Kettlebells aren’t only for strong men and Russian soldiers anymore — these weights will work you out from head to toe
Chances are you’ve seen them, tucked away over in a dusty, lonely corner of your gym: those weird little cast-iron weight thingies, curved and with a handle on top, that look more like a spoutless teapot than a bit of workout gear. Maybe you’ve stubbed your toe on one as you scampered to your spin class and wondered, "What the hell are those things?"
Those would be kettlebells. And don’t be fooled by their unfamiliar look—those little guys may be old-fashioned but they are making a comeback to get you in the best shape of your life.
The favored strength-training tool of the Russian army (every new soldier is given one when he or she enlists), Kettlebells might still seem foreign to those of us accustomed to elliptical machines and free weights, but working out with kettlebells is efficient, inexpensive, and a great way to get in shape.
"It’s weight training and cardio all in the same workout," explains Lisa Shaffer, a Dallas-area trainer and founder of No Fear Fitness. "[With kettlebells] a nice 30-minute workout gives you full body and core training. It’s compound movements using a lot of different muscles at once."
A kettlebell workout itself is very simple and, done properly, safe. It consists of a series of moves that involve basically swinging the bell. "Basically, it’s a dynamic movement," Shaffer says. "It’s not static exercises." Because of the compound movements involved, a kettlebell workout forces all the muscles to work together to stabilize the weight, thus working more muscles than other weight work. It’s sort of the ultimate routine, then, working more muscles, harder, in a shorter amount of time. The fluid, movement-oriented technique also "carries over to everyday motions," according to Shaffer. "It’s more functional than traditional strength training."
Another benefit: This type of training doesn’t require a bunch of expensive equipment or even a gym membership. There are dozens of beginner’s instruction DVDs on the market. After that, all you need is a couple of kettlebells. Shaffer recommends women start out with about 18 pound bells, and men, 26-35, depending on how good of shape you’re in.
If you prefer a gym atmosphere, many are starting to add the kettlebell regimen and even classes. But whether it’s in your living room or at the gym, get those bells swinging for some major toning.
For more information, visit NoFearFitness.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 19, 2010.