Kettlebells are one of the most versatile workout tools when it comes to toning, gaining muscle, and even burning fat. As a bonus, they are portable, inexpensive, and easy to store. Here is a quick guide to help make the most of each kettlebell workout.
What is a kettlebell?
A kettlebell (which isn’t shaped like a kettle at all) is a spherical, cast-iron weight with a handle. They were once used by strongmen in Russia for strength training and competitions. They’ve since gained popularity with fitness buffs and gyms around the world and come in a wide variety of colors and weights.
What are kettlebells used for?
Kettlebell workouts vary from grip strength training to endurance exercises that build muscle and strength in a wide range of muscle groups. Since the center of gravity of a kettlebell is much different than a dumbbell, it is an excellent tool for improving core strength, balance, and explosiveness.
How to use kettlebells
Beginners should start slowly, getting comfortable with the grip and balance before graduating to a higher weight range for their kettlebells. Because the weight shifts the center of gravity in front of the body, inexperienced users run the risk of injury if exercises aren’t performed properly.
Most kettlebell exercises require the feet to be firmly planted, with the weight in the heels. This helps preserve balance and protects the back from injury. All movement should be initiated through the legs instead of the back (much like when moving a heavy object).
One of the most popular exercises is the kettlebell swing.
To perform it safely, feet and legs should be shoulder-width apart, with a slight lean forward, and the weight hanging down between the legs.
Next, with the feet planted, the legs push off from the ground, creating the power to swing the kettlebell in an arc overhead.
The hips come forward as the kettlebell swings in a controlled motion and back down again for the next repetition of the movement.
Kettlebell squats take a very popular lower body exercise (the squat) and add weight to supercharge the results. By adding resistance, the lower body has to work harder to bring the body back to an upright position. As an added benefit, holding the kettlebell close to the chest creates stability and makes it easier to maintain the proper form.
To perform a proper kettlebell squat, turn toes out to the slide slightly, with feet shoulder-width apart.
The kettlebell should be held with both hands, at chest level.
Next, bend the knees to bring the hips down into a low squat, as if sitting in a chair.
To return to the standing position, shift weight into the heels and drive upward.
There are countless kettlebell exercises that work various parts of the body and accomplish differing strength goals. The key to any exercise is to start slowly, practice proper form, and build up to higher weight gradually to prevent injury. As with any exercise program, it is good practice to consult a physician before beginning something new.