Kettlebell Training: What You Need To Know

By Joe Vennare for U.S. News Health

Did someone say kettleball?

It's kettlebell to be precise, and it's all the rage nowadays. Originally a counter-weight on Russian farms, kettlebells have managed to make the move from underground strength training equipment to mainstream muscle builder.

Thanks in part to a few cameos on "The Biggest Loser," and the soaring popularity of CrossFit, kettlebells have become so mainstream that pink, rubber-coated kettlebells -– and an accompanying workout DVD -- line the shelves at Wal-Mart.

More people exercising? Sounds good to me!

Trouble is, many of those first-time exercisers electing to grab the bell by its handle lack the know-how or ability required to actually use it.

We're going to change that with a quick look at the kettlebell training need-to-know.

Basic Kettlebell Training
First things first: That bowling ball-shaped weight with a handle attached? That's a kettlebell.

It's the same one being swung, flipped and tossed about at the local fitness center. More often than not, they're black, cast iron and super scary looking. Really, there's nothing to fear. Well, nothing except the lingering soreness that results from having completed a kettlebell workout.

So, what's all the hype about?
Here's the thing: It's not really hype when the item in question delivers on its promise. Believe it or not, that's exactly what makes kettlebell training so unique; it actually delivers results.

What kinds of results, exactly?
For starters, kettlebell exercises burn more calories in less time than traditional workout regimens. Since training with a kettlebell requires the user to engage multiple muscle groups at the same time, one study found that kettlebell workouts burn more than 20.2 calories per minute. That's like running a 6-minute mile pace or cross-country skiing uphill. Kettlebells it is!

And, that's not all.
The asymmetrical design of the weight makes kettlebell training more effective. Unlike a dumbbell or barbell that has an equal distribution of weight, the kettlebell is uneven and harder to handle. The abdominals and stabilizing muscles spring into action as we complete functional movements useful for everyday activities. All of these total body moves teach the body to work as one unit, improving balance and coordination, along with strength and endurance.

It's all in the hips.
Laying the foundation for kettlebell training, the two-hand swing is the rite of passage on the way to becoming a kettlebell master. At first glance it might appear as though anyone completing a kettlebell swing is pulling the weight off of the ground with their arms.

Be warned, this is an optical illusion.

The bulk of the work is being done by the legs, hips and core. The arms are just along for the ride.

The best way to figure it out is to give it a try. Begin by holding the kettlebell with both hands on the handle, sinking into a squat with the weight between the legs. Keep the chest up, core engaged and arms loose. As you shift all your bodyweight into your heels, stand up out of the squatted position. Driving through the legs and hips, the kettlebell will swing out to chest height.

Can you swing it?
It's at least worth a try. Think about it like this: A surefire way to a better body requires one piece of equipment, a few 20-minute workouts each week and mastery of a few moves. No gym membership, fancy equipment or pricey supplements needed.

Since getting started with kettlebells can be tricky and challenging, it's best to find a qualified coach. At minimum, start slow and increase the weight and intensity of workouts over time.

Have you used kettlebells before? Are you thinking about getting started? Let us know how it's going in the comments below.

Joe Vennare is a fitness professional, freelance writer and the co-founder of Hybrid Athlete. He's obsessed with education, entrepreneurship, and exercise as a means of constant evolution. Follow him on Twitter as he hacks his way to a physically fit, exceedingly productive, more creative version of himself.

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