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How to Get to the Gym:  Setting Yourself Up for Success

Posted by Jill Derryberry on Jan 6, 2022 7:44:50 PM

It is well known that being active has many benefits from better sleep to preventing and managing many chronic health conditions to heart health, among many others.  However, knowing it is good for us doesn’t make it easy to do.  More than a fifth of all Americans belong to a gym.  About 6.3% of Americans who have a gym membership don’t go at all and 50% of all new gym members quit within the first six months according to RunRepeat.  If we know exercising is good for us and we get a gym membership, why are so many of us not going to the gym? 

 

Some of the more frequently heard excuses used to not go to the gym are being too busy and being too tired.  Get ready for some tough love.  We are all busy, but we can find time for things that are important to us.  Binged a show on Netflix lately?  You have time to go to the gym.  Make your health a priority and you will make time to exercise.  Too tired? Did you know exercise will boost your energy and your mood?  It does! Now that we know those reasons aren’t valid in most cases, here are some tips to help you get to the gym.   

 

Find Your Why 

 

The Merriam-Webster definition of motivated is “provided with a motive: having an incentive or a strong desire to do well or succeed in some pursuit”.   Think about your motive for exercising.  Why do you want to work out?  Your reason why is your motive to be active. Many health conditions are improved or prevented by exercising and eating a healthy diet.  Your why might be to lower your A1C number and not develop Diabetes.  Someone else might have high blood pressure and is looking to lower it through lifestyle changes.  Others may want to lose weight to stay healthy to live a long life with their kids and grandkids.  Whatever your why, or reason for exercising, write it down where you can see it whenever you need some motivation.   I have heard of many people writing their why on a post-it-note and putting it on the mirror in their bathroom, so they see it first thing every morning.   Put it where you will see it when you need a reminder of why you are keeping exercise in your schedule.  

 

Create Short Term Goals and Track Your Progress 

 

Seeing progress in the gym isn’t instant and does take time.  Setting up a long-term goal like being able to do a pull up or losing 50 pounds or running a half marathon, is great but be prepared to spend months working toward that goal.  Setting short term goals along the way can be helpful to keep you motivated and moving toward your bigger goal.  If you are just starting out, a goal of coming to the gym three days a week for a month can be a great short-term goal at the beginning. 

It’s important to set goals, but you need to make sure that they’re achievable, measurable, and not overly ambitious. If you set a short term and achievable goal, you’ll feel a huge sense of achievement when you reach it, which will have a positive impact on your motivation. 

Set yourself another goal when you reach your initial target, so you’re always working toward something.  Read more about SMART goals here.   

 

Make it Convenient  

 

If you want to do something more, make it easier to do.  Do you pass a gym on your way to and from work?  That gym will probably be your best bet to join.  If it is more convenient to stop there and exercise, rather than a gym across town and out of the way, that means you are more likely to do it. 

 

Create a gym bag that is always stocked and ready to go.  If you shower at the gym, have everything you need in its own bag, in your gym bag, all the time.  You won’t have to remember to put in soap or shampoo every time.  It’s already there!  As soon as you get home and take your dirty clothes out of your bag, put clean clothes right in so you don’t have to remember to do it later.   

 

Get An Accountability Partner or Group 

 

According to The Global Health & Fitness Association (IHRSA), those who engage in group fitness classes at the gym are 56% less likely to cancel their gym membership and more likely to renew their memberships than those who only use free weights and machines.  This is probably because group fitness classes are fun!  But it also is because the participants in group classes often hold each other accountable for coming.  Friendships will form between many in the class and knowing that your class friends and the instructor are expecting you to be there can be a big motivator to going.   

 

If group classes aren’t your thing, find someone to go with you to the gym or to meet there.  Knowing someone is counting on you, and that you have someone to talk with, could be what gets you to the gym. 

 

Find a Workout You Actually Like 

 

Take the time to experiment with different modes of exercise to find what you like to do.  Each facility has different equipment, different types of classes and programs.   Don’t be afraid to ask an employee or trainer for help with anything you want to try.   It is more likely you will make it to the gym if you are going to do something you don’t always dread! 

