Kettlebells are some of the best, yet most underutilized, pieces of equipment in any fitness regimen. If you have not yet used kettlebells, I highly encourage you to try them next time you are at the gym. Every gym should have them, and no matter your age, fitness level, or athletic ability, there is a kettlebell exercise that will benefit you.
There are two main reasons why I promote them so much:
First, they are very compact and easy to store. Whether you have limited rack space at your fitness club or have a small home gym in your basement, a couple of kettlebells take up hardly any space. I suggest that you start on the lighter side and work your way up. Keep in mind that kettlebells typically go by the metric system and a “standard” weight for women is 12KG – 16KG (26lbs – 35lbs) and for men 20KG – 24KG (44lbs – 53lbs). As you can see, you won’t need too many weights. Just a few options will do the trick.
Second, and perhaps most importantly, they are incredibly multi-functional and versatile when incorporating them into your daily workout. When I am working on compound movements with my clients, I typically use them because they trigger a full body response.
Here are five ways that you can use kettlebells, whether your goal is strength, cardio or mobility:
- Deadlift: Start by placing a kettlebell between your legs, by your heels. Squat down to get the bell – remember to hinge your hips and keep your back flat. This helps to make sure that you’re loading with your posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes) and not your lower back. Grab the kettlebell with both hands and stand up straight, bringing your hips into an extension and squeezing your glutes. When executed properly, this is a full body movement using legs, core and traps.
- Kettlebell Swings: A progression up from the deadlift, you will start in the same position with the kettlebell between your legs, but closer to your toes (6” in front of your toes). Again, reach down to grab it with a flat back and a hip hinge and swing it back between your legs (underneath your groin). As the pendulum starts to come back up, squeeze your glutes and swing the kettlebell so it’s shoulder level. Remember, you should feel this in your glutes and hamstrings, not in your arms or lower back.
- Kneeling Shoulder Press: With your left leg kneeling on a pad and your right leg in front, place the kettlebell in the rack position in your left hand (thumb on sternum, kettlebell resting on your forearm). Squeeze your right glute, fire your core, and press the kettlebell slowly overhead. Stabilize the shoulder so you are loading your core and your lats and the tension is not isolated in your shoulder. The goal of this movement is to stabilize with your right glute and your core, while you are pressing overhead with your left hand. Repeat on the other side.
- Walking Lunges: In a standing position, grab the kettlebell by the “horns” (the handle) and hold it in the rack position, making sure that your shoulder is packed into your body to avoid injury. Keeping your core engaged, step forward into a lunge, making sure that your front knee is not over your toe and that you are tapping your trailing knee to the ground. Alternate legs while keeping the kettlebell in the same position.
- Russian Twists: Sitting on the floor, bring your knees up while keeping your feet on the ground. Bring your chest up and keep a flat back. Hold the kettlebell by the horn in both hands. Slowly rotate the bell from side to side, tapping the ground on either side of your body. You should feel this in your core and obliques, not in your lower back. For a more advanced movement, raise your toes off the ground but be sure to keep your knees together.
If you still feel hesitant to use kettlebells, or if you don’t feel comfortable on your own, I encourage you to contact your local trainer to learn proper technique. Additionally, there are many online videos that show how you can start using them and how you can progress with them in your everyday routine.
Some kettlebell exercises are included in the Ixcela Fitness Plan
A Personalized Fitness Plan is included in the Ixcela Gut Health Report. The Ixcela Fitness Plan is tailored to your goals, experience, and preferences. Customers also have access to the Ixcela Exercise Library. See below for an example video or to see an example of the Ixcela Report click here.
About the Author
Terry Kozmor has been in the health and wellness industry for more than 15 years. After graduating from Northeastern University with a degree in exercise science, he began his career in fitness. In addition to being Ixcela’s fitness expert, Terry is also the Director of Fitness at Lynx Fitness Club in Boston, Mass., where he oversees a group of specialized personal trainers, group fitness instructors, and nutritionists. He is an avid athlete himself and you can often find him outside snowboarding, surfing, or hiking.
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