Like many people who work out, Randy Smith of Atlanta is always pressed for time. That’s why a kettlebell, a type of weight that looks something like a bowling ball with a handle, provides just the workout Smith needs.
“I can get in an intense workout in as little as 20 minutes,” says Smith, a 42-year-old banking executive.
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How do Smith and thousands of others who have discovered kettlebells do it? Through a unique weight training and cardio workout that comes with swinging and lifting a kettlebell, a type of free weight that ranges from 8 pounds to more than 100.
What makes a kettlebell workout different from other weights workouts?
For starters, you work with only one bell at a time. Hoisting the heavy metal bells not only helps strengthen your arms and pecs, but also works your core, heart and lungs.
“The reason the kettlebell is so great is that there’s offset center of gravity,” explains Laura Alton, a certified trainer, physical therapist, and Russian kettlebells certified instructor at the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas.
That means your body has to work harder to maintain balance. In so doing, you work many different muscle groups – and get your heart rate up at the same time.
“It’s a two-fer; it’s like you’re killing two birds with one kettlebell,” says Riva Rahl, MD, medical director for wellness programs at the Cooper Fitness Center. “If you’re doing it appropriately, the benefits are huge.”
The Benefits of Kettlebell Exercises
The weights were long used in Russia, where they originated, so the story goes, as a farming weight. When Russian bodybuilder Pavel Tsatsouline began attributing his success to his kettlebell training, the sport took off in the U.S. and other countries.
While kettlebells are not quite mainstream, the American Kettlebell Club estimates that more than 100,000 people are exercising with them. Many claim it takes weight and inches off faster than any other workout they’ve tried.
Other benefits, according to Alton, are that kettlebells:
- Provide a quick workout – 30 minutes or less – that targets all your major muscle groups.
- Increase core stability. Serious exercisers understand the importance of increasing the stability of one’s core, especially the abdominal and back muscles. But it’s hard to work the entire core, including the obliques, abdominals, and adductors, in one workout.
- Let you combine cardio and strength training. The kettlebell workout involves a circuit that gets your heart pumping while it strengthens muscles.
- Simplify your workout. Instead of having to use several machines or several weights to work all your muscle groups, you do it with one kettlebell.
- Save money. Once you are properly trained, you can workout at home on weights that you can buy for less than $100. One type of 10-pound kettlebell, for instance, costs about $70.