With the new year coming, or spring, or summer, there’s no better time to commit yourself to some kind of plan to lose weight and get into shape.
With all of the daytime TV shows wasting their time on the next best way for everyone to spend money and move on to the next shiny object, it’s hard to know where to turn.
Luckily, there are often forgotten, yet proven, ways to get fit, burn calories, and stay in shape that doesn’t cost a lot of money.
Kettlebell workout routines are one of the best, long-term, low-cost ways to get results.
Here are some tips, workout programs, and what to avoid when using kettlebells.
The Centuries-Old Kettlebell
It has been thought that the original kettlebell was used in Russia at least 350 years ago.
It was most likely based on the weight of a standard cannonball normally shot from ships or castles at the time.
Other cultures, like the English, Celts, and Indians had a long history of making sports out of throwing heavy objects, so why not cannon balls?
The Russians also liked to lift heavy objects for sport so making increasingly heavy kettlebells for lifting competitions became a national pastime in the mid-1940s.
Now, due to the many different exercises possible, these heavy balls have gained the imagination of trainers, coaches, and exercisers worldwide.
A Cannonball With Handles
The modern workout kettlebell is basically a cannonball with handles. You can also consider that a dumbbell with handles could be used in many of the same ways too.
They come in a variety of different weights, from 2 Kg. all the way up to 40 Kg and more.
When choosing a bell for your own workout, there are some considerations that you need to factor in.
If you have a local store that keeps them in stock, you can avoid the high shipping charges involved with sending heavy objects.
But for your first one, that you’re going to use starting out for quite a while, here is what to look for.
There are two types, one that is a fixed weight and another that can be filled, or adjusted, to several different weights.
The fixed weight is the least expensive and most common. If you’re just beginning, you might want the adjustable weight model, since you will advance rapidly at first and then level off later.
If you already workout on a regular basis, then the fixed weight would be just fine.
The most common sizes used in fitness are the 4 kg on up to the 24 kg, and they increase in 4 kg increments.
The most used in fitness are the sizes of 8 kg up to 16 kg. For women, the 8 kg is a perfect starting point that should last for quite some time.
If the woman already lifts weights, then she should start at the 12 kg size. Males should start a little higher since they naturally are stronger.
For a beginner male, the 12 kg is a good starting point, but if the male is of larger stature or athletic build, the 16 kg would be better.
Another consideration to note is the size of the handles, which tend to be rather thick.
If you have smaller hands, you’ll want to pay attention to the handles and make sure you’ll feel comfortable gripping it, so buy accordingly.
Some kettlebells have a thick vinyl coating that can help protect the floor when dropped as well.
What To Avoid In Your Kettlebell Workout Routines
As with any sport, activity, or exercise routine, there are good ways to go about the method and mistakes that you should avoid.
With kettlebells it’s the same, you should take precautions to prevent injuries and endeavor to do each exercise correctly to get the most benefits possible.
It’s important to remember that practicing each exercise correctly will give you the exact results that you desire.
Doing them wrong, however, may have the opposite effect and require more time to correct in the future.
The old adage of “perfect practice, makes you perfect” is definitely true.
Start all of your kettlebell workout routines slowly, you gain more muscle by going slowly, perfectly, and not jerking the weight.
Don’t make quick moves with your weights ever, if you can help it. As you learn each move, make sure you know it and can do it in your sleep before you move on to the next move.
And, come back and revisit your exercises on a regular basis to keep the muscles toned.
Learn how to keep your back straight without rounding to protect it. Lift with your legs and hips and have your spine in the vertical position.
This does two things, it protects your vertebrae while you’re exercising, and strengthens your core at the same time.
Then, if you have some other kind of accident, maybe while running, biking, or even in a car, your muscles will help protect your spinal column.
Best Kettlebell Exercises For Muscle Gain
The following are some of the best kettlebell workouts that are highly effective and can be added to your regular weight training routine.
1 Russian Kettlebell Swing
This workout routine is great for the back, hips, shoulders, and legs. It is geared towards the beginner, but medium to advanced exercisers continue to use it as well.
In order to do the Swing, you’ll start by standing up very straight while having your feet slightly spread a little wider than your hips.
You put both hands on the kettlebell handle firmly.
While keeping the arms in front of your body, you bend the knees somewhat and swing the bell between your thighs, don’t squat all the way down.
