Packing the same weighty punch as dumbbells, kettle bells are likely to be found in a dusty corner of the gym. But don't let their underused fool you; this is a brilliant bit of kit, and while the bros are queuing for a bench, you can take advantage.
Kettle bell swings can help increase your heart rate, burn extra fat and tone muscle Corey Jenkins Getty Images Much like the humble rowing machine and versa climber, most gym bros steer clear of the cast-iron 'bells, helping you get an effective, time-efficient workout in, without having to worry about your kit getting pinched.
This and the growing popularity of sports such as CrossFit and Strongman have helped drive kettle bell training and workouts into the mainstream. On top of this, owing to their design, kettle bells are one of the easiest weights to move around during your workout in a short timeframe and can be stored away easily, from your car boot to your garden shed or garage.
“Kettle bells give you the opportunity to move athletically with additional resistance from a variety of angles and more challenging positions,” explains Jon Lewis, a personal trainer with fitness outlet Industrial Strength. Not only that, but exercises such as kettle bell swings can help increase your heart rate, burn extra fat and tone muscle, but where they really come into their own is in building strength throughout your posterior chain.
As these are your body’s biggest muscles, you’ll also torch calories,” says Rob Blair, PT at The Commando Temple. Additionally, kettle bells are an incredibly useful tool for those looking to build their base of strength and mobility, so if you're struggling with your barbell back squat, for example, utilizing the kettle bell goblet squat is a good way of practicing proper form with a safer exercise that can then be upgraded as your strength increases.
Well-suited for swings, presses and carries, kettle bells also lend themselves to more dynamic movements, where a dumbbell or barbell may be more difficult to use. Usually, kettle bell workouts are built on a high-rep range, meaning that several muscles are worked at once and, if kept at a consistent pace, can offer similar aerobic benefits to HIIT training.
Similarly, by performing kettle bell circuits three times a week, you’ll pump up your VO2 max by 6 per cent in just under a month, according to the NSA’s Sac Report. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research also found that kettle bell training contributes to a healthier lower back, owing to the loading and movement patterns.
“Kettle bells are arguably one of the most versatile bits of equipment you can find in a gym,” says Sam Wrigley, a London Bridge-based PT. “They're great tools for metabolic conditioning and can be used for resistance work too, if you can't access dumbbells or barbells.”
“Typically, it’s with the kettle bell swing, because of its dynamic nature — moving back and forth quickly at the hip joint”. “This exaggerated flexion and extension at the hip puts a lot of force through the lower back.” When it comes to getting injuries from poor form, the “arching of the back and not engaging the glutes in an overhead press or folding in a goblet position” can put you at risk of busting your lower back.
Stand with feet set wider than shoulder-width and bend your knees to grab the kettle bell with both hands. Drive your hips, keep your back flat swing the weight up to shoulder height.
Initiated by a powerful hip thrust from your hamstring and glutes, opting for heavier weights (once the move is mastered, of course) for up to 90 seconds a set will vastly improve your anaerobic fitness, accelerating your heart-rate and ignite a fat-burn that the bench press can only dream of. Instead, by combining a front squat with an overhead press, you're transforming a drab move into a compound, multi-joint exercise that demands full-body power.
In one swift movement, slightly jump off the ground and raise your arms to extend above your head. Land softly on your feet with your knees bent as though you're doing a squat and extend your arms straight above you shoulder-width apart.
Powerlifting moves needn't be restricted to barbells bending under crippling weight loads. Instead, the kettle bell clean and press offers the opportunity to increase grip strength, become stronger in overhead movements (your shoulder press will thank you) and will help you learn the lesson of maintaining a rigid core during all lifts.
Plus, the researchers found that participants performing the kettle bell snatch usually maintained 86 to 99 per cent of their maximum heart rate, making it an essential move for easy weightless. Drive through the heel and bring yourself back up to standing position, without letting your leg touch the floor.
Functional and an easy gym brag, the kettle bell pistol squat is the king of mobility moves. Ideal for oiling the stiff joints of desk-jockeys and gym bros, it'll also set your Instagram feed ablaze.
Helping you master the holy trinity of fitness — stability, strength and mobility — it'll challenge your core (there's more to a six-pack than crunches and planks, after all) and will build sportive-worthy quads while increasing balance. Stand with your legs slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, clasping a kettle bell in each hand in front of your chest with palms facing each other.
Bend your knees and lower yourself into a squat, keeping the kettle bells in the same position and ensuring you don't round your back by tensing your glutes throughout. Keep your arms strong and walk short, quick steps as fast as possible.
