Do you steer clear of kettlebells at the gym because you’re not sure how exactly to use them to achieve weight loss? This fairly old-fashioned exercise equipment is, in fact, a great way to burn through hundreds of calories while also building muscle strength.
Kettlebells Combine Aerobic And Strength Training
Kettlebells are cannonball shaped orbs made of iron with a handle to grip them at one end. You stand to burn 272 calories in a 20-minute workout just from the aerobic component of the workout. But as researchers found, you also burn additional calories from the anaerobic effort. The result? Calorie burns comparable to cross-country skiing – uphill!1
Besides giving you a great aerobic workout, this piece of equipment can help you work on endurance and muscular strength.2 Which is what makes it a potentially good option for weight loss as well. It can count toward your recommended two or more strength training sessions for the week and help improve your aerobic capacity.
Creating A Kettlebell Workout For Yourself
In an American Council on Exercise research study, the routine followed by test subjects – and one that saw high-calorie burn and muscle strength building – was structured as below3:
- 5 minutes of warm-up
- 30 to 45 minute routine of kettlebell exercises like swings, cleans, presses, snatches, lunges, Turkish get-ups
- 10 minutes of cooldown
If you’re intrigued by this equipment and keen to start leveraging its benefits, here are some kettlebell exercises to incorporate into your routine.
1. Kettlebell Swing (Two-Hands): The Foundation Technique
You should learn this technique and how to control your movement before moving on to more complex exercises with the kettlebell.4 In this swing, you hold the kettlebell with two hands.
- Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart and the kettlebell in front of you on the floor, centered between your feet.
- Reach for the kettlebell, bending from your waist until your torso is parallel to the floor. Grip the kettlebell tightly with both hands.
- Lift it and swing it between your legs – up and back.
- Work on active flexing – your hips will act as a hinge and your knee flexion must be kept restricted when you bring the kettlebell downward between your knees. Keep the spine neutral by ensuring the back is straight and neck aligned.
- Use your hip flexion to push the kettlebell forward to mid-chest level.
- Bring it back down in the reverse direction down and back through your legs. Your core must stay engaged to allow the movement to be controlled. Move into the next movement until the momentum is used up.
2. Single-Arm Swing
You can move on to the more challenging single-arm swing once you have learned to manage the regular swing movement. This is a more challenging core exercise because you need to manage the rotation of the kettlebell too.5
- The setup is same as for a deadlift or regular swing. Only this time, use just one hand to grip the kettlebell as you hike and pull it up and backward through the legs.
- Turn your thumb on this hand toward your glutes as you swing back. Once the kettlebell approaches the arc’s end, extend your knees and hips and leverage the momentum to swing the kettlebell forward. Twist your forearm toward the front during this movement.
- Complete as many repetitions as you want to before switching to the other arm.
3. Kettlebell Lunge
You can do this particular movement using two kettlebells, one in each hand or using just one.6
- Start with a kettlebell held in your right hand as you step forward with your left foot into a lunge position.
- Ensure your shoulders are pressed back and chest lifted, as you push down and back to the standing position with your forward leg.
- Repeat as many times as you wish before swapping sides.
4. Turkish Get-Up Kettlebell Exercise
A great exercise to build total body strength, this exercise does demand some technique. Here is how you can do it right7:
- Lie down on your right side clutching the kettlebell firmly in both hands. Your right hand must be wrapped around the handle. Place your left hand over the right. Bring it close to you and roll onto your back. Extend both arms so that the kettlebell is lifted over your chest.
- Now let your left hand come down to lie by your left side, 45 degrees to your body. Let your right knee bend. Allow the right foot to rest flat on the floor.
- Keep your right arm extended as you lift the right shoulder off the floor, curling your trunk up onto the left elbow. Your left arm remains on the left side of your body.
- Now push your left hand into the floor from your left elbow to get up into a nearly seated position. Your spine must be as straight as possible throughout.
- Next, push the right foot into the floor, straightening the left leg and arm to raise your hips off the ground. Bring your left leg backward and put your left knee on the ground.
- Move into a kneeling pose. You can remove your left hand from the ground. Your right foot and left knee remain in contact with the floor.
- Your right arm must still be extended overhead even as you push into the ground with your right foot, swinging the left leg forward like you are lunging. Your feet should now be next to each other.
- Come back to the ground by first stepping back with your left leg, lowering into a kneeling position, then placing the left hand on the ground and moving the left leg to the front. Next, lower your hips back to the floor and roll back to the lying-down position on your back.
5. Bottoms-Up Clean And Press
The first part of this movement is the clean and it ends with the press.8
- Stand over a kettlebell with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down.
- Grip the kettlebell firmly and lift it off the ground, bringing it to chest level. Extend your hips and knees and ensure the bottom end of the kettlebell faces up.
- Keep your glutes and core engaged to maximise full body tension. This should prevent the kettlebell from slipping.
- After the clean, push the kettlebell overhead before gently lowering it down to chest level again.
- Follow through by swinging it between the legs again from chest level as you ready for the next repetition, back in the original position.
|↑1||Kettlebells:Twice the Results in Half the Time?. American Council on Exercise.|
|↑2, ↑4||Lake, Jason P., and Mike A. Lauder. “Mechanical demands of kettlebell swing exercise.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 26, no. 12 (2012): 3209-3216.|
|↑3||ACE Sponsored Research Study: Kettlebells Kick Butt. American Council on Exercise.|
|↑5, ↑6||How to Get Started With Kettlebells. American Council on Exercise.|
|↑7||ACE Technique Series: Turkish Get-up. American Council on Exercise.|
|↑8||5 Kettlebell Exercises That Kick Butt. American Council on Exercise.|