Kettlebells: Soviet secret for strength and fat loss?
Kettlebells. Perhaps you’ve seen them. They look like cannonballs with a handle and tend to be heavy. They are part of the regimens of everyone from NFL players, Special Op forces and to the cast of the movie “300.”
They are also one of the most effective new (but really old) pieces of equipment you can use for strength, aerobic fitness and fat loss.
Kettlebells are hardly new. They go back a few 100 years and are featured in many old black and white strongman photos. Picture a guy in a loincloth hoisting something overhead and chances are it’s a kettlebell.
Recently they have become an elite fitness trend largely in part to a hardcore trainer named Pavel Tsatsouline. Pavel has almost single-handedly brought the kettlebell craze to America to the point even Target carries them.
Trendiest aside, kettlebells are weights plain and simple. But their unusual shape makes them incredibly effective for training your balance and whole body. For example, if you use dumbbells for bench presses, try substituting a kettlebell. Your shoulders will be off balance and you will find yourself struggling more than you think you would, even with the exact same weight as the regular dumbbell.
They are particularly effective when used for explosive Olympic lifts, like the clean and jerk and snatch. Not only does their unusual shape train your shoulder stabilizers, you will also notice a profound improvement in your cardiovascular health and body composition. This is largely due to body-fat melting.
Kettlebells are like any weight and can be used for any exercise a conventional free-weight can. There are hundreds of exercises and effective combinations. Let’s look at two basic kettlebell moves:
Kettlebell swing - This is the foundation move of kettlebell work. When done properly this can develop your hips, quads and core (along with your traps). Start by squatting and holding the bell as in picture 1.
Most women should try 15- to 20-pounds. Quickly thrust your hips and glutes forward and swing the weight to shoulder level. (Picture 2). This should be done quickly and your arms should be locked but loose, like you are tossing a horseshoe. Try repeating for 50 reps and see how you feel.
Kettlebell Windmill - This is a great move to truly work your obliques (sides) while also improving your hamstring flexibility and shoulder stability. Be very careful with this one as you will need to pay attention to keeping your elbow firmly locked the entire time.
Start by pressing the bell overhead and turning both feet the opposite direction. While keeping your knees firmly locked, look upward toward the kettlebell and pivot out of the waist. Descend slowly; feeling the stretch in your core till your torso is parallel with the ground. Pause and return to the start. Try 10 slow reps and see if you can keep up.
Those are 2 basic moves to play around with.
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