While the specific muscle benefits are clutch, the best part is that this movement translates to a more fit and powerful body overall. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that kettle bell swing training increased both maximum and explosive strength in athletes, while a study conducted by the American Council on Exercise found that kettle bell training (in general) can increase aerobic capacity, improve dynamic balance, and dramatically increase core strength.
“Because you are only using one side of your body, you must keep tension in your core at the top of the swing to stay balanced,” says Carr. “The one-handed swing is slightly more difficult because you're being challenged to control the entire movement with one side.
As a result, it's best to start with a lighter weight and build up as you become more comfortable with the movement.” Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and a kettle bell on the floor about a foot in front of toes.
Hinging at the hips and keeping a neutral spine (no rounding your back), bend down and grab the kettle bell handle with both hands. To initiate the swing, inhale and hike the kettle bell back and up between legs.
C. Powering through the hips, exhale and quickly stand up and swing the kettle bell forward up to eye level. When you're done, pause slightly at the bottom of the swing and place the kettle bell back on the ground in front of you.
(Alternate swings with heavy kettle bell exercises for a killer workout.) To help you do this, blow your breath out when the kettle bell reaches the top, which will create tension in your core.
Scratched up, worn down, and scattered throughout the weight room, kettle bells are often skipped over in favor of fancy machines and glossy new dumbbells for bicep-building arm workouts. But much like Cinderella’s praiseworthy down-to-earth kindness and beauty, kettle bells have an unbeatable — and quite frankly, overlooked — value, particularly when it comes to strength training the upper body.
The reason: These bells can help you hit all those tough-to-reach muscles you might not otherwise train, and they offer more potential for stability work than a dumbbell. “Because of the way the kettle bell is shaped, it presents some odd challenges in terms of stability,” says Prentice Rhodes, a NASA -certified personal trainer and performance enhancement specialist.
“It gives you what I like to call ‘accidental training’ on some of those body parts that we don’t really think about.” That includes your forearm muscles, which have to work extra hard to keep your wrist in a neutral position when you perform presses or bicep curls, he says. Not only are these muscles put into action when doing everyday activities such as opening a jar of peanut butter or carrying your groceries into your house, but they’re also working when you’re performing pull-ups and grabbing heavy weights off the rack.
This bell shape is also what gives kettle bells an edge over dumbbells when it comes to improving stability. Reminder: Stability is about controlling a joint’s movement or position, and if your stability is limited, you may compensate your form when performing complex exercises, increasing your risk of injury or muscular imbalances, according to the American Council on Exercise.
Due to dumbbells’ equally distributed weight and straight bar, they're easier to hold onto and keep stable while you complete reps than a kettle bell, explains Rhodes. To perform either of these exercises, you start in a racked position — the wide bell of the weight is resting on the outside of the forearm at shoulder level, and you're gripping the handle with your elbow tucked at your side.
When you press the weight straight up to the ceiling from that racked position, the heavy bell will try to pull your arm out to the side away from your body. As a result, your core and arm muscles have to put in more effort to keep your form spot on and joints stable, he adds.
If you end up going off-book, remember to start at the appropriate progression for your skill level (i.e. don't try a super challenging exercise you've never practiced before). Plus, your forearm muscles will be challenged with holding onto the weight, increasing grip strength, and your lats and triceps will help extend your shoulders throughout the move, according to the American Council on Exercise.
Hinging at the hips and keeping a neutral spine (no rounding your back), bend down and grab the kettle bell handle with one hand. To initiate the swing, inhale and hike the kettle bell back and up between legs.
C. Powering through the hips, exhale and quickly stand up and swing the kettle bell forward up to chest level. The free arm should be tucked at your side, hinging at the elbow in sync with the swing.
But placing that hand on your hip to keep your arm from flailing about can actually cause you to push your body out of the ideal alignment for the exercise, says Rhodes. Instead, give your arm a purpose by extending it out beside you, which will help counterbalance the weight on your opposite side.
B. Thread hand through handle of kettle bell, with palm facing toward the ceiling. C. Keeping chest lifted and spine straight, bend knees and shift hips back to lower into a squat, until you reach the bottom of your range of motion.
D. Press through the center of the foot and engage the glutes to return to standing. If you’re up for a real challenge, end your workout on the renegade row, which pushes your arms, back, *and* core to the brink, says Rhodes.
