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The Benefits of Kettlebell Workouts You Might Not Know (+8 Exercises You Should Try!)

The Benefits of Kettlebell Workouts You Might Not Know (+8 Exercises You Should Try!)

Ever get tired of doing endless cardio? Don’t want to build too much muscle lifting heavy weights? Believe it or not, there’s a perfect happy medium and it’s called the kettlebell. Research is starting to find that a combination of weight training and high intensity cardio puts our bodies in fat melting mode while also adding healthy muscle tone which can be accomplished using kettlebell exercises.

How Kettlebells Are Different from Dumbbells

The kettlebell first originated in 18th century Russia and is a ball of cast iron with “horns” that shape into a handle. The handle is what is used the most, but the horns are useful when different holds are needed, like during squats for example. So what’s special about a kettlebell compared to dumbbells and other weight training tools? A kettlebell’s weight is not distributed evenly like it is with dumbbells. This creates the need to counterbalance and stabilize your body during kettlebell exercises, which are amazing for core strength, balance, and coordination.

    What’s even more interesting is that a 2013 study[1] done by the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse over a period of eight weeks showed that athletes (with experience in strength training) not only had their strength improve, but core strength jumped by 70%. Also, aerobic ability increased 13.8% and balance improved by leaps and bounds. This is not only valuable for the everyday Average Joe, but also for people who may lack balance and strength, like older adults and the physically challenged.

    Benefits of Kettlebell Exercises

    There are tons of awesome benefits that come from doing kettlebell exercises. Kettlebells are known to improve overall strength, core power, balance, flexibility, and coordination while also melting fat and sculpting healthy and lean muscles. Because a kettle bell has an off-set center of gravity, usually about 6 to 8 inches away from your grip on the handle, it is harder to control. So, any kettlebell exercises are going to require strict and controlled form and body mechanics.

    Here are a few other benefits of including kettlebell exercises into your fitness routine:

    • Combines Strength and Cardio – Perform ballistic exercises that combine strength, cardio, and flexibility training.
    • Improves Functional Strength – Targets multiple muscle groups that help with everyday tasks and daily life.
    • Compact and Portable – Only need one or two to train you entire body and are easy to store away.
    • Fun and Versatile Workouts – Kettlebell exercises offer a wide range of movements that target every muscle group for a total body workout.

    Time to Experience How It’s Like to Exercise with a Kettlebell

    Are you ready to give it a go? You won’t be disappointed! First a kettlebell and then get to work. Below are some of the biggest and most important moves in kettlebell training that will target your entire body. Let’s go!

    1. Russian Kettlebell Swing

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      via Real Simple

      Targets: Shoulders, back, hips, glutes, legs, core, arms, shoulders

      The Move: Stand up tall with your feet a little wider than hip width apart. Pick up the kettlebell by the handle with both hands, palms facing your body. Now, keeping your knees slightly bent, drive your hips backwards, dropping the kettlebell between your legs. With an explosive motion, drive your hips forwards swinging the kettlebell in front of your body while also keeping your glutes and core tight. Keep this swinging motion going for a total of 12 to 15 reps, and remember to use your hips, not your arms to swing the bell.[2]

      2. Kettlebell Goblet Squat

        via MyFitnessPal

        Targets: Legs, glutes, back, core

        The Move: Hold the sides of the kettlebell handle (the horns) in both hands directly in front of your chest. With your feet hip width apart, bend into a squat keeping your knees behind your toes and weight on your heels. Once your legs are parallel to the ground, drive upwards with your heels into a standing position. Repeat for a total of 12-15 reps![3]

        3. Kettlebell Lunge Press

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          via Greatist

          Targets: Shoulders, back, arms, abs, glutes, legs, core

          The Move: Stand up straight with the handle of the kettlebell held by both hands in front of your body. Step forward into a lunge with your left leg while simultaneously raising the kettlebell with the right arm towards the ceiling. Feel the burn everywhere! Return your legs to standing while lowering the kettlebell back to your chest. Aim for 12-15 reps per leg…ouch!9[4]

          4. Kettlebell Sumo Upright Row

            Targets: Back, legs, shoulders, arms, core

            The Move: Start with your feet a little wider than hip width apart and the kettlebell on the ground between your feet. Lower down into a squat to pick the kettlebell up by the handle with both hands (knuckles towards the floor). Push up through your heels to standing while raising the kettlebell up to your chin using your arms and shoulders. Lower back down to start and repeat for 12-15 reps.[5]

