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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 September 4, 2020

                    How to Lose Fat and Gain Muscle to See Results Fast

                    How to Lose Fat and Gain Muscle to See Results Fast

                    There’s a lot of confusion, mystery, and desperation around how to lose fat and gain muscle. We applaud body transformation pictures we see on Instagram, Facebook, and magazine covers but are never able to replicate the results ourselves.

                    Well, that mystery is over because I will tell you exactly how to achieve those results in this article.

                    The journey to getting there is straightforward but not easy. Most people give up too early in the game, when they stop making visible progress.

                    Keep reading to learn how to utilize your metabolism and the laws of muscle building to lose fat and gain muscle fast.

                    Skyrocket Your Metabolism to Lose Fat

                    Learning how to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time is one of the biggest misunderstandings of body transformations because they are opposite metabolic processes.

                    To lose fat, you must have calorie deficits each day, and to gain muscle, you must be in a caloric surplus, but you cannot do both at the same time.

                    When you look at pictures, it looks like it can be done simultaneously, but what is actually happening is a change in fat and muscle percentages.

                    If your weight stays the same through your journey, and you lose body fat, your percent of lean muscle mass automatically goes up by default. You didn’t gain any muscle, but your fat and muscle ratio percentages have shifted.

                    Calculating Your Calories to Lose Fat

                    There are many good calorie calculators out there that will give you an estimate on how much to eat to start losing fat for weight loss. You usually need to cut about 10 to 15% of your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) calories to start the process.

                    You can find a visual explanation of TDEE below[1]:

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                    Use TDEE to learn how to lose fat and gain muscle.

                      Remember that the calculators are just an estimate. It’s up to you to track your measurements and to adjust your caloric intake to ensure you’re getting the results you’re looking for.

                      Metabolism calculators take into account four different ways your body burns calories to come up with your TDEE, or how many calories you burn in a day:

                      • Resting metabolic rate
                      • Thermic effect of food
                      • Thermic effect of activity
                      • Non-exercise activity thermogenesis

                      Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)

                      This is your baseline metabolism at rest, or how many calories your body needs to survive if you spent the entire day lying in bed awake.

                      RMR accounts for about 60 to 75% of your total daily energy expenditure. Your RMR is mostly determined by how much you weigh.

                      A heavier person has a higher RMR than a lighter person, even if the lighter person has a higher lean muscle mass, because the metabolism of muscle only contributes to about 20% of your total RMR energy expenditure[2].

                      Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)

                      You’ve heard that to lose weight and gain muscle, you should be eating lots of protein. This is true for a number of reasons:

                      • Lowers your intake of other types of foods, like processed carbs.
                      • Increases satiety, so you continue to feel fuller, longer.
                      • The building blocks for your muscles are found in protein.

                      About 30% of the calories from protein intake are burned off during the digestion process, which includes absorption and waste removal of it. Eating more protein as opposed to other macros increases the amount of calories burned during digestion. That’s why you feel fuller with a higher protein diet.

                      Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA)

                      The calories burned in TEA are relatively minor in your entire TDEE equation. TEA is any calories burned during official exercise, like going to the gym, doing an aerobics class, or going for a run. It covers any exercise you do outside of your normal activities.

                      Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

                      The calories burned in NEAT is the big game changer for most people and can vary up to 2000 calories burned per day between people with identical RMRs[3].

                      For the majority of us, when we’re done with our workouts for the day, we don’t do much else for movement. We spend about an hour in the gym, and instead of using the other 15 hours awake as an opportunity to move and burn more calories, we spend it sitting.

                      This is how there can be such a big difference between the amount of calories burned between two people who have the same RMR.

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                      Outside of your gym workout, any additional body movements count towards burning additional calories. The quickest way to add this to your day is to make everything you do as inconvenient for yourself as possible.

                      Examples of inconvenient activities that count towards NEAT include:

                      • Taking the stairs versus the elevator
                      • Parking farther away
                      • Getting up to change the TV channel versus using the remote
                      • Pacing and walking while on a phone call instead of sitting down

                      Increasing your NEAT goes a long way to helping your burn calories faster, leading to quicker fat loss. For more ideas on how to make life a little more inconvenient to up your activity level, check out this article.

                      The Laws of Building Muscle

                      Congrats on reaching the stage where you want to tone and get some definition! Learning how to lose fat and gain muscle isn’t an easy process, so if you’ve taken it on, that’s a huge step.

                      To build muscle, first you want to increase your calorie intake.

