The Bells Are Ringing
Once mandatory for Soviet Special Forces, kettlebells can certainly increase your fitness and they're fun.Don't let the cute name kettlebell lull you into thinking these ring-handled, cast iron orbs are anything but a serious addition to any workout. Kettlebells work the body as an integrated whole and not as a collection of individual muscles like most free weights do, says Yoana Snideman, a LaJolla, California-based physical therapist, Russian Kettlebell Certified (RKC) instructor, and co-author of the Revolution Kettlebell Fat Loss Program book and DVD. With one kettlebell, you can perform a multitude of movements that increase strength, mobility, flexibility, power, endurance, balance, mental toughness, and overall athleticism, and burn fat at a faster pace than most traditional one body part at a time' exercises (i.e. free weights) do.
John Du Cane, CEO of Dragon Door, the company that reintroduced kettlebells to the U.S. in 2001, said his company initially thought it would be elite athletes, the military, and martial artists who were most interested in kettlebells. They were wrong. Du Cane said today's kettlebell market is dominated by 35- to 55-year-old women. Sarah Lurie, founder of Iron Core Kettlebell Strength and Conditioning, creator of the best-selling DVD Kettlebells the Iron Core Way, and RKC-certified since 2004 said, I think women like them because they get really quick results, especially in problem areas like the butt, hips, thighs, and abs. Each kettlebell exercise works every single muscle group, but especially the glutes, hamstrings, and abs. You end up with a nice, heart-shaped booty.
Many of my husband's and my clients [at Revolution Fitness] now come to us specifically for kettlebell training, said Snideman, who charges between $90 and $120 for private kettlebell sessions and $20 for group classes. They come from a wide range of backgrounds, but they all tell us that kettlebells are so much more fun than everything else they have done. Most never go back to dumbbells and barbells. Snideman herself kept the kettlebell fun up through her entire recent pregnancy (daughter Marianna was born in December 2007).
Here are some easy moves to get your bells swinging. (In all but one of these exercises, the kettlebells are held in one or both hands by their trapezoidal handle.) For information about buying and choosing kettlebells, see details in box on page 32.
Standing with your feet two to three feet apart, hold the kettlebell between your legs in both hands. Keeping your back and arms straight, head up and looking ahead, bend slightly at your knees and snap your hips forward while squeezing your glutes and abs. This will drive the kettlebell up. Gradually increase the swing arc until the kettlebell swings from just behind your knees up to eye level. On the downswing, keep your arms and grip relaxed; do not round your back. The kettlebell should pass back between your legs at your upper thigh. Do 3-5 sets of 15 -25 reps.
Standing with your feet three feet apart and your legs straight (but without your knees locked), hold one light kettlebell in each hand. Press and hold (with your arm extended) one of the kettlebells overhead. Keeping your back straight, bend to the side at the hips to lower the other kettlebell to the ground at your instep. Unbend your hips to stand up straight again, still keeping the other arm extended overhead. Do 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps on each side.
The Goblet Squat
With your feet hip-width apart, use both arms to hold one medium-weight kettlebell close to your chest by the sides of the handle. The top of the handle should be just under your chin. Squat down, making sure to keep your back straight, the kettlebell at your chest, and your elbows in between your knees (rather than on top or outside of them). Go down as deeply as possible before your heels come up or your back begins to round. At the bottom, keeping your back straight and without leaning forward, push up with your thighs and glutes. Do 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.
Alternating Floor Press
Lying on your back, hold a light kettlebell in each hand with your elbows bent so the kettlebells are at your ears. Alternating arms, push one kettlebell up at a time, fully extending your arm and slightly rotating your trunk. Do 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps.
Lying on your back, start with one leg straight out and the other bent at the knee with your heel near your butt. Using the arm on the same side of your body as the bent leg, press a light kettlebell towards the ceiling. The weight of the kettlebell is against the back of your forearm and your knuckles are facing up. Place your other arm straight out to your side on the floor. Continuously looking at the kettlebell, roll slightly onto your supporting side and use that arm and elbow to push yourself first into a sitting position and then onto the opposite knee before fully standing, all while keeping the kettlebell arm straight and the kettlebell above you. Reverse everything, still with the kettlebell overhead and your gaze glued to get back to your starting position. Do 3-5 sets of 10-12 reps each side.
Shopping for Kettlebells
When shopping for kettlebells, it's not only about weight, women just getting into a strength training program could do all of the above with two kettlebells, one in the vicinity of nine pounds (alternating floor press, Turkish get-up, windmill) and another weighing about twice that (swing, goblet squat) but also about the shape and feel of the handle. Cheaply made kettlebells often have uber-rough handles that tear into your palms as you hold and move them.
Du Cane's company, Dragon Door (www.dragondoor.com), makes the Cadillacs of the kettlebell world . . . and they're priced accordingly. Dragon Door is also the place to go for kettlebell instructional books and DVDs. Sarah Lurie designed the floor-friendly, vinyl-dipped kettlebells sold at GoFit.net. GoFit also sells Lurie's DVDs. MuscleDriverUSA's kettlebells (www.muscledriverusa.com) are more budget-conscious but still hand-friendly. More and more brick-and-mortar stores like Sports Authority are carrying kettlebells as well. In addition, checkout the unique DVD series, The Art of Strength designed for at-home users. (Available at Punch Kettlebell Gyms as well as at the www.artofstrength.com.)
Dance, Swing & Sculpt with Kettlenetics
Several kettlebell-inspired workout DVDs have been created for the more moderate and aerobic-inspired exerciser. Kettlenetics was created by Michelle Khai, a former professional dancer. Khai blends the weight-training benefits of kettlebells (called kBells) with upbeat music and dance-inspired moves for a fun, at-home workout. The Slim & Tone set from Kettlenetics, available on www.gaiam.com includes four DVDs, each focusing on a different theme: kb elements, flowMotion basics, cardio balanced, and kb target toning. Follow the DVDs or use the included workout poster for a few quick and easy moves (easily done during a standard commercial break!)