            5. Kettlebell Russian Twist

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              via Trimmed & Toned

              Targets: Abs, obliques

              The Move: Sit on the floor with your feet in front of you. Hold the kettlebell to your chest, and raise your feet off the floor (and keep them in the air!) Start by twisting from side to side, and if your ambitious, tapping the kettlebell on the floor on each side of your hips. Your abs will be on fire after about five of these! Keep going for a target of 15-20 reps.[6]

              6. Single-Arm Kettlebell Press

                via Bodybuilding.com

                Targets: Chest, arms, core

                The Move: Lie flat on the ground with your knees bent (best for back support). Grab the kettlebell by the handle in one hand with your palm facing your body. Slowly push the kettlebell towards the ceiling while rotating that hand to face towards your feet. Return to starting position and aim for 12-15 reps per arm.[7]

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                7. Single-Arm Kettlebell Split Jerk

                  via Bodybuilding.com

                  Targets: Shoulders, chest, back, legs, core

                  The Move: Start this advanced move by cleaning the kettlebell to your shoulder ending with your palms facing the front.[8] Then, bend your knees slightly and explode the kettlebell upwards over your head into a split jerk position.[9] Balance your arm and body before any further movement! Return to standing position while the kettlebell stays over your head. Carefully, without hitting yourself in the head (yeah, it happens) lower the kettlebell towards starting position. Repeat and aim for 4-6 reps per side.

                  8. Single-Arm Kettlebell Snatch

                    via Greatist

                    Targets: Shoulders, chest, back, core

                    The Move: Start with your kettlebell on the floor between your feet, which should be hip width apart. Grasp the handle, and explode up off of your toes pulling on the kettlebell until it is level with your chest (elbow should be tucked in). At this point, push the bell up over your head to complete this move. Steady yourself before lowering back down to starting position. Repeat for 4-6 reps.[10]

                    Don’t Forget to Warm up and Stretch Before Trying the Kettlebell Exercises!

                    Make sure you are warming up and stretching before using some of these explosive and bigger moves, as you don’t want to injure yourself. Always watch a video to help with proper body mechanics and to perfect each move in order to get the best out of these kettlebell exercises. And of course, enjoy the crap out of this fun and versatile workout method!

                    Reference

                    More by this author

                    Amanda Light

                    Wife, Mom, Writer

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                    Published on January 17, 2020

                    How to Learn Yoga (The Beginner’s Guide)

                    How to Learn Yoga (The Beginner’s Guide)

                    If you think yoga can be learned on the mat, you’re wrong! To learn yoga is to learn yourself, your life and the world around you, which happens mostly off the mat.

                    Since 2000, I study, practice, teach and live yoga – I grow with it from year to year – hence life becomes more interesting and more meaningful from year to year, too. Through all these years, I observe the evolution of yoga in the western culture and see, how (mostly) wrongly, has been interpreted, taught and practiced. Little is known about how to learn yoga – about its practice, its effect and its application. Yoga is all about finding the simplicity and the meaning in the complexity of life.

                    But when we look around us, it doesn’t seem so simple, even for those who practice it, and for the most who teach it. Everything about yoga begins in its definition from the original yogic scripture Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.[1]

                    And the value for how to learn yoga, is in this article – showing the value of the above definition and how to practice it in the simplest way, effectively and efficiently.

                    What is Yoga?

                    Yoga-Citta-Vrtti-Hirodhah — and its translation is: Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations arising within consciousness.

                    The 195 Sutras, that the original yoga scripture consists of, are written in a strongly compressed manner with the idea to deliver a profound meaning and a lot of space for interpretation. However, the interpreter must be highly serious and competent, otherwise the interpretation will drastically deviate from what the message conveys.

                    When the definition about yoga is interpreted and applied the right way, it tells us how yoga is to be practiced and explored. To start the right way, we must know the right destination of yoga, which is Kaivalya:[2] The union between you, the other and the world.

                    Let’s see how to do that:

                    Beginning with the famous mainstream slogan “Union of Body, Mind and Soul”, brings up the question, “How to reunite the body, mind and soul?”

