Whether you are in a gym or at home, the humble kettle bell (KB) can be used to achieve a challenging whole-body workout with just a little imagination. “Rows are one of the ultimate back builders but also use some biceps, especially when using a narrower or underhand grip,” says Fauci.
Stand strong and stable with weight evenly distributed across the feet and back position set. Grab a kettle bell in each hand and retract your scapula, pulling the elbows back until you feel a contraction.
How to: Grab the kettle bell by going underneath the handle, twisting it up so that the weight of it rests on your forearm. From here you are going to squat down and as you come up, plant your feet and power your arm up and over your head in a press movement.
“This exercise works the anterior deltoid, lats, traps, biceps and triceps,” says Dr. Nicole Lombard, a physical therapist and CrossFit Level 1 Coach. According to Bryan Carrying, lifestyle + fitness coach and creator of REHAB and founding trainer of revolutionaries, this exercises works your triceps, biceps, and shoulders.
Modification: take the first two fingers of the opposite side and help guide the KB up to a full press. According to Kline, this effective exercise hits your traps, back, core, and shoulders.
How to: Standing shoulder width apart, bend at the knees to grab the kettle bell with one hand. When you think of a kettle bell workout, you probably think of the traditional swing movement that works primarily your legs and core.
Related story These Are The Best Arm Exercises Recommended By Real Personal Trainers “A kettle bell is arguably one of the most versatile pieces of training equipment you can have in your arsenal,” Justin Fauci, NASM-certified personal trainer, co-founder of Caliber Fitness, tells Shows. “Unlike dumbbells, kettle bells can be used not only for slow, muscle building exercises, but more dynamic, cardiovascular challenging movements like swings and snatches that improve power and strength.
This means that, no matter whether you are trying to burn fat or tone muscle, are a beginner or more advanced, you can select exercises to suit you.” Whether you are in a gym or at home, the humble kettle bell (KB) can be used to achieve a challenging whole-body workout with just a little imagination.
“Rows are one of the ultimate back builders but also use some biceps, especially when using a narrower or underhand grip,” says Fauci. Stand strong and stable with weight evenly distributed across the feet and back position set.
Grab a kettle bell in each hand and retract your scapula, pulling the elbows back until you feel a contraction. How to: Grab the kettle bell by going underneath the handle, twisting it up so that the weight of it rests on your forearm.
From here you are going to squat down and as you come up, plant your feet and power your arm up and over your head in a press movement. “This exercise works the anterior deltoid, lats, traps, biceps and triceps,” says Dr. Nicole Lombard, a physical therapist and CrossFit Level 1 Coach.
According to Bryan Carrying, lifestyle + fitness coach and creator of REHAB and founding trainer of revolutionaries, this exercises works your triceps, biceps, and shoulders. Modification: take the first two fingers of the opposite side and help guide the KB up to a full press.
According to Kline, this effective exercise hits your traps, back, core, and shoulders. How to: Standing shoulder width apart, bend at the knees to grab the kettle bell with one hand.
The fitness benefits of kettle bell training have been tested for hundreds of years, and we still use them to this day because they get results. But like dumbbells, kettle bells are pieces of equipment that also help you with unilateral movements, i.e. single arm presses, split squats, lunges, Turkish get-ups, etc.
Russian Special Forces personnel pride themselves on their “wiry strength, lethal agility” and consistent staying power. There is no better way to burn fat than with sets of Kettle bell Swings, Snatches and Clean and Jerks.
High rep Snatches work more muscle groups and will build strength in the lower back, shoulders, and hip flexors. For twenty minutes straight perform as many rounds as possible of the above exercises.
Complete as many rounds as possible in 12 minutes of: 7 box jumps 14 kettle bell swings Scaling Each round in this AMAP should be challenging but still completed quickly if not unbroken.
Beginner Option Complete as many rounds as possible in 12 minutes of: 7 box step-ups 14 kettle bell swings Not that I couldn't swing higher or I would lack power, I just sort of won't let the bell go any further up.
Does the size of the bell or other things have an effect on the suggested height of the swing, or should you always aim for a chest high no matter what? Controlling the duration of the exertion during timed swing days could be a part of sinister pursuit sessions.