 

Consider a Trainer  

 

Personal trainers may be an added cost to your gym membership, but they can also add a lot of tangible value. An expert can design a program based on your goals, show you how to use equipment, and provide tips on nutrition. You may find you don’t need their assistance for a long period but having them present while you start out could compel you to stick with it.  Also, it adds accountability.  You are more likely to show up when you have an appointment with your trainer at a specific time.   

 

Put It on The Calendar 

 

If you have a personal trainer at your gym, you will schedule appointments with them that you will be charged for if you don’t show without canceling with enough notice.  I know I’m more likely to go if I know there is someone waiting for me and if I still must pay for it even if I don’t go.  Even if you aren’t meeting a trainer, make it an appointment just like a business meeting or doctor visit that you can’t cancel.  When people ask you if you can do something at that time you can honestly say you have an appointment and can’t.  Isn’t your health that important? 

 

Reward Yourself 

 

If you are consistent, you will notice a feel-good feeling after you are done with your workout due to the endorphins released during exercise.  After some time, this could be enough to keep up that exercise habit.  I have said to myself “remember how you will feel when you are done” many times before a workout.  You also feel better overall when you are working out regularly, your sleep improves, your mood improves plus more.  It gets to a point when you feel so much better when exercise is a part of your lifestyle that if you stop for a period, you can’t wait to get back to it to feel better again.  This is what rewards me and keeps my exercise habit going.  However, when you are new to exercise, it may be helpful to create other rewards like putting a dollar for every workout you do and buying yourself new workout clothes with the money you accumulate.   Or maybe time in the sauna at the gym after your workout is something to look forward to.  The point is to treat yourself in a healthy way that you wouldn’t otherwise do and will look forward to after that workout.   

 

Start Small  

 

If you are new to working out, don’t feel like you must spend hours at the gym to make it worth it.  Doing too much too soon could cause injury or simply being too sore to want to go back.    

 

We all want a quick fix.  The gym doesn’t provide instant results, but it will get you there and help you stay healthy and fit.  It’s important to continually remind ourselves of why we’re doing this. Focus on the long-term health benefits!   

 

Take the time to figure out what motivates you to make it to the gym.  Experiment with some of the suggestions above and see what works for you.  Reflect on what doesn’t work and why.  Understanding what works for you is the key to getting to the gym on a consistent basis and making exercise a part of your life.   

 

 

 

How To Set Yourself Up for A Successful (and Healthy) New Year

Posted by Jill Derryberry on Jan 1, 2022 5:30:00 AM

 

New year success

“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.” — Melody Beattie 

 

The start of the new year is a time many of us are inspired to make life changes.  The beginning of a new year can seem like a clean slate, a blank canvas to start fresh and change or create new habits or goals.  A study found that of nearly two thirds of adults in the United States who made resolutions, made them about health and fitness.  They also found that 73% of them gave up and did not meet their goals.  Some gave up in six weeks or less!  However well-intentioned and motivated we may seem on December 31 and January 1, other research (and my own experience and probably yours too) confirms that by mid-February most resolutions have been abandoned.   How can we keep our resolutions, meet these goals in our lives and make this year the most successful yet?   

 

“You can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that got you into it.” -Einstein 

 

Shift Your Focus – Replace the negative with the positive.  It’s not an obligation, it is an aspiration.  It’s not that you should or have to work out, think of it as how lucky you are that you get to work out.  How lucky are you that you are healthy enough to move and take care of your health in this way?  I don’t have to exercise – I get to exercise to feel better both physically and mentally.  It’s not that I can’t eat all those cookies – I’m choosing not too so I feel better physically by choosing something with more nutritional value that won’t leave me with a blood sugar crash and feeling bad in an hour or two.  Sometimes it may not feel this way, but even just speaking to yourself in this more positive light can change your mindset. 

 

Find the immediate benefits of the process of the habit you’d like to have and focus on those instead of the negatives.   For example, instead of “I have to start exercising” or “I have to lose x number of pounds” reframe that with “I get to go for a walk and enjoy the company of my friend” or “I can listen to this podcast while I’m lifting weights or on the treadmill”.  Learning how to enjoy the process of exercise can make it a more pleasurable experience which will then boost the levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in your brain which make you feel good.   That means it is more likely to become a habit since it is more likely we will do things that are pleasurable.   

