Kettle bells can be used for a variety of exercises that improve both your strength and cardiovascular fitness. Russian strongmen in the 1700s developed kettle bells as implements to build strength and endurance.
You can create a full-body workout using just kettle bells, or you can pick and choose specific kettlebellexercises to add to your strength training regimen. Using lighter kettle bells at first allows you to focus on using the proper form and technique for the different exercises.
Fitness experts suggest using kettle bells with the following weights if you’re at an intermediate to advanced level with your strength training: 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. Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed out slightly.
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.
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.
Hold a kettle bell by the handle so that it rests against the outside part of your shoulder. 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. 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. Another benefit of doing kettlebellexercises is that you can work several muscle groups simultaneously with a single kettle bell.
Kettle bells are also small enough to use anywhere, and you typically don’t need much space to do a variety of kettlebellexercises. The key is to start slow and, if possible, with the help of a certified personal trainer.
But for some weighted moves, especially ones that require an explosive movement, kettle bells reign supreme. You can also hold them by the handle or the bell (the round part of the weight), which allows you to get a different range of motion depending on the kettle bell exercise you're doing.
Plus, the shape of a kettle bell lets you work your muscles a little differently than a traditional dumbbell, Jessica Sims, a NASM-certified personal trainer at the Hitting Room in New York City, tells SELF. When you take a class with kettle bells, or any other new type of equipment, it's normal to feel a little lost.
Oh, and a quick lesson on the lingo: The “ball” refers to the heavy sphere at the bottom, and the handle is the part attached to it. The handle is also referred to as the “horns,” and can be gripped at the top, on the sides, or near the base where it meets the ball.
Some below kettlebellexercises are more beginner-friendly than others, Sims says, but even if you've swung a few kettle bells around before, the most basic ones are great to have in your repertoire, and are easy to advance by just opting for a heavier weight. Adding a kettle bell increases the resistance your body has to work against to stand back up, challenging your muscles even more.
In addition, holding the kettle bell close to your chest helps you nail proper form. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly, gripping the sides of the kettle bell handle with both hands at chest height.
Hinge at your hips and push your butt back as you lower your torso and the weight toward the ground. “Make sure that you don’t let the kettle bells swing, keep them stable by your side like actual suitcases,” Sims says.
Push through your heels, putting most of the weight on the back foot, to return to the starting position. Adding weight to a sit-up adds an extra challenge for your core, and the press at the top works your shoulders and arms, too.
For these sit-ups, Sims says you can either keep your knees bent or put them in butterfly position, depending on what feels comfortable for your hips. Start in a sit-up position, lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
Kettle bell swings are great for your butt, legs, and lower back, Sims says. You can probably go heavy here, but she suggests nailing the technique with a lighter kettle bell before adding too much weight.
To perform a swing with proper form, you have to “thrust your hips aggressively to get the kettle bell up, don't use your arms,” Sims explains. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, gripping the top of the kettle bell handle with both hands.
Bend your knees slightly, then hinge forward at the hips to swing the kettle bell between your legs. Stand back up; use the momentum from your hips to swing the weight to chest height.
Your form here should be similar to a traditional dead lift, except your legs should be wider than shoulder-width distance and your feet should be turned out a bit. Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and toes angled out.
Switching to one-handed swings isolates one side at a time, which makes it harder and helps improve stability. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, gripping the top of the kettle bell handle with one hand.
Bend your knees slightly, then hinge forward at the hips to swing the kettle bell between your legs. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, gripping the top of the kettle bell handle with one hand.
Bend your knees slightly, then hinge forward at the hips to thread the kettle bell between your legs. Bring your now-empty hand to meet the weight at the top of the movement (so you don't slam it into your chest).
Grasp a kettle bell in each hand, palms facing out, arms bent so the weights are resting at each shoulder. Bend your knees just a few inches, and as you stand back up, press the weights straight up overhead.
Keeping your elbows close to your ears, lower the kettle bell behind your head to neck level. The trick is to keep your core tight and hold your torso stable as you rotate your arms and the weight.
Lift the ball to eye level and slowly circle it around your head to the left. Hold the kettle bell handle in your right hand with your arm hanging straight at your side.
Make sure to keep your core super tight and lower back flat on the ground. If your back comes off the ground, or you feel any strain, bring your legs up a couple more inches.
Stand in front of a box or step, holding a kettle bell by the handle with both hands at your chest. Crew Performance Zip-Front Sports Bra (jcrew.com, $45), Cotton On Body Pocket Crop Tight (, $35), and Puma Fierce Evoking Women's Training Shoes (, $120).
When used correctly, kettle bells are extremely effective training tools for providing total-body strength and conditioning. As with any technical movement, lift, or skill, proper coaching is required to maximize the benefits.
It's a two-for-one exercise, meaning you're able to combine strength training and cardiovascular conditioning into one efficient movement. Though it looks easy to perform, the swing can take a significant amount of time, practice, and coaching to perfect.
It teaches you to move fluidly, and when you add the external load (a kettle bell) it requires strength, mobility, and skilled movement. It's a powerful full-body exercise that requires attention to detail and a respect for human movement.