I think in a regular SAS practice with talk-test-regulated-rest-periods, the goal should be shoulder height with good form, all the time. This would be in accordance with power development, and I believe is part of what makes 8 kg jumps realistic.
Does the size of the bell or other things have an effect on the suggested height of the swing, or should you always aim for a chest high no matter what? Moving up is instructive, and will uncover deficiencies in your technique that may have been masked previously.
Just because the weight gets heavier, it doesn't justify using some kind of fast grind to push the bell from the hips. I'd encourage anyone to work with an instructor because there are a lot of subtleties that aren't always evident by reading or watching videos.
I recall when I could only swing a 24 kg one handed to just above waist height, when I did Simple and Sinister a few years ago, and how difficult it was to move from 16 to 24 kg. I took a break for other programs, and am in a round 2 of SAS, reaching Timeless Simple a few months ago.
Now, in aiming to reach Timed Simple, I followed the 2.0 version of the SAS program which is working in the higher weight in your practice (for me the 28 kg) and doing your “timed test Fridays” with a swing weight lower (20 kg for myself) I'm in the middle of a reload period at the moment however so working back up to 24 kg. I can pop that 28 kg quite easily to shoulder height 2 handed for 10 reps, so I don't think it is necessarily hip power.
It takes patience and time, but I think any bell weight can be held to a chest high standard (within a certain percentage of one's body weight) given enough work at it, and like other posters above have said, don't settle for less. Not that I couldn't swing higher or I would lack power, I just sort of won't let the bell go any further up.
When you see people moving very heavy bells or core blasters, they never get their arms level. I used to do heavy swings with more of bend at the elbow when floating the bell, as you mention the timing is more demanding the further the upper arms get from your rib cage.
It probably feels better because it is wedged tight to your trunk for a greater % of the total movement. You will also reach a point where it will require more and more leg drive vs hinge to get the bell up to collarbone level, so check your goals when selecting weight.
It probably feels better because it is wedged tight to your trunk for a greater % of the total movement. Its wider handle makes it easier to grip with two hands (for the classic swing move), and its smoother finish is less likely to injure your skin over time.
Dragon Door was the first company to popularize kettle bells in America, which is why the most other brands simply copy that shape down to the millimeter. The Matrix Elite looks the same at first glance, but it features a slightly wider handle that won’t pinch your pinkies in two-handed positions.
Their unique shape and functionality give them many of the strength-building benefits of dumbbells while also providing users with the opportunity to do kettle bell -specific drills that involve a lot of movement, like the swing. The closed-loop handle of a kettle bell offers users a secure grip for movements with both hands.
Dumbbells are better suited to doing squats, curls, bench press, cleans, and other exercises that have less kinetic motion. That means you can fulfill all your workout needs with one simple tool that stows easily in a closet.
One important caveat to this endorsement of kettle bell training is that proper technique makes all the difference between effective and beneficial use and potential injury. You can also consult credible online tutorials, and many trainers will set up a Skype arrangement where you can send videos to them for feedback and coaching.
Dragon Door has the most resources in terms of kettle bell books and DVDs (at least in the “hard style” approach that I use) available. Finally, Steve Cotter is a master practitioner/teacher of competition kettle bell lifting techniques.
While many people recommend women starting with an 8-kilogram bell (about 16 pounds), I think that the two-handed lifts like squats and swings aren’t very well-served by that low weight. If you want to start modestly, my suggestion would be to get the 13-pound version of our budget pick and then order a larger, higher quality bell once you feel comfortable.
With these three, all kinds of single and double kettle bell work is easily achievable and scalable. Both of these linked pieces reiterate my earlier point about seeking credible instruction before beginning an at-home regimen.
Then there is the question about which kind of kettle bell you should buy: cast iron, competition, or adjustable. Cast-iron bells are more comfortable for two-handed grip positions, which beginners should master before moving onto the more challenging one-handed exercises.
As it turns out, there’s not a huge amount of difference between these things because most of them borrow their design from the Dragon Door ROC. Dragon Door was the first US company to run kettle bell instructor certifications (taught by famed instructor Pavel Tsatsouline) and have mass distribution in the US (Dragon Door started selling these bells in 2001).