Then swing it forward while standing up completely straight. The bell should reach eye level at the top of its swing.
The arms should be kept nearly straight throughout the exercise as you are trying to exercise the hips, thighs and lower body the most.
You should do this as slow as you can for 12 to 15 reps.
2 Kettlebell Rows
This kettlebell workout routine can be performed with two or one arms, all you’ll need is two smaller kettlebells, one for each hand as preferred.
You start with the bells at the bottom of your straightened arms with the knees slightly bent, and hips thrust back.
Then, you lift up the two bells while throwing your elbows back until the weights meet your midsection.
This is a good exercise for the upper back, arms, and shoulders. You’ll feel the burn after each motion, and you should aim for at least 12 reps no matter how long it takes.
Don’t move up in weights until you can do more than 20 reps daily for a solid week.
If you only have one kettlebell, you can also do this on a bench where you can rest your legs alternatively for support.
You can also use a chair or stool. You’ll need to make sure not to twist your back in the process of lifting the weight.
Lean forward and do the same motion as above, then switch arms to complete the exercise.
3 The Kettlebell Squats
Of course, you should be able to do at least 30 regular squats with no weight in your hands before you try this.
Squats are a part of any exercise routine since they are great for the glutes, legs, and back.
They are considered a strong core workout which is what helps hold your spine in alignment as it should be.
With the Kettlebell Squat, you merely hold the bell with both hands directly under the chin.
Maintain the elbows tight against the sides of your chest. Then do a regular squat.
That’s with your weight mostly on your heels, and the knees pointed outward.
Go down until your thighs are parallel to the ground and slowly rise back up.
Try to avoid going down hard and using your springy knees to bounce you back, that’s bad for the knees.
Strive to do each one perfectly rather than doing a lot of reps poorly.
4 The Kettlebell Press
The same as the Kettlebell Row you can perform this exercise with either one or two arms.
With this kettlebell workout routine, it’s important to stand up very straight and keep the back as erect as possible.
Doing it correctly from the beginning is better than developing bad habits that are very hard to change in the future.
Hold the bell in one hand at shoulder level with your feet solidly on the floor at the width of your hips.
Breathe deeply and tighten your abs and glutes with your chest slightly thrust out.
Now lift the weight up above your head until your arm is absolutely straight.
Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position, don’t let it drop by itself.
If you can only do one to three of these perfectly, be satisfied until you can do four, and then five.
This is another one of those exercises that need to be done right, slowly, all the way through, each and every time.
After you’ve exhausted one arm switch to the other if you can, return to the original arm and go again until you get to at least 8-10 reps total.
5 The Shoulder Halo
This is an excellent shoulder, chest, and upper back workout. You’ll start with your feet slightly wider on the floor that your hips.
Then you hold the weight upside down, with the handle underneath the ball portion.
With your chest slightly pushed out and holding your posture very firm, make complete circles around your head.
Go slow, don’t hit yourself in the head or make quick moves. Also, it’s best to hold your torso as straight and solid as possible.
This kettlebell exercise routine not only builds the upper back, shoulders, and arms but continues to strengthen the core.
By keeping your core solidly flexed and not moving it, you’re building a strong foundation for the future.
Many of the aching backs that people suffer as they age are due to a weak core that hasn’t been adequately exercised as they sat at a desk for 40 years on the job.
Then their body weight increases and puts undue stress on the vertebrae causing aches and pains.
6 The Kettlebell Hip Halo
As you might guess, this exercise is very similar to the Shoulder Halo above. The difference is that you’re circling the hips in the same way that you were your head.
Take the time to do the method as perfectly as possible while maintaining the body erect and firm. Keep your shoulders as square as possible too.
This routine builds the shoulders, upper and lower back, and arms as well. It adds more strength to the core, which is one of the most important parts of your body to keep fit in every way possible.
If you’re now working out on your own, or in a group, one of the best ways to maintain your interest is by adding some kind of tool.
That’s what the kettlebell will do for you, keep you interested in your routines, so you don’t get bored.
Boredom with working out is the biggest exercise killer of all, and by keeping things varied, you’ll get stronger, burn calories, and lose weight.
Plus, your body will thank you when you get a little older and see your friends walking with canes while you’re on the dance floor showing your moves.