Ideal for building grip and plugging onto the end of a tough workout, farmer's walks also pack heavy -duty muscle onto your upper-back while fighting lower-back pain and being a useful conditioning tool and fat-loss. All the benefits of a traditional shoulder press — improved strength and targeting of many upper-body muscles — without the hassle of having to wait for dumbbells or a machine.
Stand with feet set wider than shoulder-width and bend your knees to grab the ketllebell with one hand. Drive your hips, keep your back flat swing the weight up to shoulder height.
Increase the demand you place on the shoulder stabilizing muscles by doing kettle bell swings with one arm. Sign up to the Men's Health newsletter and kick start your home body plan.
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This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. Those large cannonballs with handles, sitting in the corner collecting dust, look intriguing.
But you're not about to start at the bottom, in the “pump” class with puny yellow and pink kettle bells that look like they belong in the daycare. And as much as I love basic kettle bell moves like the swing, get-up, and snatch, I also recognize that not everyone is ready to subject themselves to the learning curve that goes along with those movements.
By that, I mean that strength in awkward positions that fighters and other athletes seem to have in spades, but that barbells, dumbbells, and machines seldom produce. The task is simple: You're simply going to carry a pair of kettle bells for either distance or time.
“The farmer's carry can be summed up as simply 'pick up and go,' but a little cuing can help you reap the most benefits from the movement.” Improved grip strength, obviously, but what often gets overlooked is how much that carries over to improved total body strength; stronger grip equals stronger A stronger core, which also translates to more overall strength Bigger traps from the strain of supporting the kettle bells The steely forearms like a farm laborer, from the increased tension required from holding the kettle bells Improved conditioning, because carrying a load while walking is incredibly energetically demanding
Take a deep breath—about 75-80 percent of maximum—and bend down, folding at the hips, to pick up the kettle bells; exhaling as you do so, similar to a dead lift. Tighten your abs, lock your rib cage to your pelvis, and keep it there for the duration of your walk.
Walk either for distance or time; 20-30 yards or 30 seconds is a good start. Spend about 10 minutes doing farmer's carries, at a point in your workout where it won't matter if your grip is fried afterward—like the end.
Think of the suitcase carry as half of a farmer's carry—you only load one side at a time. It pounds the ever-living snot out of your midsection, making your core truly “functionally” strong.
When you hold a kettle bell in one hand, your body has to contract all the muscles on the opposite side of your body—your obliques especially—to keep you from falling over sideways. The suitcase setup and execution is exactly the same as the farmer's carry, with the obvious exception of having that extra kettle bell for balance.
“The rack hold is a powerful position for building strength throughout the body.” The kettle bell will be resting on two points of contact: The back of your wrist and on your upper arm, just below your shoulder.
Your forearm and upper arm will form a triangle in which the kettle bell sits. It adds a level of difficulty to the carry that many people find surprising, in the form of increased abdominal stress, respiration demand, and the way it reaches the little stabilizer muscles along your spine.
Many gym rats and bodybuilders don't have the necessary wrist and shoulder flexibility to perform a true barbell front squat with a clean grip. Holding one or two kettle bells also puts a larger-than-normal pressure on the abs, making them work harder than a far greater barbell load would, as I mentioned in my last article.
Additionally, I consider the kettle bell front squat to be an incredibly effective “loaded mobility” exercise. Because of the way the load is situated, your abs automatically contract, your shoulders depress, and your hips magically seem to have more space in them, allowing for a deeper squat than many people can manage with just a barbell.
It also serves as a little assessment, since if the two sides feel dramatically different, there's a good chance you have a side-to-side imbalance. If that's the case, you may not want to load with a heavy barbell, due to the possibility of injury, until you spend some good time with the kettle bell alternative.
Squat until you go as low as you can, maintaining pressure in your abs, and keeping a slight extension in your lower back. The single-arm floor press will not only strengthen your triceps and your lockout, but it will help you refine your bench press groove by positioning your arm in the strongest position to lift big weights.
Roll to your side, and grab the kettle bell by the handle, using the pistol grip, like you did with the rack hold. Pause with your upper arm on the floor for 2-3 seconds and then press the kettle bell.
These six movements are more than enough to teach you about the unique challenges and benefits of working with kettle bells. Experienced kettle bell lifters regularly utilize things like loaded carries and floor presses to address strength deficiencies and practice building tension.
When you're ready, the floor press also has the benefit of preparing your arms and shoulders for one of the bestkettlebellexercises you can do: the Turkish get-up. Until then, just keep picking up those heavy beasts, squeezing your core for all it's worth, and holding on for dear life.