 

“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.” — J.P. Morgan 

 

Make An Attainable Goal – A resolution to workout everyday sounds good in theory but is not something that would be easy to stick with and might not even be a good idea if you are just starting out.  If exercising isn’t part of your life right now, committing to doing it every day might be too much.  Maybe working out three times a week is a good place to start.   

 

“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.” — Alan Cohen 

 

Progress not Perfection – Say you set the goal of working out three times a week and then you miss a week because you are sick.  That doesn’t mean all is lost!  Jump back to your schedule of exercising three times a week as soon as you are well.  Life will always throw curveballs at us to derail our best laid plans, but with health and fitness you can adjust and get right back on track.  It’s about consistency over the long term rather than a perfect record.   

 

“Most people fail, not because of lack of desire, but, because of lack of commitment.” – Vince Lombardi 

 

Make a Plan – Once you have determined your goal or resolution, lay out the concrete steps to reach that goal.  If the steps still seem big, continue to break them down and do small bits at a time.  Celebrate after completing each step along the way!  Make sure you have something you are doing, if not on a daily basis, at least a few times a week that is in support of your goal.  Put it on your calendar, set a reminder.  Commit to it and make the time.  A personal trainer can help you put together a personalized plan for fitness goals if you aren’t sure where to start.   

 

There is no one giant step that does it, it’s a lot of little steps. – Peter A. Cohen 

 

Find an Accountability Partner – Starting something new can be difficult, especially if you are on your own.  Ask a friend or family member to be a workout partner.  Knowing someone is counting on you, and waiting for you, can be a huge motivator to get to the gym.  Also working out with someone else can make it more fun, which makes it more likely you will enjoy the experience and make it a long-term habit.  Another idea, share your fitness tracker statistics with friends that have the same tracker and keep each other motivated to reach your goals each day.  Just knowing they can see what you’ve done that day (or haven’t done) can be the push that many people need.   

 

Your accountability partner doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who exercises with you.  Just having someone you can talk with who knows what you are aiming for, respects your struggle, and wants to help you reach your goal can be the difference between staying on your path or veering off when things get tough.  Others find that hiring a personal trainer is a great way to stay accountable to their workouts.  Knowing that you have paid for a session and the trainer has blocked out time for you makes it difficult to cancel.   

 

There is always an opportunity to start again and again, if the old ways are not working last year, look for better ways of doing it in the new year and start again afresh.” — Bamigboye Olurotimi 

 

 

A new year is a great time to embrace change, challenges, and new healthier habits.  We each have the power to affect our own health and wellness.  Whether you make a health or fitness resolution or a goal or just want to be a little healthier, you have it within you to make that change.  It doesn’t need to be drastic or perfect.  Plan the small steps to take to get where you want to be and don’t stop there.  Keep exploring, learning, and discovering what type of workouts and what nutrition works for you and your body and what makes you feel your best.   

The result is that the more you exercise and eat healthfully, the better you will feel, which could lead to long-term behavior change which then creates a healthier life and many successful years ahead! 

 

 

Fitness Trackers:  What are they, do you need one and which ones best

Posted by Jill Derryberry on Nov 6, 2021 9:19:06 AM

Best Fitness Trackers

What are fitness trackers? 

 

I think everyone has heard about fitness trackers in some form, from a simple pedometer to a GPS enabled smart watch that costs hundreds of dollars.  “Getting your steps” in has become part of our lexicon.  Just in case you aren’t aware, a fitness tracker is a small electronic device that tracks physical activity.  Pedometers track just the number of steps you take, other fitness trackers can also collect data about your sleep, the estimated number of calories you’ve burned, your heart rate, distance covered and more. Many trackers provide simple data on the device's display, with more detailed data available online or via their app. They can help monitor our progress regarding our health, sleep or movement, as well as give real-time feedback and statistics about our fitness goals.  This can be incredibly encouraging and helpful for many people to get more physical activity.   

 

When it comes to tracking your health and workouts, there are two main categories: fitness trackers and smart watches. Fitness trackers monitor your health and wellness, and track things like sleep, heart rate, steps, and workouts.  Smart watches have the same capabilities as fitness trackers, but also have smartphone features, like texting, calling, and other app integrations. 