                      Based on your TDEE, you want to add about 10% more calories as a starting point. This is enough calories to build muscle, and any excess can lead to fat storage if you’re not training hard enough or aren’t active enough.

                      Again, be sure to track your measurements and adjust your calories if necessary.

                      Second, follow a muscle-building program that you can sustain for at least 3 to 6 months.

                      Consistency is key with building muscles because they need to be stimulated and broken down on a regular basis in order to build back up. You want to strength train at least twice a week for at least an hour each time to start getting results.

                      Of course, more often is better but requires better planning and a more complicated body parts training plan. So, start simple if you’re a novice. It’s not necessary to train 6 times a week unless you’re training for a competition.

                      Progressive Overload

                      Muscle needs to be challenged in order to grow. You need to gradually and consistently increase the amount of load and volume you are lifting.

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                      Load means the amount of weight you’re lifting during weight training. Up to a certain point, it becomes unrealistic to keep adding pounds to each exercise every week, at which point you need to switch exercises and work on your weaker points to break that plateau.

                      However, the goal with load is to keep increasing the amount of weight you lift.

                      Increasing the volume you do is another method to progressive overload. Volume means the total number of reps for that specific exercise. If you’re doing 3 sets of 12 reps, it means you’ve done a total of 36 reps.

                      But increasing volume doesn’t mean doing super high reps of 20+ unless you’re training your muscle for endurance versus strength.

                      You want to use a challenging weight and be able to lift more of it each week through increased reps and sets.

                      Here is a visual explanation of how you can engage in progressive overload[4]:

                      PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD FOR MUSCLE MASS by @jmaxfitness - Visit the link in my bio to claim your free 1-week muscle bu… | Muscle, Gain muscle, Weight training workouts

                        Training Intensity

                        Paying attention to what you’re doing is required if you want to lose fat and build muscle because you want to build and improve the mind-muscle connection to optimize growth.

                        A healthy mind-body connection means you’re able to better feel your muscles working during each lift.

                        You know you’ve picked the right weight when the last 2 to 3 reps of your intended rep range is challenging. On occasion, you want to push past the burn and muscle fatigue for the last reps.

                        This little bit of pushing past the discomfort is the difference between an average body and a body with more definition. Lifting almost to failure increases muscle recruitment, metabolic stress, and anabolic recruitment to grow muscles.

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                        Proper Recovery

                        This is the most overlooked aspect of building muscles. We focus too much on pre/post workout meals, macro tweaking, and supplements, forgetting that we already have the ultimate tool for recovery: our own body.

                        For best recovery practices, allow at least a day, but no more than 3 days of rest between workouts that stress the same muscle group. Overtraining results in diminished exercise capacity, possible injury, and illness.

                        Remember, muscles are broken down in the gym and built outside of it during recovery.

                        Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, and be mindful of your stress levels to optimize recovery time. A lack of sleep and excess stress will spike cortisol levels, leading to hunger cravings, decrease regulation of burning fat, and cause faster aging.

                        You can learn how to lower your stress levels fast here.

                        Stop Program Hopping

                        Every day, there is new workout, new exercise, new program on a website, in a magazine, or in your social media feed. No wonder we’re tempted to try a little bit of everything!

                        Frequent program hopping stops you from getting any results.

                        When you change programs too often, you don’t make progress on each exercise. It becomes hard to gauge whether you’re getting stronger or even getting results because you’re not allowing enough time for your body to adapt.

                        Strength is a skill that needs to be built and developed by practicing it consistently. If you’re changing the skill set too often, you won’t know if you’re improving, and, therefore, cutting yourself short of future muscle gains.

                        Conclusion

                        The steps to losing fat and gaining muscle are simple, but the journey to get there is not.

                        Tracking and measuring your calories is the quickest way to lose fat, along with increasing your activity level outside of the gym. Having a stronger, more toned body can be yours when you follow the laws of building muscles consistently.

                        Applying these methods will guarantee that you get the results you’re after!

                        More on How to Lose Fat and Gain Muscle

                        Featured photo credit: Benjamin Klaver via unsplash.com

                        Reference

                        [1] Cheat Day Design: What is TDEE?
                        [2] International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders: Determinants of energy expenditure and fuel utilization in man: effects of body composition, age, sex, ethnicity and glucose tolerance in 916 subjects
                        [3] Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: Variability in energy expenditure and its components
                        [4] J Max Fitness: PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD FOR MUSCLE MASS

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