Winter is the perfect time to jump on the kettlebell bandwagon. In case you haven't heard of it or aren't very familiar with it, a kettlebell is a weight that is shaped like a cannonball with a very thick handle attached to the top. This interesting-looking weight has been used by Russian weightlifters for a few hundred years, but they are just catching on in the U.S. in no small part due to their ability to provide a total body workout.
While regular dumbbells and hand weights allow you to concentrate their weight in your fist, the shape of kettlebells means that the weight is suspended unevenly below your grip, requiring you to work your stabilizing muscles as well. The swing – a signature move – gives you both a cardiovascular and a full-body strength workout at the same time because it works every major muscle group in the body.
People are increasingly using kettlebells because they tone the body and fight fat: In just a 20- to 30-minute workout, you can burn around 300 calories!
Here are the top reasons to try this new exercise trend:
- You only need one kettlebell to do the workout. It's compact and easy to take with you if necessary.
- A kettlebell's weight is off-center, so your muscle have to work hard to balance it and go through a wide range of motions.
- You can use the kettlebell anywhere – even while watching TV at home.
- The workout lets you easily combine strength training and cardio.
- A kettlebell workout burns fat and builds lean muscle, rather than bulky muscle.
- You'll improve stability, strength and mobility.
- These exercises are a form of high-intensity interval training, which is good for building resistance and stamina.
- The workout is not repetitive and boring, as weight training and cardio machines can be.
Indoor kettlebell workout
While some of the moves are pretty extreme, it is still possible to do a kettlebell workout indoors during the winter. In fact, winter is probably the best time to do a kettlebell workout as it's pretty hard to will yourself to run or do other outdoor sports in below-freezing temps. Thankfully, you can purchase soft versions of these bowling ball-like weights that are safer to use indoors.
Here is an indoor circuit workout for beginners. Do 10 to 15 reps of each workout to complete a circuit, and then do a second circuit to complete your workout.
- Around-the-body: This is a great starter position. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and the kettlebell in both hands. Move the kettlebell to your left hand, bring both hands behind you and pass it to the right hand. Do this again in the front to complete one rep. Switch directions halfway through your reps and make sure to keep your hips still and your core engaged the entire time.
- Swing: Holding the kettlebell with both hands, squat so your thighs are parallel to the floor and the kettlebell is between them. Then stand quickly and swing the weight up to shoulder height. When the kettleball starts coming down, bend and squat again, swinging it between your legs. Make sure to control the weight's movement. You can try the same exercise with one arm at a time.
- Front squat: Do a standard squat. Beginners can hold the weight underneath, rather than by the handle. Don't forget to keep your back straight and chest up!
- Dead lift: Put the weight on the floor between your feet, which should be hip-width apart. Squat and grab the handle, squeeze your glutes, brace your abs, keep your back flat and stand slowly. Make sure to keep your arms extended.
- Figure-eight: With feet shoulder-width apart, squat halfway with your knees soft, keep your chest high, back straight and core tight and pass the kettlebell through your legs from front to back, bringing it from hand-to-hand in a figure eight movement.