Instead of just targeting one muscle group, you work multiple groups when mastering the kettlebell swing. Here’s what you need to know.
The Kettlebell Swing
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your gaze on the floor about two feet ahead of you.
- Place the kettlebell 6-8 inches in front of you.
- Keeping your back flat and your core tight, hinge forward with your knees slightly bent while gripping the kettlebell with both hands.
Inhale deeply, keep your weight on your heels, and swing the kettlebell behind you in-between your legs, like a football.
- Drive through your hips and exhale as you swing the kettlebell back forward until the kettlebell reaches around chest height.
Brees also stresses that you do not want to squat while you swing and if you find yourself swinging too high (higher than eye level) then you should consider heavier kettlebells.
The amount of weight you want to start with all depends on your weight, age, health and fitness. Most women will possibly want to start with an 8kg kettlebell (17.6 lbs) and most men will maybe want to start with a 16kg kettlebell (35lbs), says Steve Cotter, president and founder of the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation (IKFF).
It also depends on the movement. Check out more kettlebell moves here.
Strengthens & Conditions
Marco Garcia, StrongFirst certified kettlebell instructor and personal trainer stresses that learning the proper technique from a professional is important so you don’t injure yourself. While working with kettlebells can make you feel like a Spartan as the weeks go by, Garcia adds that form is vital in order to prevent any injury and to maximize your results. Once you have proper technique, increase weight in order to increase your strength and make your workout even more intense.
“Kettlebells combine the benefits of resistance (strength) training with cardiovascular conditioning (aerobics), making it one of the most time-efficient all-in-one workouts available,” says Cotter.
Just in case your forgot, technique is key. Just because you’re swinging a kettlebell to and froe, doesn’t mean you’ll get the results you want. If you are focused on strengthening and/or building more muscle, you will want to focus on finding kettlebells that are challenging, but still manageable to lift so you can complete a certain number of sets and repetitions without breaking your form.
Being committed and consistent with your kettlebell workouts is another factor to focus on in order to reap the benefits kettlebells have to offer, according to Cotter. Kettlebell exercises also allows a high-intensity and aerobic exercise all at once without pounding your ankles, knees and hips the way running or other aerobic exercises do.
“There are quite a few people I have met over the years who have lost 30, 60, even 100 pounds of unwanted bodyweight through using solely kettlebells. There can be dramatic body composition changes because of the unique design of the kettlebell,” says Cotter.
Feel The Burn
Depending on the intensity of your kettlebell workout, you can expect to burn anywhere from 700 to 1,000 calories per hour on average, since you’re combining strength training with cardio, says Garcia. However the amount of calories you burn is highly variable depending on the amount of weight you’re using and the intensity of the workout. What makes kettlebells so unique are their unique shape, which allows for dynamic movements such as snatches and swings (difficult to pull off with a regular dumbbell).
“Kettlebells are a great tool for developing strength, increasing cardiovascular endurance and flexibly, improving balance and enhancing core strength,” says Brees.
So next time you’re at the gym, pick up that kettlebell, check your form and start swinging.