It’s small, round, and creates powerful muscles. Functional training – exercising the body for the activities carried out in daily life – is all the rage and the kettlebell is the perfect tool as the complex motions work multiple muscle groups simultaneously.
The kettlebell has become an essential piece of equipment in gyms because it’s ideal for rotational and compound movements, helping to improve posture, speed, flexibility and mobility. It can also help to mix things up if you’re used to dumbbell and barbell workouts.
“The only other thing I could find that burns that many calories is cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace,” said the researchers Porcari and Schnitzler as part of a study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise (ACE). “It’s a quick workout, and you do get a big bang for your buck in a very short amount of time.”
We’ve got 6 kettlebell exercises to get you ready for whatever life throws at you.
1 FOR KETTLEBELL BEGINNERS: THE SWING
Start off with the basic movement of the swing before moving to more complex exercises. Take an overhand grip of the kettlebell between your legs and keep your upper body straight. Push forward with your hips (not your arms) and swing the bell to full extension, before returning to the starting position.
2 FOR THE LOWER BACK: DEADLIFT
It’s another basic exercise but one that delivers. Grip the kettlebell between your feet, bend at the hips and keep your back straight. Now, similar to how you would perform the movement with a barbell, lift with your heels and extend your knees and hips to full extension. The power should come from your legs, and you can mix things up by doing it single-arm or using two weights.
3 BUILD STRENGTH THAT SHOWS: FRONT SQUAT
The squat can become a little boring after hundreds of repetitions, so take things to the next level by using a kettlebell. It’s a totally different challenge, with their odd shape meaning the body has to do more work. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold the bell in front of your chest, then descend into a squat position before returning to the start.
4 CORE WORKOUT: PUSH UP TO ROW
If you’ve reached the point where push-ups with only your bodyweight are no longer challenging, it’s time to step things up. Grab two kettlebells and lean on the handles in a push-up position, raise your body and then lift a bell on one side, similar to the motion of rowing, before returning to the starting position. Alternate between your left and right arms, making sure your whole body remains rigid.
5 FOR THE ENTIRE BODY: TURKISH GET UP
Warning: this exercise is only for professionals who are experienced at using kettlebells. If done the right way, it’s great for increasing strength and improving flexibility. The execution is complicated though, so follow the instructions closely. A mirror can help you control and improve movement, from initial arm extension while lying on the ground right through to a standing position.
6 THE KILLER: CRUSH GRIP CURL TO THRUSTER
The name alone is enough to bring on a sweat. No wonder: the crush grip curl to thruster trains the entire body. Take a deep squat position with your arms close to your body, grab the kettlebell by the sides and lift, as you would doing a bicep curl, to shoulder height. Then ascend to a standing position while lifting the bell above your head with arms at full extension. Now get back down to the starting position and do it again. It hurts because it works!