Start in a high plank position with hands on two kettle bell handles, feet in a wide stance. Row one arm up to rib cage, squeezing behind shoulder blade.
This unilateral exercise will improve your stability and strengthen your chest muscles with every single press, says Rhodes. Start in the fetal position on your right side on the floor, with the kettle bell at chest level in front of you.
Roll onto back, while moving the kettle bell into a supported position at chest. Pull shoulders down and away from ears, engage core, and brace glutes.
Straighten legs or lift hips into the bridge position, depending on your skill level. Remove left hand from kettle bell handle, extend arm out to side, and rest it on the floor.
The Turkish Get-Up will teach you how to stabilize your shoulder, but if you can’t quite stand up while holding a kettle bell in the air (no shame), finish your get up once you arrive in a seated position (after step D), says Rhodes. Start in the fetal position on the floor, with the kettle bell at chest level in front of you.
Then, push through palm of free hand to straighten arm and lift torso to sit up. E. Lift the hips and sweep the straight leg back, gently placing that knee in line with the hand that's on the ground.
F. Lift hand off floor and straighten torso to come to a kneeling lunge position with both legs bent at 90-degree angles. Now is when you can move your gaze from upward toward kettle bell to straight forward in front of you.
Try incorporating these moves, courtesy of Rhodes, into your next kettle bell arm workout. This move of the kettle bell arm workout not only helps improve stability in your shoulder and forearm muscles as you hold the kettle bell straight up in the air, but it also stretches your chest and lat muscles while you roll from side to side, says Rhodes.
Start in the fetal position on your right side on the floor, with the kettle bell at chest level in front of you. Keep the kettle bell pressed straight above shoulder and arm vertical.
Before trying an overhead press, Rhodes likes to start his clients off with this kettle bell pullover, which improves flexibility and teaches you to keep your back flat, rather than arched, when performing standing overhead exercises. Extend arms over head, hook both thumbs through the kettle bell handle, and grab firmly with hands.
C. Squeeze forearms together to support body of kettle bell and engage core. D. Slowly raise kettle bell toward ceiling and hover over top of chest, keeping back flat on the ground throughout the entire movement.
E. Slowly lower kettle bell back to start over head on floor. After so much pressing, it's super important to balance the body with some rowing exercises to strengthen the back, says Rhodes.
Since most people spend their days hunched over their desks, your lats could probably use a workout, he adds. Step forward with left foot into a lunge position, keeping back leg (right) straight.
Draw the kettle bell up toward chest by bending right elbow straight up toward the ceiling. Whether you want to work on strength, cardio, or a combination of the two, this piece of equipment can do just about anything.
But in fact, the kettle bell has been used all over the world for years as a tool to increase strength, cardiovascular health, power, and mobility. For example, while a Kettle bell swing may look like your arms are the main driving force, it is actually the hips.
In fact, when you’re performing kettle bell swings properly, your arms should not be doing any work aside from holding on to the kettle bell. Your wrists should always be in a neutral position during kettle bell movements; they should never bend backwards or forwards.
Kettle bell movements are largely based on momentum, so it's important to find your own rhythm and pace, which will keep you safe and offer the benefits. Start with your feet hip width apart with both hands on the handle.
These takes practice, so start with a light kettle bell until you get the hang of it. Lower into a squat, bending your knees to 90 degrees (not shown).
From here, straighten your legs, press your right arm overhead and rotate your wrist to palm forward. Start with your feet hip width apart, holding the kettle bell in front of you with your right hand.
In one motion, stand up straight again and curl the kettle bell to your chest, back into the rack position. You’ll probably have to try a few times to find your rhythm so that the kettle bell with settles nicely into your wrist, so be gentle.
With her signature, straight-talking approach to wellness, Jennifer was the featured trainer on The Was Shedding for the Wedding, mentoring the contestants to lose hundreds of pounds before their big day, and she appears regularly on NBC’s Today Show, Extra, The Doctors and Good Morning America. “Exercise can play a major role in enhancing a woman’s body image and self-esteem, which affects women’s sexual self-confidence and desire,” says Cindy Weston, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin.
“It can also increase the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which surges during the fight-or-flight response. And we know from numerous studies in my lab that this activation facilitates sexual arousal in women.” Weston’s research showed that women who did a 20-minute treadmill run at a moderate pace experienced an arousal boost post-workout.
(This was true even for those who took antidepressants, which suppress the sympathetic nervous system.) One of the prime hormones that help your body sculpt muscles—namely testosterone—also drives desire.
“There’s irrefutable evidence that testosterone enhances libido in women, and high-intensity exercise boosts testosterone levels temporarily,” says Robert Leave, Ph.D., a health science expert and the dean of the University of South Carolina Beaufort. A study at Kennesaw State University in Georgia showed such an uptick in women after CrossFit sessions, and intensity is the key.
“The data seems to be on the side of HIIT or lifting loads at least 85 percent of your maximum strength,” says Leave. “These moves hit the entire body, work the core throughout, and develop a baseline of cardio endurance,” says Silver-Fagen.
“There’s also something sexy about using a kettle bell and creating power with your body.” To make the sweat mesh even steamier, work through the moves with a partner. Lift shoulders off the floor, engaging abs and pulling low ribs down.
Extend legs, raise them to a 45-degree angle off the floor, and hold them straight. D. Lower the kettle bell slowly to chest to return to start, holding the hollow-body position throughout the movement.
While pressing the kettle bell toward the ceiling, extend the right leg out, kicking through heel, to hover an inch off the floor. Lower the kettle bell slowly to chest and pull right leg back to the tabletop position to return to start. Raise hand up to sternum so the kettle bell is resting on right forearm in a front rack position.
Hold the kettle bell in the left hand by side and shift weight onto right foot. C. Holding this position, row the kettle bell up to lower rib, keeping bicep close to side and bringing elbow up toward the ceiling.
Push hips back, slightly bend knees, and reach down for kettle bell. C. Grab the kettle bell handle with both hands, open hips, and shrug shoulders, drawing the kettle bell up to chest and scooping elbows up to clean it up to a goblet squat position.
D. Drop into a squat, pushing hips back and knees forward. Stand and reverse the movement to lower the kettle bell to the floor to return to start.
Hold the kettle bell in front of sternum, one hand on each side of the handle. C. Push off the right leg to stand balancing on the left, bringing right knee to chest.
Place the kettle bell on its side and start in a plank position with feet slightly wider than hips-width apart. Push elbows out so arms form a 45-degree angle to body.
Slowly lower body, and stop 3 inches above the floor, keeping core engaged. Make sure body forms a straight line from head to toes.
They really work and shape the total body unlike any other piece of equipment.” Plus, “the core engagement needed to lift heavy bells in a dead lift, front squat, and even a reverse lunge not only strengthen the lower body, but also force the upper body, core, and back to work in order to support the weight.”
Layoff specifically designed these exercises with heavy kettle bells in mind. But a general rule of thumb is to use the heaviest weight possible that allows you to maintain proper form throughout all the assigned reps or time.
How it works: Move through each exercise completing the allotted reps, then repeat the entire workout 5 times, resting for 1 minute between each round. Push through heels to come to standing as you lift the weight; arms remain straight.
Lie on floor with knees bent and feet flat on the ground with heels near butt. Grip kettle bell around the goblet, holding it by chest, palms facing each other.
Lift hips while squeezing the glutes, coming into bridge position. From here, hold the bridge and press the kettle bell directly above the chest until arms are fully straight.
C. Maintain bridge position and lower the bell slowly to your chest, and repeat press. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart kettle bell about a foot in front of toes in the center.
Grab handle of the bell with right hand and squeeze armpits as tight as possible. Bend right elbow, pulling kettle bell up and back while keeping arm right to side body.
Repeat row on left side, return to center, and continue alternating. Begin standing with feet shoulder-width apart, holding kettle bell near chest, elbows tight to the body.
Come down into a squat, sitting as low as possible while keeping back flat and chest lifted. Push through heels to come to standing and press kettle bell up overhead with straight arms.
Stand while holding kettle bell with left hand in racked position. Push through floor to come to standing, keeping weight racked the entire time.
This kettle bell routine is both fast-paced and challenging, so it's guaranteed to burn some serious calories in a short amount of time. Like a lot of people, I don’t always have a ton of time to exercise, so I make the most of my sweat sessions by maximizing every single minute with full-body, high-intensity movements to get the most bang of my buck.