 

Do you really need a fitness tracker? 

 

If you are just starting out, a fitness tracker can give you a picture of how active you are (or aren’t).  Many of us overestimate how active we are and how many calories we have burned and underestimate how many calories we have taken in.  A fitness tracker can help by monitoring your activity and approximate number of calories burned each day.  In some cases, it can be a good wakeup call and then motivation to improve.  Most fitness tracker data can be synced with an app where you can track your calorie intake which can be beneficial for those looking to lose weight or improve their health.  

 

Fitness trackers can be a source of motivation by prompting movement (my Apple watch will remind me if I haven’t met a move goal or exercise goal or stand goal).  For me, being able to see how many days I have met my set goals is a source of motivation just as much as seeing that I haven’t met those goals for the day is encouragement to get it done.  For others it can be beneficial to share your fitness tracker statistics with friends and family who also have the same tracker.  Doing this allows you to see each other’s metrics and you can challenge each other to move more.  Keep in mind though, don’t let your fitness tracker shame you.  Rest days are important, and most fitness trackers don’t acknowledge that enough.  Customize your goals on your tracker or smart watch to be right for you and your fitness plan.   

 

Some studies have shown that fitness trackers and smart watches are not that accurate when it comes to steps taken, heart rate and calorie expenditure.  Most people have wrist worn fitness trackers or smart watches that monitor your heart rate.   Studies show the wrist worn heart rate monitors generally aren’t as accurate as chest worn heart rate monitors.  It doesn’t mean the heart rate data can’t be helpful, but it is good to remember it is an estimate rather than an exact reading.  The same is true for the other data collected, including number of calories burned.  Trackers give you real-time information about your level of activity. Even though most of the metrics they collect are estimates, they are far more accurate than any guesses we make about our fitness levels. 

 

What are the best fitness trackers? 

 

I’m not an electronics expert, but here is a short list from what I have found in my research (online and from my own use) of the most well-known brands with the most options of trackers to choose from.   There are hundreds of options for fitness trackers.  Literally, there is something for everyone since they all have different price points, options and functions.  It is best to decide what features you want in a fitness tracker before your purchase so you can get exactly what you are looking for.  What is the feature most important to you?   Do you want a smart watch that will sync with your phone, or do you just want something to track your steps?  Do you want GPS in your tracker or the capability for it to use your phone’s GPS?  Does it need to be able to track your sleep?  Do you want to be able to swim with it on?  What data are you most interested in tracking?  With so many functions available, it is good to determine what will be most helpful for you.  Also, it is a good idea to check out online reviews and the company’s website prior to purchase.   

 

Fitbit is probably the most well-known fitness tracker company and has at least eight (8!) different types of fitness trackers in their current lineup.  They range in cost starting around $90 and go all the way up to $300+.  They also vary in function and size.  If you don’t want all the bells and whistles of a smart watch, the Fitbit Inspire or Flex might be best for you.  These models are smaller than watches (more like a bracelet), lightweight, less expensive and have fewer functions than other models, but still tracks your steps taken, sleep, active minutes, and lets you set silent alarms that alert you by buzzing on your wrist.     

 

According to the website Wired and a few other sites I saw, the Fitbit Charge 4 is ranked the best all-around fitness tracker.  It has built in GPS, an app that is easy to use and allows you to connect with a community of other users.  It has a function that will monitor your sleep.  Some of the more advanced features require an annual subscription at an additional fee.  Fitbit has released a newer sleeker version of the Charge, version 5, that is also available now.   

 

apple watch fitness tracker

If you have an iPhone, an Apple Watch might be the best fitness tracker for you.  It’s not just a device that can track your steps, minutes of exercise, heart rate, sleep, estimated calorie expenditure and number of hours you stood for at least a minute (this is not a complete list of features, and they vary based on the model and version you have).  It is also a smart watch that will allow you to text and talk from your watch along with syncing with many other of your phone’s functions.  It will link to the health and fitness apps on your phone so you can see all your fitness and health data there as well as all the awards you can earn by completing challenges. The Apple Watch has you select three daily health goals.  One for movement (the number of calories you burn with activity), the number of hours you stand at least a minute and the amount of time you exercise.  The rings on your watch will show your progress for these goals and it can get addictive to those like me that want to close their rings and meet those goals each day.  Newer models of the Apple Watch (series 6 and above) have blood-oxygen monitoring, ECG and integration with Fitness+, Apple’s new on-demand streaming workout service (Fitness+ requires an additional fee).  The Apple Watch 7 was just released with even more advanced health features as well as a mindfulness app.  

