Kettlebells: all round fitness tool or 70s throwback?
Kettlebells are those pieces of gym equipment that you either love with a passion or steer well clear of. Well, I have become a convert and as a result I am going to share my enthusiasm for these unwieldy lumps of metal that seem like a throwback to gyms of the 1970s.
First of all, what is a kettlebell?
At its most basic level, a kettle bell is a lump of iron that comes in several sizes. It can come with a plastic coat, but essentially it is like a bowling ball with a thick handle at the top.
You can use kettle bells for standard weight training exercises – bench presses, curls, rows – much as you would a dumbbell. But one of the exciting things about working out with kettle bells is the range of ballistic movements you can do, which means that you can work your muscles faster and develop fantastic muscular endurance. You will soon feel the benefit from using kettle bells and doing sets of fast reps of snatches, swings, cleans and jerks.
Kettlebells can be used to great effect in core work. The windmill is a move that involves lifting the kettlebell into a position with a straight arm held over your head, then sliding your free hand down towards the floor. This is an off-balance movement that will help develop rock-hard abdominals.
Likewise, the Turkish Get-up is a move that develops balance and core strength. Lie on the floor with the kettle bell held over your head with a straight arm. Keeping the arm straight and over your head, move to a standing position. Don’t rush the move but feel it working your hamstrings, flutes and abdominals.
You can do all of these exercises with dumbbells, but the beauty of the kettlebell is that it’s odd shape means you work harder to keep your balance while performing the repetitions, in particular you will be working those stabiliser muscles which often get neglected when you are doing isolated muscle work. According to research, a 20-minute kettle bell session can burn up to 300 calories and is effective as both an aerobic exercise workout or a strength and conditioning session.
Here are three kettle bell exercises that you can do at the gym or at home. For more ideas and information about kettle bells, check in with one of our fitness experts in the gym.
Grab a kettlebell with both hands and stand with your feet wider than hip width apart. Squat until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Using your quads and hamstring, stand sharply and swing the kettle bell to shoulder height. As the kettle bell arcs back down, bend your knee and squat. Swing the kettle bell through your legs - that is one rep. Do 20-25.
2. Around the body pass
Hold the kettle bell with both hands in front of you at waist height. Your feet should be shoulder width apart. Release the kettlebell with one hand and move both hands behind your back, switch the hand holding the kettle bell and complete a full circle with the kettlebell as you bring your hands back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times in a clockwise direction then do 10 reps in an anti-clockwise direction.
3. Dead lift
Feet hip width apart and the kettle bell on the floor between your feet. Squat down and grab the handle with both hands, keeping your back flat. Brace your abs, squeeze your flutes and slowly push down into your heels as you stand up, keeping your arms extended. Do 15-20 repetitions.