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’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.
You can always increase the weight once you’re comfortable with the correct form for each exercise. 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. 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. 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. According to Harvard Health, kettle bell exercises can also help improve your posture and balance.
You typically use your core muscles more with kettle bell exercises than with dumbbells or barbells. 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.
You'll use them as you do things like lunges, lifts, and shoulder presses. The workout gets your heart pumping and uses up to 20 calories per minute: about as much as running a 6-minute mile.
You can include a few of the moves in your own workout or do a dedicated kettlebellworkout a few times a week. Sign up for a kettle bell class at the gym or online to learn how to do the moves safely.
It won’t take long to understand why celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Biel, and Katherine Hall are huge fans of kettle bell workouts. You’ll work up a sweat doing a series of fast-paced cardio and strength-training moves like kettle bell swings, lunges, shoulder presses, and push-ups.
Most kettle bell workouts include squats, lunges, crunches, and other moves that work your abs and other core muscles. The kettle bell is used as a weight for arm exercises like single-arm rows and shoulder presses.
Lunges and squats are among the most popular moves in a kettlebellworkout. Your tush will be toned by using the kettle bell for added weight during lunges and squats.
Using a kettle bell for a dead lift helps tone your back muscles. The kettle bell is an effective weight that will build muscle strength.
You may want to sign up for classes in person or online to learn the basics of a kettlebellworkout. Yes, if you take a class or pick a DVD that's for beginners and use a lighter kettle bell.
Depending on the program, you may be getting both your strength training and your aerobic workout at the same time. If you choose a kettle bell that is too heavy or if you have poor form, you are likely to lose control of it.
Start out with an experienced trainer who can correct your technique before you hurt something. Adding a kettle bell to your existing workout is great if you want to burn through more calories in less time.
This type of high-intensity workout is not for you if you would rather do a more meditative approach to body sculpting, or if sweating isn’t your thing. With your doctor’s OK, you can include kettle bells in your fitness routine if you have diabetes.
Muscle burns energy more efficiently, so your blood sugar levels will go down. Depending on the workout, you may also get some cardio to help prevent heart disease.
Continued Using kettle bells in your workout puts some serious demands on your hips and back, as well as your knees, neck, and shoulders. If you have arthritis or pain in your knees or back, then look for a less risky strength-training program.
If you have other physical limitations, ask an experienced instructor for advice on how to modify your workout. If you worked out with kettle bells before becoming pregnant and are not having any problems with your pregnancy, then you will likely be able to continue using them -- at least for a while.
Sources American Council on Exercise: “Exclusive ACE research examines the benefits of kettle bells.” Overview & Facts Tips for Success Get Lean Get Strong Fuel Your Body All Guide Topics
Build a Better Butt: Workouts for Slim and Shapely Glutes Because ours will teach you how to handle a kettle bell using Mega Man and Mario references.
Once you’ve watched the video above (featuring Matt Shorts, a lead trainer in our 1-on-1 Coaching Program) here’s a quick recap with repetitions for the workout here: Prior to jumping into the kettle bell circuit, don’t forget to do some mobility warm up (you can see our warm-up routine here):
Nothing too crazy, just something to “grease the groove” and get your body used to movement so you don’t pull any muscles once you start swinging the kettle bell. In other words, preparing your muscles and joints to move some weight around!
A few minutes of running in place, air punches and kicks, some jumping jacks and arm swings, should get your heart rate up and your muscles warmed for the KettlebellWorkout. Your muscles are broken down when you strength train, and then they rebuild themselves stronger over the following days of recovery!
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.
Let’s go over each exercise in the 20-Minute Beginner KettlebellWorkout: 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.
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.
Plus, they offer free shipping in the US, which is nice since you’re essentially mailing a cannonball. Some call Dragon Door the gold standard of anything and everything kettle bell.”
Innit rocks, and they offer good quality bells that are quite popular. OUR ADVICE: Before you go buy an expensive kettle bell, check your gym!
If you make your own kettle bell (be careful — you don’t want it breaking mid-swing! If you’re trying to lose weight, a kettle bell and the workout routine above would be a great part of the plan!
As we lay out in our Coaching Program and our massive guide on Healthy Eating,” we believe that proper nutrition is 80-90% of the equation for weight loss. If you fix your diet AND begin to incorporate our kettle bell routine a few times per week, you will find yourself building muscle, losing fat, and getting stronger !
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.
We tackle this point in depth in our article Why can’t I lose weight? Those tips should get you started, but if you want more specific instruction and guidance, check out the NF Coaching Program — Your Coach will build a routine tailored to your individual needs and what equipment you have available:
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.
Our coaches can work with you to pick up a kettle bell for the first time or to learn more advanced moves. Whether you are brand new to your fitness journey, or ready to take it to the next level, we have your back!
Join our free community with a biweekly newsletter, and I’ll send you our Beginner Kettle bell Worksheet. If so, then you have everything you need for a full-body workout that'll burn plenty of calories and help you pile up glute, hamstring, and core strength, too.
Get ready for a “cardio” workout that takes place far from the treadmill or the track and prep for Kettle bell Swing Conditioning Hell, a fire-breathing workout that'll have your entire body gassed in less than 10 minutes from Men's Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. “But you can do it with any alternate load too, from a big water jug to a backpack filled with books, to a dumbbell.”
Either way, over the course of 8 minutes, you'll pile up 160 total kettle bell swings. And the constant alternating between those swing varieties means you're training from athletic stances too.
“You're becoming explosive in ways that mirror the actions you might take on a sporting field of play.” That's enough to ramp up your heart rate, says Samuel, and by the final sequence, your body will be at its limits.
Shift your right foot back slightly, lifting your heel off the ground. Shift your left foot back, lifting your heel off the ground.
The best part of the Kettle bell Swing Conditioning Hell workout is that it can be used in so many situations. Either way, you'll be smoking your entire posterior chain, building strength, challenging your lungs, and incinerating calories.
For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Ex and Sole workouts. Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is the fitness director of Men's Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience.
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