4 Move Total Body Kettlebell Workout for Beginners
Kettlebells are a popular piece of workout equipment. You have probably seen one at the gym, on social media, or on a workout video at some point; they look like a cannonball with a handle on top. Since kettlebell exercises have just gained popularity in recent years in the United States, you might be surprised by how long they have been used as a strength training tool. Although there isn’t any proof as to who invented the kettlebell, or exactly when, there are signs it was used in ancient Greece and the Russian word “Girya” (which translates to kettlebell in English) was published in the Russian dictionary in 1704. Others believe kettlebell training originated in Scotland as a competitive event where an actual kettle was used loaded with weight.
Using a kettlebell involves more muscle groups and uses a wider range of movement than barbells or weight machines. Barbells and weight machines generally target isolated muscle groups directly, whereas the kettlebell can be used in exercises that use more than one muscle group and even full body exercises. Using multiple muscle groups at once in an exercise, or a compound movement, is a more functional way to train and burns more calories than a move working only one muscle group at a time. It is also what helps to increase the heart rate making it a workout for your cardiovascular system as well as a strength workout. This means you can get more of a workout in less time.
Kettlebells are especially great for strengthening your core because they challenge your balance by changing your center of gravity when performing exercises, like squats and lunges for example.
A study done by ACE (American Council on Exercise) and The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science found that after an eight-week training period consisting of a kettlebell class two times a week led by a pair of certified instructors, the participants had not only strength gains, but also had increases in aerobic capacity, improved dynamic balance and increased core strength. The study confirmed that with kettlebells, you are “able to get a wide variety of benefits with one pretty intense workout”.
Kettlebells are prevalent in fitness centers and gyms but might also be a good addition to your home gym. Kettlebells are relatively compact and portable so are a good option for workouts at home as well. They come in a variety of sizes and weights. Depending on your fitness level and the workout you plan to do, there is an appropriate size of kettlebell for everyone. Most kettlebells are cast iron, some are vinyl coated or plastic coated. There are even adjustable weight kettlebells, essentially a set of kettlebells built into the space of one. If you are worried a cast iron weight might damage your floors, there are soft kettlebells available as well. None of these options is better than the other, it all depends on what works best for you.
There are many different exercises that can be done with a kettlebell. If you have never used a kettlebell before, ask a personal trainer or take a kettlebell class to get the basics on form. Here are three moves that can be done with a kettlebell and completed on their own or as a circuit. If performing them as a circuit, complete 10-12 repetitions of each exercise then rest before repeating the circuit two more times. This could be done 2-3 times a week on non-consecutive days.
Important: Throughout all movements with the kettlebell, remember to keep your core tight by drawing your naval into your spine, maintaining control of the kettlebell throughout all movements.
- The Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing is an extremely effective exercise when done with proper form. It combines strength training and cardiovascular conditioning into one movement. This move works many different muscle groups (most of the muscles in your body) but focuses on the core – including the hips, back, abs and glutes.
Start with your feet just a bit wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out slightly. Hold the kettlebell by the handle with both hands and keep your arms loose but straight as you hinge at your hips, sending your hips back while maintaining a flat back, and then squeeze your glutes to drive your hips forward to a standing position keeping your arms straight, the kettlebell swinging to just below shoulder height. Lower the kettlebell to the start position with control.
Once you master the kettlebell swing with two hands, try a one-handed swing. The one arm swing delivers the same benefits as the two-handed swing but with a few extras. Swinging the kettlebell with one arm rather than two puts extra demands on the shoulder and attempts to pull the body into rotation. This means your shoulder stabilizing muscles will work harder and your core muscles will work harder to keep your body forward. The one-handed swing is performed the same way as the two-handed swing except for just one hand holding the kettlebell handle while the other arm is held straight out to the side. Do a number of reps with one arm then switch to do the same number of reps with the other arm.
- Kettlebell Goblet Squat
Hold the kettlebell handle with both hands and close to the front of your body while standing with feet shoulder width apart. Sit back with your hips, keeping your chest lifted as you slowly lower to a squat. Knees travel outward over toes. Lower to a level that is comfortable (but challenging) to you. Straighten legs as you return to the starting position.
- Kettlebell Overhead Press
The kettlebell overhead press takes the kettlebell from the racked position (During this position the kettlebell is held comfortably against the chest with the arm tucked in, wrist straight, shoulder down and Latissimus Dorsi muscle engaged.) to overhead and into a straight arm position. Keep your shoulder down away from your ear while you press your arm up and lower it back down with control. Make sure the kettlebell goes straight up and not in front or behind the head.
- Kettlebell Goblet Squat Thruster
Hold the kettlebell handle with both hands and close to the front of your body while standing with feet shoulder width apart. Sit back with your hips, keeping your chest lifted as you slowly lower to a squat. Knees travel outward over toes. Lower to a level that is comfortable (but challenging) to you. Straighten legs and press the kettlebell over your head, keeping your arms as straight at possible. Lower the kettlebell back down to your chest.
Kettlebells can offer a highly effective workout. Kettlebell exercises use multiple muscle groups at the same time which allow you to work your entire body in less time. They target all aspects of fitness, including strength, endurance and power. When kettlebell workouts are programmed correctly and done with proper form, they can provide a full body mix that will increase your metabolism and generate fat burning hours after your workout has finished. With so many benefits to using kettlebells, and so many ways to work out with them, kettlebell training is for everyone who wants to burn fat, develop full body strength, improve their cardiovascular health and those with little time to exercise.
Some gyms hold specialized kettlebell classes. (Check out LivRite’s class schedules here!).