If you haven’t introduced a kettlebell into your exercise regiment yet, you are missing out on a fantastic, functional and versatile piece of fitness equipment. This little slice of heaven provides a heart-pumping cardio workout, weighted resistance training workout and mid-section work that will leave muscles sore you never even knew existed.
Oxygen provided a list of the six most popular kettlebell exercises and why you should do them, how often you should perform them and what traditional exercises they can and should replace. Complete the sequence below for a 30-minute, butt-kicking, sweat-inducing, full-body burn!
For exercises that mostly involve the lower body (swings, deadlifts, squats), trainer and author of the book Kettlebells for Women Lauren Brooks recommends beginning with an 18-pound (or eight-kilogram) kettlebell. For exercises mostly engaging the upper body, begin with less weight–Brooks suggests roughly 10 to 12 pounds, or four to six kilograms. Want the kettlebell basics? Read A Beginners’ Guide to Kettlebells.
Three to five times a week, performed for 10 to 30 minutes. (The workout as prescribed is approximately 30 minutes.)
Brooks recommends resting 20 to 40 seconds between sets, depending on the intensity of your sets and your fitness level.
Do it instead of: the leg curl machine, donkey kicks, back extensions
Why: This exercise strengthens, tones and firms the hamstrings, glutes, back and abs.
Set Up: Stand over the kettlebell with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly and shift your butt behind you as if sitting down in a high chair. Keep your head aligned with your spine and maintain a flat back.
Action: Grab the bell’s handle as you actively hinge your hips behind you, keeping your heels planted on the floor. Keep your legs straight as you extend your hips to stand, squeezing your glutes at the very top. Slowly lower, then repeat. Do 3 to 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps. [Image pictured above is a single leg deadlift.]
- Don’t look down; this will cause your lower back to round.
- Keep your shoulders pulled back and down at the top of the deadlift.
- Don’t lean back when you come back into the standing position.
Do it instead of: the elliptical trainer, leg press, leg extension and leg curl machines, back extensions, abs crunch machine
Why: The swing works a ton of muscles, including the glutes, legs, back and abs, while also providing a cardio effect.
Set Up: Stand with your feet between hip- to shoulder-width apart, with the ‘bell on the floor roughly half a foot in front of you. Hinge your hips behind you, keeping a slight bend in the knees. Maintain a flat back as you grab the handle of the ‘bell (still on the floor) with both hands and tilt it slightly towards you. (This position engages the hamstrings and lats for optimal swing performance.)
Action: Swing the ‘bell through your legs behind you while keeping it close to your upper inner thighs to help protect your back. Next, thrust your hips forward, squeezing your glutes and allowing your legs to extend to a standing position. At the top of the swing (the ‘bell should not go beyond chest level), contract your abdominals. Allow the momentum to bring the weight and your hips back to the start at the same time. Do 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps.
- For optimal power, gently lock your knees at the top without hyper-extending them.
- As you thrust your hips forward, drive through your heels, keeping them planted on the floor.
Do it instead of: the leg press, leg abductor/adductor machines
Why: This squat variation boosts leg and glutes strength in addition to aiding core stability. It also improves the range of motion in your inner thighs, allowing you to drop lower to the ground as you squat.
Set Up: Stand with feet anywhere from hip- to shoulder-width apart. Hold a kettlebell by the horns close to your chest, with your elbows pointing downward. Plant your heels on the ground and point your toes out slightly.
Action: Bend your knees and hips to sink into a squat, bringing your butt down with control. Lower your butt below knee level, allowing your knees to open slightly out to the sides. Squeeze the glutes as you return to standing. Do 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps.
Tip: At the bottom of the squat, try making an “s” sound (like in “hiss”) for a few seconds to help brace your core.