Kettlebell Workouts: 3 Things to Know

By Lynne Anderson
WebMD Feature

Kettlebell workouts are a way to build muscle strength and endurance. What makes a kettlebell workout different from other weights workouts? 

For starters, you work with only one kettlebell at a time. Hoisting the heavy metal bells not only helps strengthen your arms and pecs, but also works your core, heart, and lungs.

“The reason the kettlebell is so great is that there’s offset center of gravity,” says Laura Alton, a certified trainer, physical therapist, and Russian kettlebells certified instructor at the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas.

That means your body has to work harder to maintain balance. In so doing, you work many different muscle groups — and get your heart rate up at the same time.

“It’s a two-fer; it’s like you’re killing two birds with one kettlebell,” says Riva Rahl, MD, medical director for wellness programs at the Cooper Fitness Center. “If you’re doing it appropriately, the benefits are huge.”

3 Tips for Getting Started

Kettlebells got their start in Russia, so the story goes, as a farming weight. They’re everywhere now. If you’re thinking about trying it, you should know these three things:

  1. Technique matters. Think about swinging around a gallon of milk — the same weight as a beginner kettlebell — for 30 minutes, and you get the picture. Or think of slinging around a 25-pound bag of potting soil. To avoid injury, you need to know what you’re doing.
  2. Work with a trainer. They can help you learn how much weight you can use and how to use your kettlebell. “Make sure you use a certified kettlebells instructor,” says Alton, who went through what she describes as three “grueling” days of certification training.
  3. Look for a smooth handle. Your kettlebell should have a smooth handle. “Your hand can get pretty roughed up by one that’s not smooth,” Alton says. Ask your instructor for the weight you will need. If you’re buying kettlebells, some people like to buy them in sets of three because with work, it won’t be long until you are moving up to the next weight.
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