Although some fitness experts argue that they are no more effective than dumbbells and carry a greater risk of injury, Kettlebells are nevertheless a gym-rat staple and one we here at The Beauty Bean are slowly catching on to. Kettlebell expert Kellie Roman recommends kettlebells to her female clients because, as she says, “they allow you to engage multiple muscle groups at once, enabling you to work the entire body a the same time.” Not only do kettlebells cut our weight lifting time in half (if not more) because of their multi-tasking capabilites, but they also simultaneously give us a cardio workout – making it the perfect fitness routine for the time-strapped among us.
As international kettlebell competitor, Sukie Baxter, explains, “When you hold a kettlebell, the bulk of the weight is off center, forcing the engagement of small muscle fibers that don’t get worked using a perfectly balanced dumbbell, so you get stronger much more quickly than with traditional weights. “ Celebrity trainer Joy Di Palma agrees, telling us that kettlebells are a great fitness tool for women because of their unique ability to strengthen and sculpt your entire body easily and quickly (you can actually complete a full body workout in under fifteen minutes!). Plus, you don’t need lots of equipment. Rather, as Di Palma says, “it’s one stop shopping” for you fitness routine.
Convinced that you too should give kettlebells a try? Dax Moy, a London based master personal trainer and holistic health coach, shares with us five kettlebell exercises you can do at home for a full body workout, with minimal equipment.
Exercise 1: Kettlebell Stiff Legged Deadlift
This exercise is great for strengthening the entire ‘posterior chain’ from calves, to hamstrings to butt to lower back and even mid back and neck.
Start standing with feet hip width apart on either side of a kettlebell placed on the floor. ‘Think tall’ and maintain a long spine (with your abdominals and glutes engaged) as you slightly unlock the knees and, maintaining a long spine, pivot at the hips and lean forward to grab the kettlebell with both hands. From here, squeeze the butt, drive the pelvis forward and stand upright making sure that you pull your shoulder blades back and together and that you’re leaning slightly back from the waist at the top to create what we commonly call a ‘banana back’ position. Choose a weight that allows for 8-12 reps at a pace that has you lifting for 2 seconds and lowering for an additional 2 seconds for best results.
Exercise 2: Kettlebell Swing
This is known as ‘The Daddy’ of kettlebell exercises due to the amazing benefits it can bestow on the exerciser from strength, to suppleness to cardiovascular fitness and fat burning.
Start the same as you do for the Stiff Legged Deadlift (in tall posture, straddling a kettlebell placed between your feet). Keeping your spine tall, bend at the knees and hips into a deep ‘squat’ position, being sure that you do not lean forward excessively from the waist. Grasp the kettlebell with both hands, squeeze your butt and drive up out of the squat using your thighs and glutes and leaning into ‘banana back’ at the end of the range. Quickly sit back down into the squat and repeat the movement, though this time try to swing the kettlebell out to your front with straight arms, mostly using the momentum of your hips to create movement rather than pulling up with your shoulders and arms. End in the banana back position. Perform 8-12 reps at a cadence that allows you to control the kettlebell. This should be fast but not rushed.
Exercise 3: The High Pull
This is a great all round conditioner that focuses on the postural muscles of the upper back as well as the shoulders and the arms.
Again, begin in a tall posture, straddling a kettlebell placed between your feet. Squat down (as you did in the Kettlebell Swing) and grasp the bell by the handle in both hands. Forcefully drive through the thighs and glutes into the upper ‘banana back’ portion of the squat and, as you do so, pull the kettlebell up towards your chest, leading the movement with the elbows (as if trying to touch your elbows to the ceiling). At the top, reverse the movement, lowering the kettlebell and performing a deep squat so that the kettlebell lightly touches the floor. Perform the movement rapidly (though with control) on the way up and take 2-3 seconds to lower the kettlebell for best results.
Exercise 4: The Figure 8
This not only requires practically every muscle in the body to work, including a great deal of work from the core, but will also build strength and endurance extremely quickly.
Start in the same tall posture but with the kettlebell outside of the left foot. Squat down (in a similar fashion as you did for the Kettlebell Swing, though rotated slightly to the left) and grasp the bell by the handle in both hands. Forcefully drive through the thighs and glutes to stand up as you pull the kettlebell across the center-line of your body to the outside of your right shoulder. From there, straighten the arms over head and lower the bell to the outside of the left shoulder. Sit back into a squat position taking the kettlebell on a diagonal journey that ends just outside of your right foot. Reverse and repeat. (This is basically one long ‘figure 8’ cycle with the kettlebell.)
Exercise 5: The Renegade Row
This exercise is tough on the core but yields great results really fast.
Begin with 2 kettlebells on the floor, about shoulder width distance apart. Get down into ‘pushup position’ with feet approximately shoulder width apart, grasping the handle of each bell. From a fully arms extended position, squeeze every muscle in your body to brace yourself then lift one kettlebell from the floor and pull it back toward your hip. Pause, then return to the start position and repeat with other arm. Make sure you keep your spine straight (by squeezing your butt and your abs throughout the movement). Aim to lift the bell over 2 seconds, hold by the hip for 1 second then lower over 2 seconds for best results.