 

Do you have an android phone but still want a smart watch that links with your phone?  The Samsung Galaxy Watch has many of the same features of the Apple Watch.  It is made to pair with Android operating systems.   

 

Garmin also has a variety of watches that track your fitness data.  Their entry level tracker, the Venu Sq and SQ Music Edition has an LCD touchscreen with an always on option (some older Apple Watch models and Fitbit do not have an always on option).  The Garmin Venu Sq includes blood-oxygen monitoring and sleep tracking without any additional subscription.  Garmin has advanced metrics through their Garmin Connect app.   Runners have been known to love the Garmin Forerunner Series.  These watches start at the lower price end for Garmin and do a great job at tracking walks and runs.  Some versions allow the programming of intervals and really focus on having the best GPS to track running routes and the best running metrics to track your training. 

 

Not everyone will benefit from a fitness tracker. For example, if you mostly lift weights, it might not be helpful. But for the majority, they can be useful. For instance, if you spend most of your time in an office chair, your fitness tracker can be a personal trainer. It will help you stay active with daily activity prompts, information about yourself, and a community of fitness enthusiasts like you to keep you motivated.  If you believe you will benefit from one of these devices, buy one that will provide you with the data you need.  Not all trackers have the same features, so do your homework before making a purchase.   

 

 

Topics: LivRite News

The Benefits of Exercise and How to Fit it In Your Schedule

Posted by Jill Derryberry on Oct 7, 2021 4:32:25 PM

Physical activity benefits your physical and mental health in so many ways, it should be an important part of your lifestyle. There is so much research to support the case for exercise, yet so many of us don’t do it. Physical activity is not just for weight loss or to change how you look.   It makes people healthier and prevents, improves or delays many chronic health conditions. So if we know exercise is good for us, helping us to live longer and healthier lives, why don’t we don’t all do it regularly?

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines physical activity as, “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. Physical activity refers to all movement including during leisure time, for transport to get to and from places, or as part of a person’s work. Both moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity improve health.”

 

Most evidence suggests that the type of exercise done is far less important than whether to be active at all. About half of adult Americans don't meet one of the most oft-cited guidelines, which calls for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (a fast-walking pace) most days of the week. This doesn’t have to be done in 30-minute increments, you can accumulate that total in bouts of 10 to 15 minutes. About a quarter of American adults say they don’t take the time for any physical activity at all.

 

Research suggests that the long-term health benefits are not motivating enough to change individuals’ daily habits. Despite that fact, I still want to review some of those amazing physical and mental changes and improvements you can make to your life by getting in regular physical activity.

 

Just A Few of The Benefits of Physical Activity

 

Reduce Risk of Some Cancers – Exercise has many effects on the body like the lowering of sex hormones, preventing high blood levels of insulin, reducing inflammation, and managing weight. All these outcomes have been associated with the lower risk of specific cancers and other chronic diseases. While some evidence is observational, more and more evidence is showing that higher levels of physical activity are linked to lower risk of several types of cancer.

 

Prevent or Manage Diabetes – Physical activity can lower your blood sugar levels and help your insulin work better. This can cut down your risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. If you already have one of those diseases, exercise can help you manage it.

 

Improve Heart Health – Cardiovascular exercise trains your heart to beat slower and stronger, so it needs less oxygen to function well; your arteries get springier, so they push your blood along better; and your levels of "good" HDL cholesterol go up. This helps lower your risk of heart diseases. Regular exercise can also lower your blood pressure and triglyceride levels (“bad” cholesterol).

 

Increase Brain Health & Mood Boosting – Studies have found that exercise can reduce the symptoms of depression, and it changes the brain in ways like antidepressant medications. Physical activity may delay the slide of cognitive decline into dementia, and even once that process has started, exercise can improve certain aspects of thinking.

