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All about Kettlebells


Overwhelmed by all the gym options? You’re not alone. Our new series will help you understand what all those random things are — and how to use them. 

Whenever I venture into the weights part of the gym, I get rather intimidated. There are usually a bunch of guys and a few buff gals with ginormous muscles lifting massive weights. They grunt and spit and slam down bars and look at me like I have no business being there. Or at least that’s what I imagined for the longest time. Thing is, I don’t think these people really care what I’m doing at all — as much as I don’t care about the paces of neighboring treadmill runners.

So, I eventually got over myself and decided that strength training is this major area of fitness lacking from my routine. Kettlebells have been a gateway weight for me to begin my adventure with building strength. And they might be a great introduction for you as well.

Kettlebells originate in Russia and have actually been around for hundreds of years. They’re usually made of cast iron and have weights ranging from 5 pounds to 100 pounds (though you may also see weight measured in kilograms). While it may seem simple enough to lift these bells up and down to tone muscles, it’s really the swinging action that gets the whole core and cardio focus in motion. (Source)

Research shows that a solid kettlebell routine can burn up to 50 percent more calories than traditional strength-training alone (Source). If you’re short on time or just looking for a quick pick-me-up, this cardiovascular meets strength meets flexibility tool may be for you.

A fantastic place to start: Kettlebell Swings. They’re a workout all their own — trust me. The action uses muscles from head to toe, providing a total body experience that will leave you both burning and winded. Basically, you stand with your feet shoulder width apart, holding a single kettlebell with both hands (beginners could start with 25 to 35 pounds) between your legs. You squat down while keeping your arms straight and pop up, thrusting your hips while swinging the weight to a little lower than eye-level.

Confused? It’s best to see this motion in action or ask a trainer. Here’s a great video with the proper technique. And be sure to ask staff if there’s a kettlebell class in the curriculum — many gyms offer them, and they’re an intense session, that’s for sure. Bring lots of water, a towel, and be prepared to drip with sweat.

As with any new fitness program, it’s best to consult a physician before starting and getting carried away. At the same time, there are some common and avoidable mistakes that can be made with kettlebells, especially related to posture. Be sure to keep a neutral spine and not rely too heavily on your upper-body to do the bulk of the work.

Though it may be tempting to get creative, it’s best to stick with prescribed, classic tried-and-true moves to prevent injury.


Written by  Ashley Marcin.