You’ve probably seen kettlebells at the gym, but you may be hesitant to pick one up and try them yourself. Kettlebells have become a popular piece of weight training equipment, but if you aren’t sure how to use them correctly, they could be dangerous.
What is a kettlebell?
Picture a bowling ball with a handle on top—that’s a kettlebell. They range in size from five to 100+ pounds. Kettlebells build muscular strength and endurance while blasting fat and increasing flexibility and stability.
What makes a kettlebell different than a dumbbell?
While in one sense, a weight is a weight, kettlebells are different than dumbbells in that the weight of a kettlebell is off-center, with the center of mass away from the hand. This makes a kettlebell more difficult to handle and requires the use of more stabilizer muscles, effectively burning more fat as you work out.
What are the benefits of kettlebell training?
It’s a good workout. Swinging kettlebells isn’t just a weight training exercise—it’s also a cardio workout that gets your heart rate up. According to a study from the American Council on Exercise, kettlebell training could burn up to 20 calories per minute, depending on how hard you’re working. A kettlebell workout is essentially a two-for-one, giving you both cardio and strength benefits at once.
It’s functional training. Functional training focuses on improving multi-muscle movements, burns more calories in less time, makes the body more efficient, and improves total body motion. Kettlebells not only improve cardio strength and muscular endurance, they also require mobility, coordination and motor and balance skills more than a traditional weight workout.
Kettlebells can be used at home. Don’t have the budget for a gym membership or the space for a bench and barbell setup in your living room? Kettlebells are small and compact, and all you need is one weight to get started.
How do I get started?
If you’re new to kettlebell workouts, fitness experts recommend that men start with at least 25 pounds and no more than 35 or 40 pounds. Women should start with at least a 15-pound bell and no more than 35 or 40 pounds. To choose the right starting weight, lift a kettlebell straight out in front of you with both hands, holding your arms parallel to the floor. If that is easy, the kettlebell is too light. An ideal starting weight should be too heavy to comfortably hold out in front of you with your arms straight.
What do I do with a kettlebell?
Ready to pick up a kettlebell and get started? Here are a few exercises to try.
Kettlebell swing: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding the handle of the kettlebell in both hands with an overhand grip. Bending at your hips, swing the kettlebell between your legs, and then thrust your hips forward, using the power generated to raise the kettlebell to shoulder height. Repeat 20 reps.
Kettlebell swing and press: Start by doing the kettlebell swing using just one arm. When the bell is at shoulder height, flip it into your palm and press it up overhead. Return to shoulder height, flipping the kettlebell back into an overhand grip and repeat with another swing and press. Repeat 10 for a total of 10 reps on each side.
Goblet squat: Standing straight and with your feet hip-width apart, hold the kettlebell in front of your chest with both hands. Squat down, keeping your back straight, your chest up and your weight in your heels. Return to standing. Repeat 20 reps.
Two-arm kettlebell row: Grab two kettlebells of equal weight. Place them on the floor in front of your feet and bend your knees slightly. Bend at the waist to grab both kettlebells and pull them toward your stomach, keeping your elbows close to your body and your back straight. Lower the weights and repeat 12 to 15 reps.