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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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                    Last Updated on October 18, 2018

                    7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

                    7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

                    Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world due to the practicality and simplicity of getting in shape using your own body weight. Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will never go out of fashion.

                    Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they require a small time investment on your part, and offer the chance to achieve substantial results in a relatively short span of time.

                    Video Summary

                    Why is it important to train up our core strength?

                    There are numerous sites and blogs which detail ways to build your core muscles or core strength. Often though, these sites neglect to explain what your core muscles actually are, and why building them is important.

                    This is quite surprising, as core muscles are quite easy to explain. Your core muscles are a series of muscles in your midsection, and are used in most forms of movement. Though they aren’t housed in your arms or legs, your core muscles can help transfer force from one limb to another, or are used in addition to muscles in your arms or legs to increase their effectiveness. As such a strong core will make a big improvement on your ability to move and exercise further.

                    Also, they are great for helping other muscles in your midsection such as your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your back and spinal column, and as such are important aids in preventing injuries. However, for them to be most effective, you need to spend a lot of time developing your core muscles.

                    In short, planking exercises can make a huge improvement in your muscles down your whole body. Making them a hugely effective exercise to perform.

                    Think you’re too late to start training your muscle, wrong! Here’s the proof.

                    One exercise, multiple benefits

                    There are few forms of exercise as effective at building your core as planking exercises. However, planking exercises benefit far more than just your core strength.

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                    By holding yourself in the position for a planking exercise, you’ll notice that your biceps, neck, and shoulder muscles are also being tested and strained. This this encouraging their buildup and development. This is great news if you like to do press ups, developed shoulder muscles will have a big impact on your press up performance.

                    When planking, you are holding yourself up through your arms and biceps and so by holding a planking position, your arm muscles are being toned and developed. Making planking a great alternative exercise to other forms of bicep developing exercises.

                    Moving down your midsection, successful plank exercises actually develop the muscles in your butt! These muscles tend to be ignored by a lot of exercises, so this is another great benefit of plank exercises.

                    In much the same way as you develop your biceps and arm muscles, holding the planking position helps develop the muscles in your thighs too.

                    What is even better is that planking exercises don’t take much time at all. In fact you should probably only spend about ten minutes max per day in the planking exercise.

                    7 Things that happen when you start doing planks every day

                      1. You’ll improve core definition and performance

                      Planks are an ideal exercise for the abdominal muscles exactly because they engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominusthe external oblique muscle, and the glutes. The importance of strengthening each muscle group cannot be underestimated either, for all of these groups serve their own purpose. If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:

                      • Transverse abdominis: increased ability to lift heavier weights.
                      • Rectus adbominis: improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. This muscle group is also responsible for giving you the renowned six pack look.
                      • Oblique muscles: improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting
                      • Glutes: a supported back and a strong, shapely booty.

                      2. You’ll decrease your risk of injury in the back and spinal column

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                        Doing planks is a type of exercise that allow you to build muscle while also making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.

                        Check out this article if you would like to find out about how doing planks on different surfaces can impact the effectiveness of this exercise in strengthening your core.

                        3. You’ll experience an increased boost to your overall metabolism

                          Planking is an excellent way of challenging your entire body because doing them every day will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a day-to-day basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when sedentary. This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer. Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you are asleep).

                          4. You’ll significantly improve your posture

                            Planking exercises have a great impact and improvement on your posture. This is great news as a strong posture brings with it a huge number of fantastic benefits .

                            A good posture keeps your bones and joins in the correct alignment which means both your bones and joints will be better maintained and more healthy, but also means the overall effectiveness of your muscles will be improved.

                            A good posture will ensure your back or spine is in the correct position and so you will suffer less back pain.

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                            On top of everything, someone with good posture looks better, healthier, and more confident.

                            5. You’ll improve overall balance

                              Have you ever felt that when you tried standing on one leg, you couldn’t stand up straight for more than a couple of seconds? It’s not because you were drunk- unless you happened to be at the time!-  but rather, it’s because your abdominal muscles weren’t strong enough to give you the balance you needed. Through improving your balance by doing side planks and planks with extensions you will boost your performance in every kind of sporting activity.

                              6. You’ll become more flexible than ever before

                                Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shouldersshoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes. With a side plank added in to the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.

                                7. You’ll witness mental benefits

                                  Plank exercises have a particular effect on our nerves, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood. How? Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves. The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.

                                  How to hold a plank position

                                  1. Get into pushup position on the floor.
                                  2. Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
                                  3. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
                                  4. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
                                  5. Hold the position for as long as you can.
                                  6. Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
                                  7. When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.

                                  Watch the video if you have any doubt!

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                                  Here is a great infographic that shows the best plank variation exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:

                                    How to improve your plank time gradually

                                    1. Start with the easier variation if needed. You can start with a bent-knee plank if you can’t perform a regular plank yet. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move on to these tougher variations.
                                    2. Practise every day. Space your planking exercise throughout the day and do 3-4 times every day. Try to hold the position 10 seconds longer each time.
                                    3. Perform other body-weight exercises at the same time. Push-up and squat will improve your core strength too.

                                    Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.

                                    It’s all about hacking your body by building a lasting habit like this.

                                    Who should be cautious doing the plank?

                                    You need to be cautious doing Planking exercises if any of these risks apply to you:

                                    • Prolapse
                                    • After prolapse surgery
                                    • Pelvic pain conditions
                                    • Weak or poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles
                                    • Previous childbirth
                                    • Overweight

                                    Choose an alternative pelvic floor abdominal exercise or consult your doctor before performing plank regularly.

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