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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Kettlebell Exercises: Benefits And 8 Effective Workouts

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Kettlebell Exercises: Benefits And 8 Effective Workouts

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.

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[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% 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.

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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

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]

    2. Kettlebell Goblet Squat

     

    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.

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      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] This kettlebell exercise will have your legs and glutes toned in no time.

      3. Kettlebell Lunge Press

       

      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]

        4. Kettlebell Sumo Upright Row / High Pull

        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

           

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          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.[5]

            6. Single-Arm Kettlebell Press

            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.[6]

              7. Single-Arm Kettlebell Split Jerk

              Muscles worked: Shoulders, chest, back, legs, core

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              Start this advanced move by holding the kettlebell to your shoulder with your palms facing the front.[7] Then, bend your knees slightly, jump your left leg back, and explode the kettlebell upwards over your head into a split jerk position.[8]

              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

               

              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.[9]

                Final Thoughts

                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

                Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

                Reference

                More by this author

                Amanda Lindsey

                A registered nurse and a mom who loves to share health resources to help others.

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                Last Updated on January 5, 2022

                7 Practical Stretching Tips to Enhance Your Next Workout

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                7 Practical Stretching Tips to Enhance Your Next Workout

                Stretching is one of the most essential aspects of a healthy fitness routine. It’s also one of the most overlooked. Instead of thinking of this activity as a separate entity, consider stretching as a continuation of your exercise routine. By making stretching tips a part of your workout, you won’t neglect the attention your muscles and joints require to perform effectively.

                Whether using stretching as a way to wake up, get your mind in the game, or recover from strenuous activity, your body will reap its short-term and long-term benefits. In the moment, stretching is a great way to warm up the body and prevent yourself from overextension and injury. In the long run, stretching daily can help loosen your tendons and muscles, and ultimately help you maintain a full range of motion later in life.

                Taking these ideas into consideration, follow these 7 simple tips for stretching to add stretches back into your workout vocabulary.

                1. Stretch and Stretch Often

                Ultimately, your body can benefit from stretching daily. Many of us experience a somewhat stationary lifestyle at work, so we naturally need to warm up our bodies after remaining immobile for long periods of time.

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                With only ten minutes of stretching, you can increase your strength, balance and flexibility. From working out to waking up in the morning, slow, easy movements can warm up the body. Just remember to be gentle; any jarring movements can cause injury and muscle tear.

                For the best results, hold each stretch for at least sixty seconds[1].

                2. Warm up Before a Workout

                Similar to establishing a daily stretching routine, warming up the body pre-workout is vital for having a successful session and one of the most important stretching tips. Just grabbing your foot to stretch your calf for a couple seconds could actually harm your body, so make sure you begin slowly and take your time.

                Attempting any exercise with “cold muscles” or without “waking up the body” will also hurt your body and cause muscle pulls and tendon tears. Try taking a short walk or elongating your stretches for optimal results.

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                3. Gauge Your Tension

                Stretching should never be painful. Monitor how your muscles feel as you stretch. Naturally, you should feel some mild tension, but don’t push yourself past the edge of discomfort.

                If you’re starting to experience sharp pain or sensations that gradually get more severe, you are doing something wrong. Try to focus on one area at a time so you are only pushing yourself so far. When you begin to feel comfortable stretching, deepen your stretch, but don’t over-exert yourself.

                4. Avoid Bouncing

                Stretching tips don’t often mention this, but bouncing can be one of the most detrimental things you can do to your body while stretching. When your body constantly shifts, your muscles can tighten, and you can increase the risk of pulling or tearing a tendon. Find your balance or focal point, and remain steady.

                When in doubt, try using a mirror to watch yourself stretch to improve your form. Don’t be afraid to consult your doctor or trainer for someone to monitor your posture and stance[2].

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                5. Just Breathe

                One of the main benefits of stretching is its ability to help the mind and body relax. Therefore, try to breathe normally and make sure you don’t hold your breath[3].

                As you deepen your stretch, make sure to inhale and exhale slowly. Any abrupt, fast breathing or lack of breathing can cause tension in your body and increase your risk of injury. Make sure you are comfortable so that your mind focuses on the task at hand.

                6. Vary Your Routine

                While stretching, don’t forget to work on opposing muscles and incorporate as many muscle groups as possible in your routine for a holistic workout. Also, one of the most important stretching tips I can offer is to change your routine often so you don’t get bored.

                Often, boredom can cause carelessness and a loss of focus, which, in turn, can cause injuries. Look to Yoga workouts[4] or Pilates classes, as they are great resources for finding new stretches.

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                7. Always Remember to Cool Down

                Stretching is also an excellent form of recovery to avoid muscle soreness. Don’t overlook this part of a workout, as it releases the tension in your body and increases blood flow to muscles that are warm and worked. Cooling down can prevent injury and decrease your heart rate after an intense workout. Do what you can to help your body quickly recover from your daily exercise routine.

                Final Thoughts

                Stretching tips are vital when participating in an active lifestyle. However, your body needs fuel to assist you through these daily routines. Therefore, don’t forget to eat the right foods and stay hydrated. Not only do you replenish your body with fluids and nutrients lost, but you can keep your muscles strong and ready for the next routine.

                If you struggle with stress and anxiety, stretching can help you move into a calmer headspace and find both mental and physical balance. Furthermore, stretching can help you and your body focus on something else, which will help you move past the stress.

                As you plan your next workout, incorporate time for pre and post-workout stretches to see how it improves your exercise experience.

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                More Stretching Tips

                Featured photo credit: Oksana Taran via unsplash.com

                Reference

                [1] Harvard Health Publishing: The ideal stretching routine
                [2] Harvard Health Publishing: Six tips for safe stretches
                [3] Penn State: Balance, Breathing and Flexibility
                [4] Health: Best Yoga Poses for Your Trouble Spots

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