Working with kettlebells can burn fat, tone muscles and improve endurance, balance and agility. Kettlebell benefits include:
- Large, sweeping movements are easy. This means you can take muscles and joints through a wide range of movement.
- The centre of gravity of the weight is not in your hand. This challenges balance, core strength and coordination.
- The handle allows for letting go and passing/catching, which also trains core strength and improves coordination.
- Being able to do large movements and pass the kettlebell from hand to hand means a continuous, flowing aerobic workout is possible (with lighter weights).
- Because the kettlebell is easy to hold and move around, you can do arm and leg movements at the same time, giving an all-over body workout. Being able to train several muscle groups at once means you can cut down on your workout time.
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Technique points for maximum kettlebell benefits
- Movements should be smooth and controlled – which means you need to use a manageable weight
- You should maintain core engagement throughout
- The lower back shouldn’t arch to help get weights up in the air. If you find yourself doing this, either you need to use a lower weight, or you have done enough reps and need to rest.
- When straightening at the knees, don’t force the joint backwards
Number of reps guide
There are 3 main types of training effect: muscular strength, muscular endurance and aerobic endurance. There isn’t a clear division between the 3, it’s more of a continuum. The lighter the weight and the more reps you do, the more you move towards endurance training. But the following is a rough guide to reps numbers.
- Muscular strength: The muscles get stronger and able to lift more weight. Choose a weight that you can do between 8 and 15 reps with to train for strength.
- Muscular endurance: The muscles become able to do more reps for a given weight. Choose a weight that you can do 16-25 reps with to train for muscular endurance.
- Aerobic endurance: The heart becomes able to deliver more blood to the working muscles and the muscles become more efficient at breaking down glucose to make energy. To train for aerobic endurance with kettlebells, choose a weight you can do 30+ reps with and don’t rest between exercises.
The kettlebell swing
This exerise achieves most of the kettlebell benefits.
- Works the major leg muscles
- Works the back, core and shoulders
- Challenges coordination
- Can be used to train for strength, muscular endurance or aerobic endurance
- Can be adapted to challenge coordination and core more by doing one handed and switching at the top and/or bottom (advanced)
Before attempting this exercise, please read my general exercise safety guidelines, You should also warm up your muscles and make sure you read “Technique points for maximum kettlebell benefits” above.
Hold the kettlebell with both hands – arms are straight, but don’t lock the elbows out
Stand with feet a bit wider than hip distance
Shoulders should be held back, chest forward.
Bend your knees as you take the kettlebell between your legs. Keep your back straight and your head in line with your spine.
Engage your core muscles as you straighten your legs, at the same time lifting the kettlebell out in front of your body. Remember not to lock your elbows.
Stop when your arms are parallel to the floor and reverse the movement, bending your knees as you take the kettlebell back through your legs.
So that’s how to do the swing. It’s best to start with a lower weight to learn good exercise technique. Then if you want to train for strength, move up to a bigger weight.
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Other home workouts for you to try: