Snatches, cleans, jerks, swings. You’ve probably done these moves with dumbbells in the weight room plenty of times. But here’s a question for you: Did they give you the best workout of your life? Unless you were using a kettlebell (KB), the answer is probably “no.”
Don’t get us wrong; dumbbells can provide a quality workout. But if you want to amp your workout and afterburn, you’re going to want to learn to use that hunk of cast iron you’ve seen sitting on the weight rack.
Why are kettlebells so effective?
KBs are a full-body training tool that sends your body flowing through many planes of movement, making it much more functional for your real life. Popularized as a strength-building tool in 1700s Russia, the lump of iron engages stabilizer muscles that your core uses to engage and torch the fat away. Traditional dumbbells and weights utilize a line of motion, either up or down or side to side. KBs can work every direction (and then some) in a single movement. Plus, unlike bicep curls, KBs engage a lot more muscles to complete the movements.
Using a KB forces you to practice not only your ability to lift weight, but your ability to coordinate the movements and maintain control as your muscles adjust to the constantly changing direction in which the ball is traveling. A KB will challenge your stability and strength as well as your ability to control your core to support your body through the movements. Moving a KB through a range of motions can utilize a lot of muscles you wouldn’t typically target, and the off-center handle will enhance your shoulder stability in a way that dumbbells will never do.
Without further adieu, here are just a few of the many benefits of incorporating a KB into your workout, and why you should start doing so today.
- You’ll pack on muscle faster
Ever wondered how Gerard Butler got so ripped for his role in 300? Yep, you guessed it: a Spartan-sized workout that included plenty of clean-and-presses using 36-pound KBs. From all appearances, it definitely worked. One study showed that eight weeks of KB training twice a week resulted in 70% greater core strength, and 14% greater aerobic capacity.
- You’ll get strong and agile
While plyo workouts and weight training have long been touted as top ways to develop strength and agility, KBs are giving them a run for their money. One study showed that KB swings improved maximal and explosive strength just as well as jump squat power training.
- You’ll burn calories fast
Want to burn more calories faster? Swing a KB around for a bit. One study showed that experienced users doing a combination of rhythmic KB lifts and swings burned an average of 20 calories per minute—the equivalent of 400 calories in a 20-minute workout.
- You’ll give yourself a metabolic a boost
Researchers suggest that KBs offer a better, more intense resistance-training workout than weight lifting alone. And because they provide a great workout in less time, you’ll keep that calorie burn going long after you leave the gym.
- You’ll work your heart
Studies show that using a KB can give you the same heart training benefits as running. But when you amp it up with some high-rep snatches of 20 reps or more per set, you’ll not only work your heart, but a whole bunch of muscle groups at the same time. And the workout afterburn isn’t bad, either.
A kettlebell exercise to get you started
Achieving your best fitness level should never wait until tomorrow. To get you started on the journey of getting ripped and strong, here’s one surefire way to build up and define your lower body. It’s also the most foundational form for any KB workout, so practice it and learn it well.
Plant your feet firmly, shoulder width apart. Place the KB between your ankles. Grab the KB with both hands as you bend down at the hips and flatten your back, keeping it straight, supported and nearly parallel to the ground. As you grip the KB, make sure your shoulders are pulled back and you’re pressing your arms into your armpits. Use your legs to push up to lift the KB. As you come to an upright, standing position, squeeze your glutes. Carefully bend from your hips and place the KB between your ankles again.
Numerous studies have highlighted the benefits of using a KB. And they affirm over and over again that KBs are a great way to get a terrific workout—as long as you use proper form, which too many people don’t. When you get started, you’ll want to learn the best form you can, and sometimes that means going beyond the YouTube videos. Engaging a qualified strength training coach who knows KBs can help set you on the right path toward meeting your training goals, injury-free.