Did you know that 15 minutes on an elliptical machine burns between 50-125 calories while 15 minutes of kettlebells can burn 300 calories?
Efficient, powerful and extremely versatile, kettlebells offer an endless array of workouts for fitness goers of all levels.
5 Benefits of Kettlebells
Full-Body Workout The simple kettlebell swing alone works the hips, glutes, hamstrings, lats, shoulders, pecs, grip and core in a single motion. The two general categories of kettlebells are ballistic and grinds. Ballistic motions refer to more dynamic and explosive exercises that work multiple joints such as a swing, snatch and clean. They offer a wide range of motion and work a larger number of muscles while also working the heart and lungs. Grinds are based on more on slow and controlled movements on targeted areas such as a squat, deadlift, or overhead press. They focus on the ability to smoothly transition muscle groups while maintaining tension and challenge posture and alignment. By combining these two techniques you are also able to create hybrid combos to accentuate the most challenging of both methods. A good way to do this is by creating a superset first targeting a controlled grind, followed by an explosive ballistic movement for a few sets.
Stabilization Because of their unique design with resistance positioned away from the handle, kettlebell workouts initiate the use of your stabilizer muscles. This therefore adds the element of stabilization and balance to your workouts in order to perform the exercise appropriately. More specifically, in addition to the primary muscle you would initially think of when performing the exercise, there are other smaller muscles performing to reciprocate the needed stability to execute the movement. An easy way to increase balance and stabilization by using kettlebells is to perform the action with one arm or stand on one leg to engage core and other stabilizer muscles.
Amplify Power and Intensity Kettlebells provide a higher-intensity workout than standard weight-training routines. According to a study by ACE, men and women between ages of 29-46 had a heart rate that ranged between 86-99% of max heart rate and 67-91% of max oxygen uptake - substantially higher than standard weightlifting. Twenty minutes of kettlebells was equivalent to running a six-minute mile pace, or cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace. The fast motions required for exercises like a snatch or swing require an ability to produce movements and fast muscular contractions over an extended period of time creating a power-endurance. This combination is a prime reason why kettlebells are a great way to train for fat loss and conditioning.
Function While a cannonball with a handle at the end is not a typical functional tool, the training around it is in fact functional. It helps to provide strength, stability and mobility needed to thrive in every day life as well as exceed in performance areas. By using basic functional movement patterns of pushing, pulling, hinging, squatting, rotating, and carrying, you are able to improve your movement proficiency.
Posture Because kettlebells are intended to focus on the posterior chain, many exercises strengthen the back of the body to improve posture. With many of us all sitting at a desk all day, it is important to fight a deteriorating body alignment and unengaged posture. The two most common strengthening issues are Upper Crossed Syndrome and Lower Crossed Syndrome. Upper Crossed Syndrome is identified by rounding of the upper back, elevated shoulders and a forward head leaning posture. Lower Crossed Syndrome is identified by an excessive curve or arch in the lower back which indicate that abs and glutes are underactive and a tightness in lower back down and across hip flexors and quads. For a full list of posture-improving exercises, visit kettlebellworkouts.com. Some of my favorite are listed here. - Performing a standing or renegade kettlebell row will strengthen mid back and back shoulder muscles. - A single arm farmers carry will develop core and oblique muscles to carry you through all exercises. - Single-leg deadlifts help to focus on form and stabilization and synergy in upper and lower muscles. - As you might have guessed, the signature kettlebell swing is an excellent way to improve posture from head to tow as it focuses on a deadlift position, tight glutes, contracted abs and engaged lats.
Form: It's all in the hips
Depending on the exercise you are performing, the position may vary, however the basic stance noted below is foundational to the staple kettlebell workouts: including swing, squat, deadlift and snatch.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
Pretend that your upper body has a rope from your spine pulling up through your head to stand tall.
Hinge at your hips letting your upper body come forward (still in straight line) to be able to reach the kettlebell between your feet, being sure to not arch your back. Your shoulders should never fall below your hips.
Engage your lats by making sure that even as you hinge your shoulders are set back, pretending that if you have a logo on your shirt, it is pointing forward.
Grip the kettlebell. (feel free to practice a few smaller swings to get comfortable with the motion before bringing the bell all the way to eye level)
Swing the bell from the inside of the quads slightly through and behind your feet.
Powering from your legs and hinging at your hips, swing the bell up to the chest just about eye level ending standing straight up.
When swinging up, ensure to tuck your pelvis under (not so much of a thrusting motion) to avoid lower back pain.
Let gravity and momentum bring the kettlebell back down and through the slightly bent legs and propel forward again.
Remember to keep back and spine neutral throughout the motion and only have knees slightly bent (this is not a squatting exercise).
IMPORTANT NOTE: The kettlebell swing does NOT use your arms for power in the motion. It should focus on the posterior chain as the powerhouse by basing power from lower body to move the bell creating more of a powerful pendulum than a pull-to-lift motion from arms.
The exercise can become more challenging by adding additional reps for endurance or additional resistance for strength, the option is yours!
There is debate on the level that the kettlebell should come to when swinging whether it is the original Russian way at eye level, or the American way of bringing the bell all the way overhead which is typically more seen in the crossfit space. Both are effective as long as performed correctly. The overhead kettlebell swing will add additional range of motion and expend additional energy for a more intense workout.
Ballistic or grinds, stabilization or power focused, 30 or 15 minutes, whatever or wherever you are in your fitness needs or abilities, there is no doubt that adding kettlebells into your workout routine will add intensity, alignment improvement and fun.
Visit kettlebellworkouts.com for a library of kettlebell exercises and tutorials. For more information on kettlebell workouts, or to see a sample full-body kettlebell workout, email firstname.lastname@example.org We'd love to work with you!