The unique shape of a kettle bell and offset handle allow you to press in the natural plane of motion relative to your shoulder joint. You just feel like you have more power to press efficiently with a kettle bell, mostly because of the more natural plane of motion.
Similar to the kettle bell swing, the clean is another explosive exercise for total-body strength and conditioning. The difference here is that the kettle bell finishes in the rack position as opposed to being projected horizontally away from your body.
The kettle bell snatch is physically demanding and technical, but offers outstanding total-body strength and conditioning benefits. It can help transcend athletic performance to new levels, build explosive strength, and forge strong, powerful shoulders.
The snatch requires proper technique, explosive hip power, and athleticism. This exercise should not be attempted until the kettle bell swing hip-hinge pattern and explosive hip drive are established.
Though watching videos is helpful, the best way to learn how to correctly do these challenging movements is to work with a certified kettle bell instructor. We've all turned up to the gym, short on time and motivation, only to find every piece of equipment we need for our workout isn't free.
Faced with this scenario, you have two options: ditch the workout and go home or find a piece of versatile equipment that is underused and undervalued by most of the gym-going community. Packing the same weighty punch as dumbbells, kettle bells are likely to be found in a dusty corner of the gym.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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What can you do at home which takes little space and the minimum amount of equipment? These ‘cannonballs with a handle’ are excellent tools to improve your fitness, especially when you do not have the room or desire for a home gym.
If you want to build serious muscle size and strength, barbells and dumbbells are hard to beat. You can even use barbells and dumbbells to burn fat and get lean, providing you stick to compound exercises, that is.
And, for bodybuilding, they aren’t as good as dumbbells because you can’t gradually increase your weights, which is an essential consideration for effective progressive resistance training. Kettle bell Pros But, before you turn your back on kettle bells, you’ll be interested to hear that, for improving your body composition and sculpting a lean, athletic physique, they’re pretty tough to beat.
There is no reason to take on too much too soon and end up with an injury that only prevents you from the training you wanted to do. It’ll help you burn fat, increase your muscular endurance, and improve your cardiovascular fitness.
You don’t even need a bench or a squat rack; just grab your ‘bells and go for it! Work your way down the list and, after you’ve completed the final exercise, rest a minute or two and then start back at the top.
If this all sounds a little daunting, don’t worry; there are several modifications that will make this workout a little easier. The simple answer is that it makes it easier for you to regulate the difficulty of your workout.
Therefore, the actual number of reps you complete will depend on your fitness and the weight of your kettle bell. If this kettle bell workout circuit calls for 12 reps, but you’ve only got a light KB to train with, that might be too easy.
Improper form makes the exercises less beneficial and could lead to injury. If in doubt, check out some videos below, or ask a personal trainer or gym instructor to show you what to do.
It’s a posterior chain exercise, which means it works all the muscles on the back of your body. To do this exercise, hold your kettle bell in front of your legs and stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
Lean forward from your hips without rounding your lower back. Keeping your body tight, press the weight up over your head with your elbow remaining aligned with your shoulder.
They force you to maintain an upright posture, which means they’re easy on your lower back too. They also involve your arms, making them even better for calorie and fat burning.
To do this exercise, hold your kettle bell by the vertical handles in front of your chest. Brace your core and lift your chest, pulling your shoulders down and back.
Bend your knees and squat down until your thighs are about parallel to the floor. This exercise is good for upper body conditioning and mobilizing your shoulders and thoracic spine.
Hold your kettle bell upside down in front of your face by the vertical handles. Return to the starting position and then do a rep in the opposite direction.
Bend your arms and lower your chest to about one inch above the floor. It’s a little easier than the KB swing, but that’s no bad thing as you’ve done quite a lot of training to reach this point.
To do Romanian dead lifts, hold your kettle bell in both hands in front of your legs. Push your hips back, hinge forward, and lower the weight down the front of your legs as far as your flexibility allows.
This exercise is tricky for people with poor hamstring flexibility, but just lean as far as you can, and you’ll be fine! To do the kettle bell windmill, hold your weight in your right hand and press it above your head.
Your knees should be slightly bent or straight depending on your flexibility. It’s a tough one to finish on, but a rest is coming up, so give it all you’ve got.
If you feel exhausted, use your light kettle bell and not the heavy one we’ve prescribed. Push your hips back and squat down until your thighs are about parallel to the floor.
Catch your breath, mop your brow, and grab a drink. The weight used and the number of reps you pump out will determine how hard the workout is.
In fact, doing too much cardio, especially during a low-calorie diet, can lead to muscle loss. Not only will lifting weights preserve your muscle mass, but fast-paced circuit workouts are also better for fat loss.
They trigger something called Epic, which is short for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. In simple terms, Epic increases your post-exercise metabolic rate for as long as 48 hours, leading to faster fat loss.
You don’t need to quit cardio forever, but it definitely works best when combined with some high-intensity strength training. And don’t forget to always get in a good 30 minutes a day of some type of cardio, like walking.
The kettle bell swing is an excellent way to strengthen your posterior chain dead lift muscles and introduce you to the hip hinge movement. As a result, you have already set yourself up to start reaping the remarkable benefits of dead lifts.