A large ball of metal with a thick handle attached on top might not be the most pleasant-looking piece of gym equipment, but it’s incredibly useful. Kettlebells come in different designs and sizes, but they stick out like a sore thumb in the gym because they are one of the most unique pieces of equipment available.
Since the handle is above the actual weight, kettlebells are considered an offset load. In other words, they’re kind of awkward to carry and lift. However, you can do movements like the kettlebell swing that you simply can’t do with dumbbells, barbells or cables.
Training with kettlebells can make you stronger, more fit and more powerful. Exercises like the kettlebell swing have been shown to be as beneficial for your endurance as running on a treadmill. If you pick the right exercises, kettlebells can improve your overall fitness.
A separate study published in the Journal of Sport and Human Performance showed training with kettlebells can improve your muscular power. You can think of power as a combination of strength and speed. Football players are an example of powerful athletes because they’re strong but can also move quickly.
Kettlebell swings are an example of a power exercise. They mimic a jumping motion and incorporate hip muscles. You can use these awkward-looking weights to get stronger and faster, but they can also help in rehabilitation. A study published in the North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy explains that the unique design of kettlebells makes them useful in rehab from injuries.
With so many uses, adding a kettlebell workout into your routine seems like a no-brainer. However, you might need help designing a workout. If you’re new to kettlebells or just need ideas for a quick workout, try this seven-minute routine at home, in the gym or on the road. All you need is a few kettlebells of different sizes.
YOUR 7-MINUTE TOTAL-BODY KETTLEBELL
There are five exercises in this workout. Perform each exercise for 30 seconds. Some of the exercises use two sides, which means you’ll have to do 30 seconds per side. In total, it will take 3 minutes and 30 seconds to perform every exercise. After that, you’ll repeat the circuit without any breaks.
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This combo movement works your shoulders and legs at the same time. You can use a medium-to-heavy weight for this one, since you’ll be pressing the kettlebell with both arms.
The move: Grab a kettlebell and hold it in the goblet position. Your hands will be on the sides of the handle, kettlebell at chest-height and elbows tucked down into your ribs. Squat while keeping the kettlebell in the goblet position. Once you reach the bottom, stand up quickly and press the kettlebell into the air until your arms are straight. Bring the kettlebell back down to the goblet position and repeat.
Build explosive power in your hips, improve your grip and endurance all with this simple exercise. There is some pressure on your lower back, so start with a lighter weight and work your way up.
The move: Start with a kettlebell on the ground one foot in front of you. Squat down, grab the handle and tilt it back. Scrape the ground with the kettlebell and hike it back and up toward your butt. Quickly stand up and snap your hips forward. Swing the kettlebell forward with your arms straight. Wait until your arms are parallel to the ground, then let the kettlebell swing back down between your legs. When the bell swings down, stick your butt back and get ready to explode up again. Keep swinging back and forth for the entire 30 seconds.
This move is for your upper- and mid-back muscles. You might feel your legs working, but their only job is to hold you up while you do the row. For this move, you’ll do 30 seconds on each side. All those reps add up, so use a lighter weight.
The move: Stand next to a kettlebell and kick your right leg back. Lunge forward with your left leg so that your knee is bent. Lean your forearm onto that leg to support your upper body. Pick the kettlebell up with your right hand and pull your elbow straight back and up until your wrist hits your ribs. Then, lower the kettlebell all the way back down to the ground.
Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Carry
This odd-looking exercise is deceptively difficult and beneficial for your shoulder and grip strength. Use a very light kettlebell and get ready for a challenge.
The move: Grab your kettlebell and flip it upside-down in your hand. Grip the handle so the weight is facing straight up. This requires a lot of grip strength, and you might already feel wobbly. Bend your arm so your triceps are against your ribs and the kettlebell is just above your shoulder. Slowly walk, keeping the kettlebell upside-down in the air. Perform this exercise for 30 seconds per side.
Grab your heaviest kettlebell for this leg-dominant exercise. You’ll strengthen your hamstrings, glutes, quads and lower back with this move.
The move: Start with your kettlebell on the ground. Stand over it so the handle is in line with your ankles. Stick your butt back and squat down, keeping your back flat and chest up. Grab the handle and push with your legs to stand up. Keep your arms straight and back flat as you stand. Then, perform the same squatting motion to put the weight back down between your ankles and repeat without taking your hands off the handles.