Do you ever get tired of doing endless cardio but 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.
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Kettlebells Vs 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 kettlebell 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 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% when using kettlebells. Also, aerobic ability increased 13.8%, and balance improved by leaps and bounds. This is not only valuable for the everyday person, but also for people who may lack balance and strength, like older adults and the physically challenged.
Benefits of Kettlebell Exercises
There are many incredible 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 kettlebell 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. Therefore, the best kettlebell exercises are going to require strict and controlled form and body mechanics.
Here are a few other benefits of kettlebell workouts:
Combines Strength and Cardio
Kettlebells require you to practice ballistic exercises that combine strength, cardio, and flexibility training for a full body workout. They’ll add extra weight while doing squats, twists, or swings, which help you build strength but also up your cardio. They also improve range of motion while burning fat.
Improves Functional Strength
Kettlebell exercises target multiple muscle groups that help with everyday tasks and daily life. For example, the Russian twist with a kettlebell improves both back and core strength, which will help with posture, as well as your ability to balance and lift heavy items.
Compact and Portable
Kettlebells are small, and you only need one or two to train you entire body. Because of their size and shape, they are easy to store and carry to and from the gym if desired.
Fun and Versatile Workouts
Kettlebell exercises offer a wide range of movements that target every muscle group for a total body workout. There are many exercises that can be combined in various ways to keep your everyday workout routine interesting.
8 Great Kettlebell Exercises
Are you ready to add kettlebell exercises to your workout? You won’t be disappointed! Below are some of the biggest and most important moves in kettlebell training that will target your entire body.
1. Russian Kettlebell Swing
Muscles worked: Shoulders, back, hips, glutes, legs, core, arms, shoulders
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 backward, dropping the kettlebell between your legs. With an explosive motion, drive your hips forward, 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. Kettlebell Goblet Squat
Muscles worked: Legs, glutes, back, core
Hold the sides of the kettlebell handle (the horns) in both hands directly in front of your chest, around shoulder height. With your feet hip width apart, bend into a squat, keeping your knees behind your toes and your weight in 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. This kettlebell exercise will have your legs and glutes toned in no time.
3. Kettlebell Lunge Press
Muscles worked: Shoulders, back, arms, abs, glutes, legs, core
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. Return your legs to standing while lowering the kettlebell back to your chest. Aim for 12-15 reps per leg.
4. Kettlebell Sumo Upright Row / High Pull
Muscles worked: Back, legs, shoulders, arms, core
For this kettlebell workout, 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 a standing position while raising the kettlebell up to your chin using your arms and shoulders. Keep your legs and core engaged to avoid straining your back. Lower back down to start, and repeat for 12-15 reps.
5. Kettlebell Russian Twist
Muscles worked: Abs, obliques
Sit on the floor with your feet in front of you. Bring the kettlebell to your chest, with your arms bent, and raise your feet off the floor, keeping them in the air. Start by twisting from side to side, and if you’re 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. Single-Arm Kettlebell Press
Muscles worked: Chest, arms, core
Lie flat on the ground with your knees bent (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. Single-Arm Kettlebell Split Jerk
Muscles worked: Shoulders, chest, back, legs, core
Start this advanced move by holding the kettlebell to your shoulder with your palms facing the front. Then, bend your knees slightly, jump your left leg back, and explode the kettlebell upwards over your head into a split jerk position.
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, lower the kettlebell towards starting position. Repeat and aim for 4-6 reps per side to get the most out of this great kettlebell exercise.
This move can be a little more difficult than many of the others, so watch the above video to learn proper form and avoid injury.
8. Single-Arm Kettlebell Snatch
Muscles worked: Shoulders, chest, back, core
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, and repeat for 4-6 reps.
When you are preparing to do 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 form and body mechanics and to perfect each move in order to get the best out of each exercise. Combine the above moves to create a versatile kettlebell workout routine that is fun and effective.
More on Building Muscle
- 5 Fitness and Nutrition Hacks to Build Muscle Fast
- Muscle Building Diet: How to Eat to Lose Fat and Build Muscle
- How to Gain Muscle Quickly and Naturally (A Step-by-Step Guide)
Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com
|||^||Journal of Fitness Research: Effects of kettlebell training on aerobic capacity, muscular strength, balance, flexibility, and body composition|
|||^||Bodybuilding.com: Kettlebell Explosion: Harness The Power Of The Kettlebell Swing|
|||^||Muscle&Fitness: Kettlebell Squat|
|||^||CJ Koegel: How To: Lunge with Kettlebell Press|
|||^||Jonny Fit: Kettlebell Moves: Kettlebell Russian Twist|
|||^||Bodybuilding.com: One-Arm Kettlebell Floor Press|
|||^||Lauren Brooks: Kettlebell Clean|
|||^||Bodybuilding.com: One-Arm Kettlebell Split Jerk|
|||^||Bodybuilding.com: One-Arm Kettlebell Snatch|