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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 September 23, 2021

                Best Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners (The Complete Guide)

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                Best Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners (The Complete Guide)

                Think you can’t get a great workout or build muscle with your body weight? think again. Getting fit doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple, safe, and effective with bodyweight workouts you can do anytime and anywhere for the rest of your life.

                Regardless of whether you are an athlete, recreational exercise enthusiast, or someone who hasn’t lifted anything but small children or everyday household items, using your body weight as resistance is one of the best ways to get and keep your body in tip-top shape for years to come.

                What Is Bodyweight Training?

                Bodyweight training or workout uses your body as resistance and is essential for gaining and maintaining muscles, especially as you age. According to the National Institute of Health, beginning as early as age 30, we gradually lose muscle mass and strength as a natural part of the aging process.[1] The rate of loss varies from person to person and will increase due to a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutritional selections. If you don’t do anything about it, the average human will lose 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade. But there is excellent news. With the addition of daily movement, weekly strength training, and proper nutritional choices, gaining muscle is more straightforward than you will expect.

                If you want to build confidence, endurance, move better, feel stronger, and lose weight, start with bodyweight workouts. Your body is one of the most fantastic fitness machines ever created to handle life’s physical demands and challenges, and it is always available to you. With a bit of effort, consistency, and proper progressive programming, you will not only improve your fitness level, but you will also continue to feel mentally focused, and you might even minimize the effects of the aging process.

                  Photo Credit: Kaileen Pfeiffer of Pfeiffer Photography

                  Need more convincing?

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                  Jane M. Taylor, MS, CSCS, PN L1, Owner/Coach of Raw Fitness Performance, says:

                  “Mastering bodyweight strength is crucial if you plan to add strength training to your overall fitness plan. Having coached thousands of athletes, adults, teens, and kids, I apply the same movement paradigm to everyone, especially beginners.

                  First, can you get in position? In other words, do you have proper mobility and stability? You do? Great.

                  Next, can you get in and out of position? That’s bodyweight strength—movement with control.

                  Spending time practicing bodyweight workouts is time well spent. Not worrying about an external load allows you to groove the movement, laying down the foundation and establishing the fundamentals to eventually express more significant amounts of strength with weights when you are ready to progress.

                  Not only that, no matter where you go, you’ll NEVER miss a workout!”

                  Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises

                  Here are 12 benefits that will motivate and excite you to put your body to work.

                  1. It helps improve any muscle imbalances, especially from rounded shoulders and tight hips from sitting too long (hello, new work from the home model).
                  2. It works the whole body.
                  3. It lays down an excellent foundation for future weighted programming.
                  4. It helps improve strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, and coordination.
                  5. It can increase your confidence.
                  6. It saves time going to the gym.
                  7. It can be done anywhere, so there is never an excuse not to work out.
                  8. No equipment is necessary.
                  9. It never gets boring.
                  10. It’s free.
                  11. It’s great for any body type.

                  Will I Build Muscles With Just My Body Weight?

                  Yes!! Following an intense workout, muscle fibers break down and need to repair. It’s during this repair phase that the muscles will strengthen and grow. Note that for this process to occur, the body must be pushed outside of its comfort zone. Using external resistance, aka free weights, barbells, or bands, will speed up this process and is a fantastic addition to any strength program, but it is doable with just your body weight.

                  As you improve, the trick is to continue changing your training variable (sets, reps, intensity, time under tension). Once you have mastered your technique, it is time to take it to the next level by mixing high-intensity exercises with exercises performed slowly, focusing on engaging the muscle during the contraction phase, which I will demonstrate in the video.

                  Let’s break down a few beginner exercises and body parts to get you started.

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                  First, there are seven basic movements the body can perform; pushing, pulling, hinging, squatting, twisting, skipping, jumping. From these seven, there are many different variations for each body part which I will show you below. With bodyweight workouts, you work all your muscles, including your heart, as you elevate your endurance.