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                    Your feelings – created by outside stimuli result in the creation of thoughts, hence there’s connection between your body and mind. That’s easy to understand, right?

                    Now this connection and the thoughts must serve and improve the mind, making it capable to 1) understand the soul and 2) to unite it with the body and mind. That’s where our journey towards the goal of yoga (Samadhi) is interrupted – making the main part of the union not easy to understand, even less so to accomplish.

                    Yoga is More Spiritual than Physical

                    This is what makes yoga more spiritual than physical. To put it in numbers, yoga is 97% of psychological, philosophical and spiritual nature and only some 3% of physiological, considering that there are only seven out of 195 Sutras referring physiologically to sitting and breathing, of which I talked in my earlier post on Yoga For men.

                    But before experiencing any spirituality from yoga, there is the mental (emotional) part that needs to be mastered and that part is to establish a connection between the body and mind. How?

                    The simple thought and realization that you are conscious of how you feel within your body (cold, warm, relaxed, depressed, anxious, happy and so on), means that you have made the union between your body and mind. (below the step by step exercise for that).

                    But to establish a connection to your soul – to the finest part of yourself – the Self:

                    You must find out (through thinking) what is the subtlest thing that drives your body and mind – yourself as an individual and use that driver to go pass beyond your physicality and mentality.

                    It is right here that you use the definition about yoga and the realization – the moment, where you are not analyzing any thoughts or feelings. This is a state of Yoga – a state of union between body, mind and soul, in which your consciousness has ceased to identify with its fluctuations.

                    Yoga as Creativity and Expertise of the Individual

                    In such a case, there is no specific (like beginners, intermediate or advanced) technique for learning yoga. The moment of the state of yoga arises for everyone of us in an individual way as everybody’s physique and mental content are different. You might be very well advanced in performing the most difficult asanas for decades but still unable and incompetent to be in a state of union with your body, mind and soul. Whereas, if you are a beginner and possess the grace and other virtues, than it’s easier and quicker to establish that connection.

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                    As yoga is an inherent part of the human being, firstly, in order to pave the yoga path successfully and effectively, you must understand that yoga is not a technique for performance, but rather a creativity and expertise of yourself.

                    Your learning process cannot be focused on, nor conditioned by a certain handbook, someone’s instructions or some specific school.

                    Learning yoga requires your creativity to look within yourself and learn from yourself, become the expert of your feelings, emotions and desires. You, as a beginner might already possess many qualities and prerequisites for creating the union between your body, mind and soul, but your knowledge requires creativity for your growth to reach the state of union and then reap the fruits of that union. Once this happens there is no turning back – you’ll be pulled by the beauty and energy of your on being.

                    Be Fast Mentally and Slow Physically

                    As already mentioned, you don’t need to do physical performances like the split or the headstand to be able to immerse in a deep meditation or Samadhi. But you do need enough creativity for your self-inquiry.

                    Many of my students start working directly with meditation – attending the complexities of the mind, because that’s where the hindrances lie. There, the meditator is able to work on the cessation of identifying with the fluctuations of the consciousness – where intelligence expands, adversity ends and the individual is ready to pass through its physicality and mentality in order to reach the union with the soul.

                    But if you’re really a beginner and cannot start with that, then you can start enhancing your creativity on the body-mind level. The exercise follows in the next paragraph.

                    The greater your creativity, the better your expertise about yourself – the deeper your competence to inquire further into the union with your soul. Sure enough that a more pliable and healthy physical body has some advantages and better preconditions for that, but don’t get discouraged because your body-mind union will open up the way.

                    So here we are, you are at the moment to enhance your creativity upon that union. Please, take this as a very serious part of the practice as it is crucial for learning yoga – for learning yourself.

                    The Beginner’s Exercise – Creativity upon Body-Mind Union

                    The first and most important element to learn and practice yoga is of physiological and psychological nature: Stillness:

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                    1. Make sure your body is still and comfortable.
                    2. Focus on breathing to initiate observing.
                    3. Observe your body and identify the first feeling that occurs to you.
                    4. Keep identifying feelings and emotions, but without getting involved with them.
                    5. Now create feelings and emotions as you please and let them go.

                    That’s it! That’s the creativity upon the body-mind union. The validity of this creativity lies in the stillness and observance of that union. In this practice you can learn to understand and catch the moment – the main ingredient of life.

