Pete Williams is a NASM-certified personal trainer and the author or co-author of a number of books on performance and training. Kettle bells, which look like cannonballs with handles, have become a popular strength training alternative to traditional barbells, dumbbells, and resistance machines.
Kettle bell exercises often involve several muscle groups at once, making them a highly effective way to give your arms, legs, and abs a great workout in a short amount of time. Kettle bells can be used for a variety of exercises that improve both your strength and cardiovascular fitness.
And, if you want to learn more about the benefits of working out with a kettle bell, we’ve got that covered, too. Russian strongmen in the 1700s developed kettle bells as implements to build strength and endurance.
You’ve probably seen depictions of bare-chested carnival strongmen hoisting them over their heads. Using lighter kettle bells at first allows you to focus on using the proper form and technique for the different exercises.
Aim to add more reps each week, then work toward adding more sets as you build strength. Push your hips backward, and bend your knees to reach the kettle bell handles.
Firmly grip the kettle bells, keeping your arms and back straight. This is an excellent exercise to boost both your muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness.
While your shoulders and arms will do a lot of the work, most of the effort should come from the hips and legs. Engage your abdominal muscles and set your shoulders back.
Exhale as you make an explosive upward movement to swing the kettle bell out in front of you. Squats are an excellent lower-body exercise that work your quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, as well as your abdominal muscles.
Slowly bend both knees so that your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Using your leg muscles, with your upper body still, straighten up to your starting position.
With both hands around the handle, hold the kettle bell close to your chest. Alternatively, you can hold a kettle bell by the handle in one or both hands, with your arms at your sides.
Slowly step forward with your left leg, bending your knee while keeping your right foot in place. A great exercise for working your abs and obliques (the muscles on the sides of your abdomen that run from your hips to your ribs), the Russian twist can also be done with a weighted medicine ball or barbell plate.
When using a kettle bell, be sure to keep a firm grip so that you don’t drop it on your lap. Holding the kettle bell handle with both hands, lean back so that your torso is at about a 45-degree angle to the floor.
With your heels a few inches above the floor, rotate your torso from right to left, swinging the kettle bell slightly across your body. When you’ve completed your repetitions, return to your starting position.
When your chest is even with the kettle bell handles, exhale and push your body back up to its starting position. There are many benefits to working out with kettle bells, for both men and women, across all age groups.
According to a 2019 study, a kettle bell workout is a highly effective way to improve your strength, aerobic power, and overall physical fitness. Compared to resistance circuit-based training, the same study found that a regular kettle bell workout is just as effective at improving cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength.
A 2013 study reported that participants who completed an 8-week kettle bell training session saw noticeable improvements in their aerobic capacity. Kettle bell exercises have the ability to restore muscle mass and improve grip strength in older adults, according to a 2018 study.
If possible, ask a certified personal trainer at your local gym or fitness center to show you the proper form for kettle bell exercises. Stop immediately if you feel sudden or sharp pain.
A little mild soreness after a workout is normal, but you shouldn’t feel sudden, sharp pain while working out. Kettle bells can take a little getting used to, but working out with them is a highly effective way of improving your muscle strength and cardio fitness.
The key is to start slow and, if possible, with the help of a certified personal trainer. Because ours will teach you how to handle a kettle bell using Mega Man and Mario references.
Don’t forget to download our Beginner Kettle bell Worksheet, which covers the above sequence from Coach Matt. You can print it out and track the amount of sets and repetitions you complete, which will help ensure you progress in your training.
Tip from Coach Matt: with your halos, remember to keep the movement smooth. Grab the kettle bell with two hands “by the horns,” aka the handle.
Tip from Coach Matt: for the goblet squat, focus on depth. It’s more important to practice doing a full squat than to pump out reps.
Tip from Coach Matt: when doing the overhead press, get tight. Tightening your muscles will engage your core, offering a fuller body workout.
Tip from Coach Matt: during the kettle bell swing, focus on hinging your hips. The swing is like a dead lift movement, so you should feel it in your hamstring and glutes.
Pick up the kettle bell by driving your elbow up into your rib cage. Tip from Coach Matt: try to keep your back straight and stomach tight during the row.
This will help engage your legs for stabilization as you pull the kettle bell towards your stomach. Grab the kettle bell with one hand and rest the weight between your arm and chest.
Step your leg back (the same side your kettle bell is on) and lower down until your shin is parallelism with the ground (or as low as you can). Tip from Coach Matt: for the lunges, again keep your back straight.
By keeping your shoulders back, you’ll get a fuller body workout when you come in and out of your lunge. Our spiffy mobile app lets you send video of your exercises directly to your coach, who will provide feedback so you can perfect your technique.
In case you’re still on the fence about grabbing a kettle bell, let’s dig into them a little more. Which one you pick will come down to personal preference, your budget, and your experience with kettle bells.
A standard traditional kettle bell will be cast iron, and as the weight goes up, the dimensions go up. No matter their weight, competitive kettle bells will have the same dimensions for bell shape, base, and handle width.
In general, pick a weight that allows you to complete a workout with good form. If you’re forcing me to pick one for you, knowing NOTHING about you, I’d say consider purchasing a 16 kg if you’re a male or 8 kg if you’re a female.
You’ll often hear the terms ballistic and grinding in kettlebellworkout discussions, for fast and slow movements respectively. Grinding movements would be slow, like the overhead press.
For ballistic movements, you might actually want a heavier kettle bell, to help with momentum. For grinding movements, less weight might be in order to help with control.
If the handle has rough edges, you’ll feel each and every one of the movements scrap into your hand. I’ll end our discussion on handles by saying they are generally standardized at 35 mm for thickness.
Not too expensive and decent quality, Cap Barbell kettle bells can be found on Amazon or at any Walmart. The Cap Barbell is the most highly reviewed and reasonably priced kettle bell we have encountered.
If your goal is weight loss, you have to eat less than you burn each day. This can be through eating less and burning more (from the kettle bell workout above) Processed foods and junk food make it really tough to lose weight : They have lots of calories and carbs, low nutritional value, don’t fill you up, and cause you to overeat.
If you don’t like veggies, here’s how to make vegetables taste good. Soda, juice, sports drinks: they’re all pretty much high-calorie sugar water with minimal nutritional value.
Get your caffeine from black coffee or tea, fizzy-drink fix from sparkling water. Track your calories and work on consuming slightly less each day.
Like most things in life, the important aspect of any exercise regimen is starting it. No matter what strength training program you choose, start TODAY.