What are kettlebells? What are the benefits of using kettlebells? How do you use kettlebells?

While the name may remind you of cows, kettlebells in fact have nothing to do with farm life! They are the cast iron weights with a single rounded handle on top, thus resembling a kettle, that you have most likely seen lying around your gym. Kettlebells originated in Greece centuries ago and have been used in Russian gyms for decades. More recently they have gained popularity in the west and have become extremely popular in American fitness classes and gyms.

The weights range anywhere from two pounds to over 100 pounds and serve as a great tool for strength training. Due to their rounded handle, they allow for a much greater range of motion in comparison to other strength-training tools such as dumbbells. Additionally, kettlebells are much more versatile than dumbbells. While dumbbells sit in the palm of your hand, the unique shape of kettlebells causes their weight to fall outside our your grip. Thus, when working with kettlebells, the body is forced to balance the offset center of gravity and absorb the weight’s momentum. This forces the body to stabilize itself resulting in a more full body workout.

Due to the full body effect of kettlebells, they also produce a great cardio workout. Using the weights can be a great way to build endurance while strength training simultaneously, leading to an increase in muscle mass and calories burned. However, before beginning kettlebell training, there are a few things experts suggest that you keep in mind. First, paying attention to technique is extremely important. If used incorrectly, like any strength-training tool, kettlebells can have damaging effects on your body. Second, many fitness experts recommend working with a trainer first to learn exactly what the right techniques are and how much weight you should be using. Lastly, it is important to only use kettlebells with smooth handles. Using a kettlebell that has a rough handle can be painful and damaging to your hands.

To get you started, here are some of the basic kettlebell moves that you can incorporate into a variety of different workouts:

1. Two-handed kettlebell swing
Stand up straight with feet about hip-distance apart. Hold the kettlebell with both hands, palms down, and keep your arms in front of your body. Sit back into a semi-squat position with your knees slightly bent and hips back. Then in one motion, drive your hips forward, glutes and core engaged, and swing the kettlebell upward.

2. One-handed kettlebell swing
Same as the one-handed swing, but only hold the kettlebell in one hand. However, still swing the other hand up at the same time to maintain momentum.

3. Kettlebell high pull
Turn toes out 45 degree with feet about hip-distance apart. With the kettlebell placed on the ground between both legs, keep your core engaged, squat, and grip the kettlebell with one hand. Then, using your hips, push through your heels and rise to standing position, pulling the kettlebell upwards until your elbow reaches as high as it can.

4. Kettlebell lunge press
Stand straight while holding kettlebell in front of the chest with two hands, arms bent, and palms facing each other. Then lunge forward with one leg while raising the kettlebell overheard. Return to standing as you return the kettlebell to your chest. Repeat with opposite leg.

5. Kettlebell push-up
In push-up position, grab hold of each handle, and then lower your body before pushing back up. Try for 10-15 reps!

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