The Kettlebell Workout Craze

Kettlebell workouts have helped everyone from Katherine Heigl to Penelope Cruz get svelte for the red carpet. Here’s the scoop:

What Are Kettlebells?
A kettlebell is a ball-shaped weight with a flat bottom and a looped handle on top. They look like teakettles without spouts, hence the name. Although made of iron, many come with a wax coating for comfort and grip. Kettlebells can weigh anywhere from just a couple of pounds to 100 pounds.

How Do They Work?
Unlike hand weights, barbells and medicine balls, which tend to work more individual, isolated areas, maneuvering a kettlebell requires full use of multiple muscle groups. Because of this, kettlebells give you an ass-kicking, full-body, Lara Croft-worthy workout in a short amount of time “ perfect for the on-the-go girl who doesn’t have time for hours at the gym! Kettlebells also offset your body’s centre of gravity and put you off balance, forcing you to use your core muscles to compensate. This means tight, toned abs without so much as one back-breaking sit-up. (Unless, of course, you are a fan of sit-ups. There are plenty of kettlebell sit-up variations!)

Will kettlebell training make me bulky?
Worried you might start resembling Hulk Hogan? Don’t. Kettlebells are great for women. In addition to improving strength, kettlebell training burns serious calories and fat. According to a recent study by the American Council on Exercise, kettlebell training can burn up to 1200 calories an hour! According to Dr. John Porcari, leader of the study, participants burned at least 20.2 calories per minute. The only other thing I could find that burns that many calories is cross-country skiing up hill at a fast pace, he said.

How Do You Use Them?
The foundational exercise used in kettlebell training is called the kettlebell swing. To do this, stand with your feet just wider than shoulder width apart in a semi-squat position. Holding one kettlebell with both hands, let your arms hang loosely in front of you. Allow the kettlebell to swing back between your legs and then, thrusting from the hip, thighs and lower-back, swing the kettlebell up to shoulder or forehead height. You should end in a standing position. Although this is the foundational kettlebell maneuver, there a plenty of exercise routines available online!

The first time you try any kettlebell exercise, start out light and gradually build the amount of weight. Most women can start with between nine and 25 pounds “ enough to engage your hamstring and butt muscles without straining your back.

Where Can You Get Them?
Chances are, if you are a member at a gym, you can find kettlebells there. Your gym may even offer kettlebell classes. If not, you can order them online or buy them in-store from The Treadmill Factory or some other fitness depot. Prices can range from $20 to $50 depending on the weight. They even come in pink!

Tags: calories, kettlebells, training, workout

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