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.
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.
“When you pick up heavy grocery bags, you should squat down like this so you don't hurt your back.” 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.
They also secretly challenge your core, since you have to keep your abs tight to avoid arching your back. Sims says to choose a heavier weight with a dead lift—since you're not bending your elbows at all, you're mostly using your glutes, which are likely the strongest muscles in your body.
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.
To protect your lower back and make sure you're using your triceps, don't arch your back, Sims instructs. The key here is to straighten your arm completely at the top—that'll let you work the triceps through a full range of motion. Grip the kettle bell by the ball at the base of the handle with both hands and raise it directly 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.
Holding a kettle bell above your head at the top of a crunch challenges your core and lower abs—so does the flutter motion of your legs. Start with the weight above your shoulders, and to make it more difficult, bring it a little behind your head, Sims says.
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).
Originally a tool used by Russian strongmen for training and competition, multi-colored, vinyl-coated kettle bells are now becoming a popular fitness device that you can find at many gyms. This is because the kettle bell ’s center of mass is extended farther out from your body, so it can be tougher to handle and maneuver — which is one reason why kettle bells can be so effective at improving your strength, balance, and explosiveness.
In most situations, kettle bells are used for increasing grip strength, or for performing specific movements that are designed to build strength and endurance in the lower back, legs, and shoulders. These movements include full body exercises like the swing, snatch, and the clean and jerk.
Because they handle so much differently than a dumbbell, you can easily hurt a body part (particularly your wrist, shoulder, or lower back) if you don’t use a kettle bell properly. The first time I hoisted a kettle bell overhead, I tried to push it just like a dumbbell, felt as through my wrist was going to snap, and had a sore arm for the next few days!
First, for nearly every kettle bell exercise you do, you should keep your feet planted and your weight on your heels. This will ensure that your body is forming a strong foundation to lift and move the kettle bell.
Compared to a dumbbell or barbell, it is much easier for your grip to slip or for you to drop the weight — and the last thing you want is a cannonball on your skull! Whether you’re picking it off the ground or swinging it up in the air, you should never slouch your lower back.
1)Spread your feet shoulder width apart and lean forward while holding on to the kettle bell with two hands and allowing it to hang down between your legs. 3)Thrust your hips forward as you continue to swing the kettle bell up the level of your head, and then simply reverse the motion to be back in the ready position for the next repetition.
Believe it or not, with that single exercise that I just described (the kettle bell swing) you can perform a workout that builds lean muscle and burns fat! If you complete just 3-5 rounds of this circuit, you’ll feel a full body burn, and develop both strength and cardiovascular endurance:
Brokerage services are offered by Betterment Securities, an SEC registered broker-dealer and member FINRA/SIPC. They're great tools for metabolic conditioning and can be used for resistance work too, if you can't access dumbbells or barbells
Kettle bells have helped usher in a new way of totally blitzing your workout, whether it’s on an isolated or full-body basis, helping to cut fat with high-rep sets of swings, snatches and jerks — moves that bodybuilders and athletes alike swear by. “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.” “The most common injury that occurs using a kettle bell is in the lower back,” explains Wrigley, when quizzed about the mishaps he’s noticed over his career, in and out of the gym.
“Typically, it’s with the kettle bell swing, because of its dynamic nature — moving back and forth quickly at the hip joint”. Wrigley explains: “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.
Avoid any signs of turning it into a squat, “…so the posterior chain is engaged and not the quads,” says Wrigley. — Gradually build momentum through the hip and drive until your arm reaches a horizontal position and is parallel to the floor.
What people get wrong: Putting too much extension through the lower-back and failing to engage the anterior core. What people get wrong: Bending forward, resulting in an unnatural back position.
— Begin in a standard squat stance, with feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and your torso upright. The dangers: Be wary of the bending waist, the added spine flexion can cause a disc to displace or hit a nerve, so if it feels wrong, it probably is.
— Begin in a bent-over position, with feet shoulder width apart, knees bent, and your torso leaning forward at the hips. Sam Wrigley is a London-based personal trainer, you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram Sam_Wards
Edward Cooper Ed Cooper is the Deputy Digital Editor at Men’s Health UK, writing and editing about anything you want to know about — from tech to fitness, mental health to style, food and so much more. This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses.