THE BLOG

Why Exercising With a Kettlebell Enhances Your Workouts

Ladies, when you add a kettlebell to your weekly workouts, you're adding several vital elements to your fitness routine. Kettlebells target your entire body.
05/23/2016 11:42am ET | Updated May 24, 2017
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Ladies, when you add a kettlebell to your weekly workouts, you're adding several vital elements to your fitness routine. Kettlebells target your entire body. Because they are so heavy, you need to know how to work out safely so you don't end up with an injury that forces you to stop working out until your doctor gives you a medical clearance to begin exercising again.

If you've seen others working out with a kettlebell, you already know the workout is an intense one. Kettlebells are made out of iron (think of your mother's or grandmother's cast-iron skillets). Knowing this, you know that, when you pick up your kettlebell for the first time, it will be HEAVY. Don't fling it around or you're going to tear some muscles. Let it go to the ground when you drop it. If you try catching it, you'll get hurt. Get out of the way before it reaches the ground! Instead of working out on a gym floor, work out on sand or grass. Wear gym shoes.

Before Beginning, Learn Safety
In your first kettlebell workout, now is not the time to say, "I've been working out now for X years. I can handle this baby!" Yes, the kettlebell is much smaller than you are, but it is also dense and hefty. Get a qualified instructor to put you through your paces and help you with your form. You don't want to strain a back or neck muscle.

We spoke about the surface you should use for your kettlebell workouts. At first, when you reach that point where you can no longer hold the kettlebell in your hands, that instrument will fall. Back up fast and let it hit the ground. If you're indoors, make sure the floor isn't a traditional wood gym floor. Preferably, you should be working out on a rubber mat so that, when you drop your kettlebell, you won't have to worry about damaging the floor. If you're outdoors, work out on sand or a grassy surface, but make sure you can't slip and fall.

Both feet have to be in contact with the floor at all times. Your workout shoes should be flat-bottomed with a non-slip sole. Your hands are going to rub on the handle and you'll develop calluses that, over time, will open up. You might want to consider wearing a bicyclist's fingerless mitts to give yourself additional protection.

As you are learning to use your kettlebell, remember this rule: Don't work out to the point of exhaustion. Build up your strength over time. If you do become exhausted, you're likely to drop your implement, less likely to realize quickly that you should skitter out of the way... and there go your toes.

How would you position your back, shoulders and neck as you are picking up and working out with your kettlebell? Make sure your back is arched and not rounded. Be aware of your shoulder positioning. Keep them back and squared. If you round your shoulders forward (hunch), you're going to force the weight of the kettlebell onto your shoulders and neck. Your scapula and lats should take the brunt of the weight because the muscles here are larger than those in your neck and shoulders.

Position your head and neck so you won't fall forward. Where your head goes, your body will go. If your head is too far forward, you will fall. So, align your head with your body.

Look at your wrist posture. Keep them as straight as you can. You may need to work up to this so you don't allow them to bend as you work out.

Time your kettlebell workout so you aren't already tired when you start. This workout should come first so you're less likely to be hurt. Once you finish this part of your workout, move to other scheduled workout activities. Schedule kettlebell workouts twice a week, so you give your body time to rest and recover in between.

Combine Strength and Cardio
Adding kettlebells to your weekly workouts helps you combine cardio with strength. You'll definitely get your heart rate up as you're lifting, moving around and increasing your strength. Remember, this is a tiring workout, so you won't need to work at it very long in any individual workout sessions. Look at the calorie expenditure from this kind of workout: You'll burn, on average, about 20 calories per minute! If you work out for 20 minutes with your kettlebell, you'll burn 400 calories!

Look at What You Target
Your body. In two small words, this is what your kettlebell will target. Your calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes (major and minor), core, chest, back, shoulders and arms all get targeted in your workout. Even though one workout will last less than 30 minutes, that's a lot of targeting. You'll be able to swing (eventually) your kettlebell or lift it like a weight. Even better, your workouts will use lots of movements so you're less likely to get bored. Just tired.

This means that, post-workout, you will definitely feel the aftereffects. Start chugging the water.

Portability
While your kettlebell is heavy, it is small. Keep it in the trunk of your car for your scheduled workouts. Or, if you work out at home, keep it safely stowed in a small closet. If you work out at home and at the gym, just make sure you take it with you.

Range of Motion Grows
It's not easy lifting a fully loaded barbell through your full range of motion as you work out. It's something you have to work up to, isn't it? Yet, with a small, compact and heavy kettlebell, you'll be able to reach full range of motion more easily. Just be careful of your shoulder muscles. Work carefully through your exercises so you don't injure the joints of your shoulders.

Affordability
Workout equipment can be wicked expensive. As you price kettlebells, you'll be pleasantly surprised to see that one costs less than $100. They are sturdy and tough, so you won't have to replace them for some time.

If you're a woman, look for the 16-pound kettlebell. These cost less than heavier ones.

Using a Kettlebell in Your Workouts
Substitute the kettlebell for other weights when you're doing lifting and weight workouts. Be sure you have fully warmed up before you begin your workout.

You'll be able to add deadlifts, sumo squats and swings to your kettlebell workouts. As you perform each set of exercises, remember safety, body posture and form.