                    Life is a sequence of moments and knowing that you’re able to manage that sequence is a new level of living life, called dharma – the practical and skillful way of living. An essential character develops as a result of practicing this discipline.

                    However, be aware that we are still talking about outward elements of yoga – the gross levels (from Yama to Pratyahara) whereas the subtle, inward elements (Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi) are yet to be approached, learned and implemented. It is on these subtle levels that you can realize the depth of spirituality and the essence of yoga.

                    It is remarkable how the science of yoga can take you in such heights and depths of exploring life and being. Little is known about the essence and the right practice of yoga in the west. There is a huge knowledge gap between how yoga should be learned and how it is practiced today in the west. You can bridge this gap by practicing the above exercise.

                    Know that yoga is of a very subtle nature – operating on a subtle energetic level – the level of your mental energies, your thoughts. That means that it is to be learned at that level and not on any other. A body posture alone cannot take you to that level if you don’t apply your creativity and self-inquiry.

                    Prerequisite for Yogic Success – Union between You and the Other

                    Yoga is nothing, if our relationships with others are not managed harmonically.

                    Learning yoga is also learning connecting with the other – with the stranger who’s not you but carries the same “core”, the same heart as you. We as individuals, possess the inborn feature of Ego – the “I-consciousness” that makes us feel separate from the rest of what makes the wholeness.

                    This separation is the second of the the five “klesah” afflictions[3] – that stand as major hindrance against the union (Yoga) – called “asmita” or I-am-ness / Egoism (Y.S. II.6.), and has to be cultivated and brought to a level of discernment that will lessen our disturbance that comes out the fragmentation between the “I-am-ness” and the “Other-ness”.

                    This is a crucial concept in Yoga and it is inevitable to be worked upon this hindrance in order to reach the inner “psychological” freedom or the ultimate liberation “Kaivalya” for which Yoga stands for. But, again, if you are beginner in this part, you want to know how to start dealing with all this. Here is the exercise:

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                    1. Practice observance from the first exercise.
                    2. Realize that the structure of your feelings, emotions, etc. is identical with the one of the other individuals.
                    3. Practice witnessing, tolerating and gradually accepting the diversity between yourself and the other individuals.
                    4. Observe for so long with equanimity, until you see the uniformity in that diversity.

                    This is one of the greatest accomplishments a human being can achieve. To be, means, to be in relationship – internally, as well as externally.

                    Yogic Lifestyle – Union Between You, The Other and The World

                    Here comes the last piece of the puzzle – the union – on the highest level of worldly existence – between you, the other and the world. This means that Yoga is also worthless if practiced only on the mat. So when learning yoga, especially when practicing the body-mind union, consider if:

                    You speak the language of nature and how you’re connected to nature and its basic elements? Do you complicate your existence by thinking that you are in the center of the world and require extra attention and acknowledgement?

                    Thinking this way interferes with the practice of yoga. And surely, you might wonder, what should be done here in order to create that harmony in union? You’d be amazed to know that there is one important yogic movement that needs to be done. That is:

                    The action of not doing anything but contemplating! Then yoga happens.

                    Yes, this goes beyond the physicality and mentality of your being. As our bodies play just a tiny part of the evolution of existence, we must not attach to the world in that sense – clinging to worldly life with that insatiable urge that generates worries and anxiety – but rather grow through life with detachment and the attitude that life has been gifted to us with the purpose to realize that gift and attain the wisdom of life.

                    Go Beyond Your Physicality and Mentality

                    Attaining greatness like connecting to the world and to your soul, we must pass beyond the thoughts, feelings and emotions, and the influence they have on us. Hence we want to make the mental fluctuations to cease and let yoga shine its light through this yogic movement:

                    The stillness and the watching within.

                    Can yoga be understood and achieved in one single session and then practiced continuously, productively and effectively? Of course it can. Your union within yourself, the other and the world is lot simpler and easier than you think. Practice these simple yogic movements diligently, seriously but also effortlessly and your yoga will be flourishing and fruitful. I salute the spirit in you!

                    More About Yoga

                    Featured photo credit: Avrielle Suleiman via unsplash.com

                    Reference

                    [1] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
                    [2] Wikipedia: Kaivalya
                    [3] Plato Stanford: Klesah

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