Dragon Door bells achieved great acclaim, but their high price point (roughly $120 each after shipping and handling, the highest in our test) invited lots of competition from other companies. CAP is another popular fitness company that makes a good bell at a lower price point.
For example, this Yes4All bell is one of the most popular models on Amazon, but its large, flat face is hard on the wrists in one-handed positions. Although much more rare, some companies compete by distinguishing their offerings from Dragon Door’s with different designs.
Perform Better at one point implemented a screw-on rubber skid plate on the bottom of their bells, but later on scrapped it due to negative customer feedback. Vinyl-covered bells were created to protect floor spaces in commercial gyms and homes, but more often, the vinyl is there to smooth over the defects of a cheaply cast bell, and they often get criticized for very uneven handles that cause hand pain and tearing.
A poorly produced handle can rip callouses off the hands during snatching, and this test is where the bells differentiated themselves. In fact, I wouldn’t use the CAP or Rogue bells for high-rep snatching because they have coarse handles and some tackiness from the painted finish.
If you order through the company’s website and have a problem, Kettle bells USA will “make it right, period!” by sending a replacement and taking care of return shipping fees. Photo: Mark Blythe Matrix Elite kettle bell has a slightly different handle dimension and more distance from the ball part of the bell to the handle to create a larger opening for more comfortable two-handed positions.
The Matrix bell clearly outclassed the competition for two-handed work, as the smooth, e-coated handle with a wider grip was consistently easy on the hands, even when doing high repetition sets of 20-plus kettle bell swings. Even when the user advances to the one-handed moves, both two-handed swings and goblet squats should remain essential parts of a kettle bell program.
Any flaws in a kettle bell will be exposed when you use just one hand, but the attention to detail in forging a smooth, seamless handle was clearly on display with this bell. Besides the handle shape, the Matrix Elite (right) looks almost identical to the Dragon Door ROC, which costs anywhere from $30 to $50 more.
Photo: Mark BixbyAnother thing that sets the Matrix Elite apart from other kettle bells (including Kettle bells USA's own “classic” line) is the fact that it’s designed to have the same “rack” position (where the round part rests on your forearm) regardless of weight and size. Most companies use standard molds repeatedly, and inevitably, residue from previous castings creates uneven surface textures like edges or gaps.
Finally, Kettle bells USA showed awesome customer service throughout my process of testing. If you're used to standard Dragon Door ROC kettle bells (or any of its many clones), the Matrix Elite's rack position might feel strange at first, since the ball part sits higher up on the forearm by comparison.
If you see the bell offered at full price (with no discounted shipping), wait seven to 10 days, and you should find it available more cheaply. If the Matrix Elite is unavailable, or if you just want a standard-shaped bell without the wider handle, the Perform Better First Place Kettle bell feels the same in use as the high-end Dragon Door, but costs about 25 percent less.
Like the Dragon Door and Matrix Elite, the First Place has a smooth, seamless handle, few surface defects, and a high-quality finish. While Perform Better wouldn’t divulge what process it uses, I noticed that it’s somewhere between a matte powder coat and a glossy e-coat.
Reading user reviews (see here and here) that slam performs Better for having noticeable seams on the underside of the handle or other defects isn’t helpful considering the construction specs on their bells currently. The bell I received from them was really well-made, and it showed no signs of being defective in build or user experience.
I contacted Perform Better about this discrepancy, and company reps explained that among other small changes, they’d since switched to a gravity casting process, which creates a more uniform surface, as you recall. It’s also worth noting that Perform Better frequently has sales on its kettle bells, and while it’s usually cheaper to buy Perform Better bells directly from the company, it's worth checking Amazon and Strongest before buying to find the best deal.
If budget is your bottom line, then we’d recommend the CAP Cast Iron Competition Bell. But unless you really need to save a few bucks, it’s worth investing in our top pick, since these things last forever.
In fact, none of the five baseball player panelists said they would pay extra for any of the other bells for the basic routines they were testing with. The powder-coated CAP (left) and Rogue (center) bells are rougher than the e-coated Dragon Door (right).
