We’ve all been there, particularly in Resolution January. The neighborhood gym is PACKED, your favorite weights are in someone else’s grip…what’s one to do?! Go ahead and pick up that unwieldy and mysterious kettle bell in the corner. You’ll be glad you did.
Kettle bells didn’t originate as dust collectors at the gym. Ancient Greeks (think Olympics) used spherical stones for competitive weight competition and strength training. The traditional kettle bell shape as we know it today was first seen in Russia in the 18th century and had very practical applications. Russian farmers used them as counter weights for grain & produce measurement at country markets.
Fast forward to today: Their application is vast and wide. Just ask a cross-fitter. It’s a staple in Cross-Fit gyms worldwide. From top to toe, a full workout can be accomplished using kettle bells. Here are some favorites:
Farmer’s Carry: Grab two challenging even weight kettle bells. Place one in each hand, palms facing hips. Shoulders back, long tall spine (think Giselle on the catwalk), core engaged – now walk. This underutilized exercise improves grip strength, burns calories, increases heart rate, builds muscle and increases strength. It’s an all-over body workout.
Kettle Bell Swing: Stand tall while gripping one kettle bell with both hands. Your arms are long and relaxed in front of you. Your legs are hip width apart. Hinge forward with your upper body while your derrière moves back. Simultaneously, your knees soften and your weight shifts into your heels. Next, drive through your heels. Explode through your hips to send the kettle bell upward from your legs to a position directly in front of your chest – maintaining straight arms. To achieve this finished position you have to contract your core and squeeze your glutes while in this standing position. As the KB begins to descend again, repeat the hip hinge, derrière back, soft knee, weight in heels activity. This is a phenomenal exercise for the posterior chain: hips, glutes, hamstrings, lats. Plus the cardio boost is a nice extra benefit.
Kettle Bell Windmill: Let’s begin on the left. Grab a manageable weight kettle bell in your left hand. Stand with feet hip width apart. Turn both feet approximately 45 degrees to the right. Bring the weight to your left shoulder and press the weight up overhead (ball facing down). Engage your lats to keep the kettle bell hoisted. Your right arm is relaxed by your side. This is the starting position. Next, keeping your left arm raised and your eyes on your left hand, push your left hip back (hinge) to the side, your derrière pushed slightly back. As you hinge, your right arm slides down your right leg towards the right foot. The left arm remains pointed at the ceiling. Stop. Raise back to standing. That’s one rep. Go slowly. Repeat on the right side. This is a great one to do for deep core work and obliques. It also helps with shoulder, hip and spine mobility.
Here are but three examples of kettle bell applications and we’ve hit virtually every body segment. So branch out. Give them a try. Walk past the weight rack and grab yourself a kettle bell to spice up that 2020 workout.
By Kerry Moynihan