Using kettlebells, which are often called Russian kettlebells, can be a very effective way of building up strength in both men and women. Exercising with kettlebells also provides a cardiovascular workout, as several different muscle groups come into play. Working out with kettlebells as little as ten minutes every other day will soon provide results, and exercising with kettlebells can significantly aid in fat loss, as well. As before beginning any fitness program, it is recommended that a person consults his or her health care provider.
If any readers are unfamiliar with what kettlebells are, they are basically cast iron or steel weights that look something like a cannonball with a handle, though the bottoms of them should be flat, and their overall shapes look similar to that of bells. They come in a wide variety of weight increments, from 2 lbs. on up to over 200 lbs., can be used by people at almost all fitness levels if lighter weights are used, and they can provide a full-body workout when used in strength training that also burns up to 20 calories a minute, according to WebMD quoting a study done by the University of Wisconsin.
One of the lead researchers of the study was John Porcari, PhD of the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse Exercise and Health Program. The researchers involved with the study, involving ten men and ten women between the ages of 29 and 46, doing 20-minute workouts with kettlebells, stated that the 400 calories burned in the 20 minutes is similar to cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace or running a six-minute mile.
There are many ways one can gain strength, like through traditional weightlifting using barbells and dumbbells, or methods that use one’s own body weight, as with pull-ups, as one example. However, as Jason Brown, owner of Kettlebell Athletics in Philadelphia states, “If your goal is to burn fat, increase power endurance, and get strong, then kettlebells are a great tool.”
Kettlebells have been around since at least the 1700s, but they have been primarily a part of exercise regimens and competitions in Russia and other countries until people like Valery Fedorenko, the President of the World Kettlebell Club, brought them to the United States. He performed the first kettlebell demonstration to the American public in 2000, though kettlebells were not entirely unheard of in the United States previously. He founded the World Kettlebell Club in 2006.
Three Popular Kettlebell Exercises
There are a wide variety of strength training exercises that people can do using kettlebells, but three of the most popular are the kettlebell swing, the kettlebell long cycle and the kettlebell snatch. Each of these three exercises, separately, can give a person a calorie-burning workout; together, these exercises are among the best ones to perform during a workout, along with kettlebell exercises like the goblet squat.
These exercises using kettlebells are relatively easy to learn, but it would be a good idea to check out videos on YouTube to help with the nuances, and consulting with a trainer would also be a good idea. However, the basic way that most people perform a kettlebell swing with one hand is to grip the handle of the kettlebell as it is on the floor, with an overhand grip. One’s legs should be slightly bent at the knee and feet spread apart from each other about two feet or so.
Then, commence a swinging motion with the kettlebell, directing it between the legs, bending at the waist, and using the hips to snap the kettlebell forward to about shoulder height or eyeball height and bend one’s elbow once it gets around chest level, towards the chest, as in the video below by Valery Fedorenko. Take care not to let the kettlebell come back and hit the knees or any other body part. The object is to not use one’s arms to muscle the kettlebell up, at all, but to utilize one’s core, back, and hips as a sort of lever to propel the kettlebell up.
While many people use two hands to grasp the handle and swing it, kettlebells were originally designed to be used one-handed, in the words of Valery Fedorenko. Two-handed swings can give a person beneficial results, as well, though there is some disagreement among practitioners as to which method is the best one to use. Doing even ten kettlebell swings to start with can leave a person’s heart pounding rapidly and the kettlebell swing is the basis of many other kettlebell exercises.
The other two exercises mentioned, the long cycle and the snatch, are ones that will be detailed in a future article, though there are several useful videos online that are worth checking out detailing these exercises. In competition, men generally use two kettlebells when performing the long cycle, and women usually use only one. The kettlebell or bells are swung between the legs, but then they are not brought straight out, as with the kettlebell swing, but are instead brought up to what is called the “rack position,” and they are then raised up quickly into the air, as if one was performing a “jerk.”
Practice Safety When Exercising With Kettlebells
Above all, when using kettlebells as a method to build up strength, burn fat, and build up endurance, practicing safety is something that should be foremost in mind. Like using free weights or other methods to exercise, there is a risk of injury involved, but if care is taken and the proper form is used, that risk can be reduced substantially.
While one of the potential benefits in exercising with kettlebells is that they can work out more than one muscle group at the same time, that can also mean that there are more parts of one’s body that can get injured if a person tries to over-exert him or herself or does not use the proper form, or has had previous injuries like back injuries that might get aggravated and become worse. Trying to be overly macho and using a kettlebell that could be too heavy can also lead to a person getting injured.
Kettlebells Can Be a Safe and Effective Way to Build Strength and Have Fun
Think of using kettlebells as one other method to get strong and to lose weight and build up endurance. They are not a replacement for barbells and dumbbells, but they are a fun and effective way to gain strength and accomplish losing weight, if the exercises done with them are performed safely.
Yes, workouts using kettlebells can be “fun,” though they can be grueling, as well. There are quite a few different exercises that can be done with kettlebells, making them a great alternative way to traditional free weights to aid in strength training and shedding a few extra pounds at the same time. Check them out in the video below!
Written By Douglas Cobb
Valery Fedorenko on Grip Strength and Kettlebell Swing
Fit Day: Kettlebell Weight Training
Breaking Muscle: USING THE KETTLEBELL TO BUILD STRENGTH ENDURANCE
Men’s Health: Kettlebells vs. Free Weights: The Smackdown
WebMD: Kettlebell Workouts Burn Calories Fast
Photo Courtesy Wilson Bilkovich’s Flickr Page -Creative Commons 2.0
Photo Courtesy Marko Suomi’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License 2.0