Photo: Mark Blythe CAP bell has a powder-coated matte finish and a slightly gritty (though it’s evenly dispersed grit) handle to provide a good grip (though a bit on the coarser end of those we tested) and a flat bottom so it doesn’t rock when used for push-ups or rowing moves. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Dragon Door ROC Kettle bell should feel pretty good about itself.
Unfortunately for Dragon Door, other companies have been able to duplicate its design at a comparable level of quality for a lot cheaper. Interestingly, the Rogue bell has a 4.9-star rating on its website, with more than 100 reviews at the time of this guide's publication.
Chad Settler, John Forward, Carl Foster, and Mark Andes, Kettle bells: Twice the Results in Half the Time?, ACE Fitness Matters **Online prices and sale effective dates may differ from those in-store and may vary by region.
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You’ve breached the barbells and dominated dumbbells, but if you’re still steering clear of kettle bells you’re missing out on arguably the best burn at the gym. Think about a baseball bat, says trainer Jason C. Brown, creator and owner of certification program Kettle bell Athletics.
“Kettle bells create a longer lever arm, which requires you to use more force to move an equal weight the same distance,” Brown says. This recruits more muscles, challenges inter- and intramuscular coordination, and generally delivers one hell of a burn.
The dead lift is a multi joint move, so the average guy can probably handle 32 kg/70 lbs here to start, Brown says. Not only are your shoulders and abs working hard to keep you stable, but there’s more challenge to your grip since all the weight is in one hand.
Lopez actually makes clients ace all 14 steps while balancing their shoe on their fist before they’re allowed to try it with a kettle bell (you can opt for a two-pound dumbbell to save face at the gym). When you feel confident that you have the form down sans resistance, reach for a 12 kg/26 lb kettle bell.
Since form is so imperative here, Lopez says you shouldn’t move up a weight until you’re able to maintain perfect vertically with your arm, keep the elbow fully locked throughout all 14 steps, and feel comfortable going slow (most people rush due to discomfort). But because it doesn’t require swinging momentum or extension, a carry has a lower risk of injury than other kettle bell moves, which means you can go a bit heavier.
Having a kettle bell that’s the right size and weight will generate the resistance you need to burn calories quickly. The main muscle groups strengthened with the kettle bell swing are hamstrings, glutes, quads and abs.
Working out with a kettle bell gives you what fitness pros call a “functional” workout. Muscles are worked similarly to everyday activities like: lifting a child, stowing luggage, or hoisting a gallon of milk.
Another example how using kettle bells can make life a bit easier in other, unexpected ways! Experiment with different kettle bell exercises and create a good fitness routine that will burn off those pounds.
As with any exercise plan, how quickly you lose weight with a kettle bell workout will vary depending on various factors. Fitness consultant, Kelly Marshall, stated a 60-minute kettle bell workout would burn anywhere between 450 and 600 calories.
How quickly you lose weight will depend on the frequency and intensity of your kettle bell routine. Essentially, you’d need to work with kettle bells for roughly three hours a week to lose half a pound.
One study found that 20 minutes of continuous kettle bell training was comparable to running at six-minute mile pace. Trainer Jennifer Cohen adds that you can expect to burn 200 calories in 10 minutes.
Of course, your diet will greatly affect any weight loss program you decide to try. “Excessive Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption,” refers to the calories you burn after training due to an increase in your metabolism.
Kettle bell training creates an after-burn effect for up to 24 hours after exercise, explains Beth Corey of KettleGirls.co.UK. If you’re new to kettle bells, or eating more calories than you should, muscle mass weight gain is inevitable.
Unlike traditional weight loss options, such as running, kettle bell training is a low-impact exercise. You don’t have to worry about shock to the joints or soft tissue deterioration associated with high impact.
Weight-bearing exercises increase bone density and make the muscles in the body stronger. It’s hard to be exact as to how quickly you’ll lose weight with kettle bell training; it’s really up to you.
To review: simple movements, affordability and portability make kettle bells a great option to lose weight. Likewise, they are a great option to lose weight in a healthy and steady manner.