 

Improved Quality of Life – Physical activity can provide immediate rewards to your current quality of life. Regular exercise can increase your energy, help you sleep better, boost your immune system and lower your stress level.

 

How to Make Physical Activity A Part of Your Life

 

We know it is a good thing, but how do we fit in exercise in our otherwise mostly sedentary busy lives? Plus, exercise is not easy. It is supposed to feel challenging while you do it sometimes, that is how you get stronger, and it eventually feels easier (as you get stronger).   Here are several suggestions on how to incorporate more exercise into your life. Some require knowing yourself and what would or would not work for you. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, try different things until you find what is right for you.

 

Plan a Balanced Routine – a good exercise routine will contain some cardiovascular activity, strength conditioning and stretching.

  • When starting out with cardiovascular activity like walking, running or the elliptical, shoot for 20-30 minutes at a pace where you could carry on a conversation if you had to but couldn’t sing a song. If you can sing, you aren’t going fast enough. For heart health, the American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days of the week. According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), moderate intensity means your heart rate should be between 50% - 70% of your maximum heart rate. An approximate way to calculate your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220.
  • Strength conditioning should be done at least twice a week. Start with working each major muscle group with a weight that you can lift for 10-12 repetitions with the last reps being very difficult. Don’t work the same muscle group on consecutive days and be sure to warm up with a 5-minute walk or other dynamic activity prior to strength training.
  • Stretching should be done after each workout.   Static stretches for each major muscle group should be held for 10-30 seconds.

 

Fit in Exercise in Creative Ways – It can be difficult to fit in (and stick with) a balanced exercise routine with a busy life of kids, work and/or school. Don’t let that stop you! Less structured physical activity counts too. Find activities to do with your family so you get a workout and spend time with your loved ones. Have family bike rides or basketball games. Explore different parks each weekend and take a hike. Don’t have an hour or more to commit to the gym? Find a trainer that does a 30-minute workout session. Or do 10 minutes of walking at different times throughout your day.

 

Make Exercise Fun – There are so many things to do that can give you the benefits of exercise that you shouldn’t feel like you are stuck doing something you absolutely hate. Try different types of physical activity to find what you enjoy most. Hiking, dancing, swimming and exercise classes are just a few ways to get your movement in. Find what you like best and don’t be afraid to keep trying new things to mix it up.

 

Enlist a Walking/Running/Workout Class Buddy - Having someone with you can help make exercising more fun and it can also help you to be more likely to stick with it. You will be less likely to skip that workout class if your friend is there waiting for you. Or maybe you have a weekly lunch with a friend that you can start walking before or after.

 

Focus on The Immediate Perks of Exercise as well as The Future Benefits – Research shows we don’t always stick to things we don’t see instant (or near instant) results from.   Health and fitness have many long-term benefits that possibly aren’t seen for years or at all. Getting physical activity may prevent many diseases from ever forming, but sometimes that thought isn’t going to motivate a workout. Focus on the outcomes received from exercise in the present day. For example, the feeling of accomplishment after a run or dance class or doing something you couldn’t have done a month ago. The feeling of happiness on and after a bike ride with your kids. The endorphins making you happy after a tough workout. Look out for the ways physical activity makes your current life better to get you moving and the long-term benefits will come.

 

Don’t be intimidated by all the information, gym equipment or all the different ways to exercise! It can be as simple as adding a walk to your day. Regular trips to the gym are great, but don't worry if you can't find a large chunk of time to exercise every day. Any amount of activity is better than nothing. To reap the benefits of exercise, when you can’t get in a full workout, get more active throughout your day — take the stairs instead of the elevator or rev up your household chores. Consistency, not perfection, is key!

 

Want more information and to get a workout created especially for you? Sign up for a complimentary Fitness Assessment today!

4 Move Total Body Kettlebell Workout for Beginners

Posted by Jill Derryberry on Sep 13, 2021 12:32:52 PM

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.

 

  1. The Kettlebell Swing
HubSpot Video

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.

 

  1. Kettlebell Goblet Squat
    HubSpot Video

 

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.

 

  1. Kettlebell Overhead Press
HubSpot Video

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.

 

  1. 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!).