                  1. Back – Plank Push-Ups, Back Extensions
                  2. Chest – Push-Ups, Incline Regular, High to Low Plank
                  3. Arms – Modified Side Plank, Side Plank Hip Drop, Dips
                  4. Core/Hips – Planks (high and low; you may perform off your kitchen counter), Elevated Mt Climbers, Opposite Arm Leg Reach, Bear Crawl Hold, Isometric Knee Press (Single and Double Knee Hold), Heel Drops (Single and Double Heel Drop), Deadbug, Crunches, Floor Bridge
                  5. Legs/Hips
                  6. Quadriceps – Seated Bent Knee Extensions, Seated Straight Leg Lift
                  7. Hips – Side Leg Raise, Deadlifts, Prone Leg Lifts, Glute Extensions
                  8. Squats – Chair Squat, Step Out Squat, Plie Squat, Wall Squat Hold
                  9. Lunges – Step Ups, Stationary, Side Lunge, Curtsy Lunge, Swing Lunge

                  Designing a Bodyweight Workout Program

                  With bodyweight workouts, the variety is endless and can be applied to any current life situation. Whether you have 10 minutes or an hour, use the simple format below to keep your muscles constantly guessing. If you are just starting, begin with 20 minutes twice a week for two to four weeks. As your fitness level improves, increase the time and amount of days/week.

                  The greatest thing about bodyweight workouts is there are multiple variations, and you will never get bored. Select an exercise from each category. Always starting with a movement that works numerous muscles at once ex push-ups and squats, then move to exercises that work smaller muscles, aka dips for the triceps.

                  Best Beginner Total Body Workout

                  Beginner: two times a week

                  (Repeat 2 x 10 to 15 repetitions)

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                  1. Plank Push-Ups

                  1. Begin on your elbows on an elevated surface such as your kitchen counter or dining table.
                  2. Step your feet back and together so you are supporting your body weight on your elbows.
                  3. Maintain a straight line from the top of your head to your toes.
                  4. At the same time, brace your core by pulling your stomach muscles in towards the back of the body and begin to retract your shoulder blades as if you are squeezing a pencil, then push the counter away with your core and elbows and come back to the starting position.
                  5. Perform the prescribed repetitions (reps).
                  6. Your whole body should move as a unit.

                  2. Push-Ups

                  1. Begin by placing your hands shoulder-width apart on an elevated surface such as your kitchen counter or dining table.
                  2. Step your feet back and together so you are supporting your body weight on your hands, maintaining a straight line from the top of your head to your toes.
                  3. At the same time, brace your core by pulling your stomach muscles in towards the back of the body and begin to bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the counter, then straighten your arms and push back up to the starting position.
                  4. Perform the prescribed reps.
                  5. Your whole body should move as a unit.

                  3. Step-Out Squat

                  1. Begin standing with your feet together.
                  2. Step out to the right and lower your hips back behind you, pushing through the heels. Keep the knees behind the toes.
                  3. Stand up and step together, tucking the tailbone under and squeezing the butt at the top.
                  4. Perform the prescribed reps.
                  5. Repeat on the left.

                  4. Stationary Lunge

                  1. Step out about hip bone/hip distance.
                  2. Step the right foot back and stagger your stance about the same distance as the length of your leg.
                  3. Keep the back heel off the ground and begin to bend into both legs, lowering your body towards the floor.
                  4. Be sure to place more of your body weight through your front heel and keep the front knee behind the toe.
                  5. Perform the prescribed reps.

                  5. Hip Bridge

                  1. Lie on your back, either on the floor or couch.
                  2. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor.
                  3. Press through the feet, squeeze your butt and press the hips to the sky.
                  4. Lower down 1/2 way, then repeat.
                  5. Perform the prescribed reps.

                  6. Isometric Knee Press

                  Depending on your core strength, begin with one side at a time or both legs on a tabletop.

                  Level 1: Single-Leg Knee Press

                  1. Lie on your back, either on the floor or couch.
                  2. Bend your knees and place your right foot on the floor.
                  3. Keeping the left knee bent, bring it up off the floor into a 90°-angle (otherwise known as tabletop position).
                  4. Place the left hand on your thigh.
                  5. At the same time, push your hand into your thigh and thigh into your hand. You should feel your abdominals contract.
                  6. Hold that contraction for 10 sec, then pause.
                  7. Perform the prescribed reps.
                  8. Switch sides.

                  Level 2: Double Knee Press

                  1. The exact format as above, only this time, both legs will be in tabletop.
                  2. Keep the abdominals braced for 10 sec, then pause.
                  3. Perform the prescribed reps.

                  Conclusion

                  If your goal is to move and feel better in your body and continue to progress to an advanced fitness level, begin with bodyweight workouts. Not only will it lay down a solid foundation, but it will also help you minimize injury and give you the confidence to keep progressing to more challenging workouts.

                  Commit to yourself and future strength gains by incorporating bodyweight workouts into your weekly routine. I promise you won’t be sorry.

                  More Beginner Workouts You Can Try

                  Featured photo credit: Fortune Vieyra via unsplash.com

                  Reference

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