How would you like to burn 300 calories in 20 minutes, without a huge investment in equipment, training or gym memberships? That is the basis for the explosion of exercises that use kettlebells. Unlike dumbbells, kettlebells are not symmetric. This forces your body to expend additional effort when moving kettlebells to maintain stability and alignment. See how a quick routine with the lowly "cannon ball with a handle" can tone you up and slim you down.
There is no "standard" kettlebell. Typically, these cast iron spheres with a solid, looping handle range in weight from 4 pounds to over 150. Some kettlebells have plastic or ceramic coverings, or are filled with sand, water or pellets. The off-center weight distribution and solid gripping handle make it ideal for range-of-motion exercises and workouts that combine cardio and strength moves.
Kettlebell exercises are gaining popularity for a number of reasons. The equipment is inexpensive and easy to understand. Most garage sale Saturdays will have numerous kettlebells for sale for less than 410. The kettlebell workouts are quick and intense, so you don't have to dedicate your entire morning to exercise, yet you will see an improvement in your body within a very short time. You don't need a gym or special clothes, so a half hour in your home before or after work is all you need to get a great workout.
A typical kettlebell exercise regimen consists of some warm-up stretching followed by 3-5 sets of intense exercises with 2 minute recovery periods. Each exercise targets a group of muscles: shoulders, back, arms or core. Here are some basic moves to get you started:
- The front swing
Stand with your feet slightly wider apart than your shoulders. Grip the kettlebell with both hands, with the weight between your knees. In a controlled manner, swing the kettlebell forward and up, until it is at shoulder level, then back down until it is again between your knees. Keep your arms and knees straight and concentrate on performing a controlled swing. This is great for your shoulders and arms, builds your grip strength, and is a good introduction to kettlebell exercises. Do 10 swings before resting.
- The snatch
Stand with your feet slightly wider apart than your shoulders. Grip the kettlebell with your arm fully extended downward, with the kettlebell between your knees. In a fluid motion, swing the kettlebell out and up until the kettlebell is over your head. Keep your arm straight throughout the swing, with just a bit of a push to get the weight directly over your shoulder. Do 5-7 repetitions before resting.
- Around the world
Stand with your feet below your shoulders, knees slightly bent. Grasp the kettlebell with one hand, holding it at waist level. Swing the weight out and around your body, toward your back. When the kettlebell is behind you, switch to your other hand and continue the motion to the front of your body. When the kettlebell is directly in front of you, switch back to the other hand. Keep your body erect and as motionless as possible. Try to do 10 circuits in each direction.
- The squat lift
Start with your feet spread wide, knees bent, with the kettlebell held with both hands in front of you with your arms relaxed. Keeping your back straight and head over your feet, bend your knees until the kettlebell is on the ground, and then straighten back up. Do 10 squats at a time.
- The kettle curl
Stand comfortably, with the kettlebell grasped in one hand, arm straight down at your side. In a smooth motion, raise the weight to your shoulder for one second, then lower it back down in a controlled descent. Fight the temptation to jerk it up and drop it back down. Slow, smooth motion will deliver the best workout and avoid impact damage to your shoulder, elbow and wrist. Try 15 repetitions for each arm.
With the kettlebell, exercising can be quick, easy and advance as you gain strength and expertise. Working out with a buddy is even more fun, so find a friend and kettlebell together. If you don't have a friend who's interested right now, check out WannaBuddy.com and find a local workout buddy. Have fun and stay fit!