Kettlebells may seem like an outdated exercise outlet when compared to the high-tech workout equipment found in modern gyms. But kettlebells can provide an intense workout, combining cardiovascular, resistance and range of motion training.
According to Lorna Kleidman, a world kettlebell lifting champion, a successful workout “is all in the swing.” Kettlebells burn fat and keep your muscles lean and toned. The energy expenditure of a kettlebell workout is akin to cross-country skiing, which is one of the most intense physical activities you can do. It’s possible to burn 1,500 calories an hour using a kettlebell.
Kettlebells add a new dimension to classic exercise moves. They’re ideal for explosive exercises that help build power and burn fat. Try these seven kettlebell exercises to work your muscles and get the fitness results you’ve always wanted.
Try out this Russian Twist on a classic abdominal exercise. If you tend to get into a routine when exercising your core, this new spin may be a great way to push through a workout rut. With your legs bents and feet flat on the floor, hold the kettlebell at your chest with both hands. Then, slowly lean back to a 45-degree angle. Swing the kettlebell across your body, rotating the torso from left to right by twisting at the waist.
- Muscles Targeted: This exercise specifically targets your abs and obliques. Doing Russian twists is a lot like doing crunches only they have an extra, well… crunch. Start slow and see how many you can do – try 3-5 sets of 10 reps.
The kettlebell swing is the foundation of all kettlebell workouts. It’s a two-for-one exercise that combines weight training and cardiovascular conditioning. Begin by standing with your feet apart and both hands holding the kettlebell between your legs. Then, slowly bend your knees, lean your chest forward and swing the kettlebell to shoulder height. For maximum effect, pop your hips backwards and forwards with each swing; it’s a thrusting motion, not a squat. Proper form is essential when doing a kettlebell swing.
- Muscles Targeted: The swing is the most powerful kettlebell exercise and the cornerstone of a good kettlebell workout. The force of the swing targets the muscles in the hips and legs. It also strengthens abdominal, back and shoulder muscles as the upper body works to stabilize your posture and balance. Aim for 3-5 sets of 10-30 reps.
Double Kettlebell Snatch
The Snatch is nicknamed the “Tsar” of kettlebell exercises, perhaps because the move is technically advanced and requires total body power. The snatch looks a lot like a competitive weightlifting move, but is a doable move for an amateur lifter with enough experience. Start by placing two kettlebells in front of your feet. Bend your knees and pick up the kettlebells. Then, swing the kettlebells forcefully between your legs. While driving through with the power of your hips, lock the kettlebells over your head in a fluid motion as you straighten your knees. Slowly return your body back to position 1 by lowering your arms and bending your knees.
- Muscles Targeted: The snatch is an advanced exercise that provides total body strength and conditioning. It specifically targets the shoulders but also works the hips, glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps. Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps.
This kettlebell exercise is one of the easiest to learn. Begin by holding the kettlebell close to your chest. While keeping your back straight and your head up, squat down until your hamstrings are resting on your calves. Once you’ve gotten into your squat position, push your knees out and return to a standing position.
- Muscles Targeted: The goblet squat specifically targets the quadriceps, but also works the calves, glutes, hamstrings and shoulders. Aim for 3-5 sets of 10-30 reps.
Kettlebell Lunge Press
Lunges are already an effective exercise, but why not take lunging to the next level? This intermediate level exercise will have you feeling the burn in no time. Hold the kettlebell in front your chest with two hands. Lunge forward with one leg while raising the kettlebell over your head. Once completed, push back up to a standing position from the lunge position. Repeat on both sides.
- Muscles Targeted: The kettlebell lunge primarily targets your calf muscles, but the added arm motions target your shoulders, back, arms, abs and glutes. Aim for 3-5 sets of 10-30 reps on each side.
Another simple kettlebell exercise to try as a beginner is the Windmill. Stand with your legs apart. Your right foot should be pointing forward while your left foot is turned out. Hold the kettlebell in your right hand and extend your arm so the weight is above your head. As you hold the kettlebell above your head, bend your left knee and reach for the floor with your left hand. Return to standing position. Switch sides to keep even (i.e. turn out your right food, place the weight in your left hand).
- Muscles Targeted: Windmills improve hip mobility and back function while strengthening core muscles. Aim for 3-5 sets of 10-30 reps.
Single-Arm Kettlebell Floor Press
The single-arm floor press is an upper body juggernaut. It’s also one of the easier kettlebell exercises, which makes it a beginner favorite. Lie on the ground with a kettlebell at your side. Grab the kettlebell in one hand and place your elbow on the floor. Then, press the weight upward while twisting your wrist. Return the kettlebell to the starting position, making sure to switch arms.
- Muscles targeted: This exercise targets your bicep muscles, but also engages your chest, triceps and core muscles. Aim for 3-5 sets of 10-30 reps, and then switch arms.
Tips and Techniques
The key to properly executing a kettlebell exercises is to choose the right weight. When you start a new workout routine, it’s best to take things slow. It’s recommended that an absolute beginner lift a 10-pound weight. If you feel that this weight is too light or too heavy, feel free to make modifications. However, using a lighter weight to start will help you master the technique and avoid future injury. The number of reps and sets you do should depend on your chosen weight and starting fitness level. Remember: maintaining good form is just as important as completing lots of reps and sets.
And there you have it – all the bells and whistles of a kettlebell workout. See you at the gym!